Understanding the Role of Spontaneous Volunteers in Disaster: The Case Study of the World Trade Centre on 9/11
White, Helen Perrie
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The number of disasters is increasing every year, which means that the amount of people responding to disasters is increasing every year. The onset of spontaneous volunteers at a disaster stricken area is inevitable – they are motivated, well-meaning individuals who want to help. To date, there is very limited research on the convergence of spontaneous volunteers following a disaster. This is interesting considering they have been present at disasters throughout history and can pose as a resource or another obstacle for emergency personnel as well as the affected community. This topic is relevant because of the lack of literature and because of their potential to be a functional and reliable resource in times of disaster. Throughout this case study, this dissertation explores the significance, roles, and benefits of spontaneous volunteers, explores the drawbacks of spontaneous volunteers, and identifies the implications of current policies and practices geared towards disaster management. The present study relies on the literature systematically reviewed on 9/11 at the World Trade Centre. The thematic analysis conducted was based on reoccurring patterns throughout the literature. The findings indicate that spontaneous volunteers are motivated to converge to a disaster stricken area to assist in any way that they can, and many of them won’t let down until they are assigned to participate in the response. The locals of an affected area (many of them who become spontaneous volunteers) possess knowledge about their community that is significant to emergency/disaster personnel. The study concludes that while spontaneous volunteers can be accompanied with drawbacks, they are a necessary and relied upon resource that response agencies need to include in their policies and guidelines in order to better utilise them. There is a need for a shift of approach in disaster management plans to incorporate spontaneous volunteers at a level where they are seen as a resource instead of inadequate or a burden.