By Linda Antoniadis

Volunteers are the foundation of most charitable organizations. For the Canadian Red Cross, they are the front line for communities when disaster strikes. They are the “face” of the Red Cross that the community sees in time of disaster. Without the dedication of volunteer responders at any and all times of the day, the Red Cross could not effectively perform its humanitarian mission.

An important part of working with volunteers in disaster management is ensuring they are properly trained and that there are enough of them to support the need when called upon.

Disaster Management (DM) volunteers are committed people who train to become essential community resources in times of emergency, offering a variety of services from setting up emergency shelters to completing needs assessments for clients. Sometimes, simply listening and comforting those who have been affected can be one of the most important parts of the job. They are called on to respond immediately to situations in their communities and sometimes provide support for longer periods of time. People who have a desire to “give back” to society are typical volunteers.

Recently, the Canadian Red Cross conducted volunteer training sessions for 75 new surge capacity volunteers in Toronto and 50 in Montreal over a one-day period. These volunteers are part of the “Ready When The Time Comes” (RWTC) program, which works with corporate partners like Aviva and Bombardier and not-for-profit organizations like FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, to train volunteers who can assist in a surge capacity function when major disasters occur. This program ensures the Canadian Red Cross has qualified, trained volunteers who they can call upon when they require a larger group of volunteers for a short period of time.

A new, “mass” training format was tested during the recent training and has proved to be an efficient way to train volunteers. The overall result was a very inspired group of new surge capacity volunteers.

Whether you are a part of the RWTC program through your employer or community group or join the Red Cross as an individual DM volunteer, the experience is sure to be rewarding. Learn more about these volunteer opportunities at

Linda Antoniadis is a member of the Volunteer Communications Team at the Canadian Red Cross

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