While serving with a mission construction team, a friend of mine volunteered to install light switches. I was not sure that my friend had experience in electrical work, and so, in a few minutes, I went to check on him. I found him standing in a puddle of water, as he was working with the electricity. When I asked if this was safe, his response was, “I did notice that I was feeling a bit of a bite.” (Translation – I am being jolted by electricity.)
My friend was well-meaning, really wanted to help, and was even doing the best he could; but, honestly, he had no business attempting this type of work. Because he was not properly trained, he was putting himself at risk, and potentially doing more harm than good to the people that we were trying to serve.
This story is very similar to what I see in many disaster settings, as scores of untrained volunteers converge on the site of a disaster. It is not uncommon for people to show up on site with the best of intentions, but with no real knowledge or training in disaster work.
- In most disaster sites, there is no food, water, shelter, or fuel to spare for volunteers. People that are not connected with trained and self-sustaining organizations often rob resources from those suffering in the midst of a disaster.
- Just because you mean well or own some equipment does not mean that you are ready to be serving in a disaster area. Untrained people are much more likely to get injured, hurt, or expose themselves to health hazards, as they are typically unfamiliar with potential risks in a disaster zone.
- In disaster settings, volunteers will encounter victims, who are often stressed, overwhelmed, desperate, and even angry. Untrained volunteers are often clueless in how to provide appropriate assistance and correct information that can genuinely help those who have suffered loss.
- Volunteers in disasters work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions. Showing up unprepared is a good way to create more problems for yourself and others.
- Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situation assessments and incident management; and, because of this, usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
- Scam artists, who are there to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, often show up in disaster settings under the guise of being a volunteer. To ensure the safety of victims, most disaster groups need volunteers who have been previously trained and who have been screened properly.
Disasters are complicated and intense situations that require people with some basic training and real commitment. The priority in times of disaster is providing genuine help to those affected by disaster, not giving spontaneous, untrained volunteers a feel-good moment.
For the sake of the hurting, get trained.
For Jesus’ sake, get trained.
Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief is offering training for volunteers at the following locations and dates:
- September 20, 2014 at Calvary Baptist Church in Glasgow
- January 17, 2015 at Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah
- February 7, 2015 at Second Baptist Church in Russellville
- March 7, 2015 at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort
- April 11, 2015 at Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster
- September 19, 2014 at Rich Pond Baptist Church in Bowling Green
For more information, please click here.