10 ways to help during an emergency 10 ways to help during an emergency

10 ways to help during an emergency

For National Preparedness Month, think about volunteering in your community


We remember not only the tragic loss of life in the 9/11 attacks in New York City 15 years ago, but also the inspiring selflessness that first responders and volunteers displayed. The American Red Cross alone called on 6,000 volunteers to help open shelters, serve meals, activate blood donation centers and more. 

CERT volunteers on-scene with fire crews after a fire in Brooktrails, Calif. Credit: FEMA News Photo

While our first responders do an outstanding job protecting our communities during disasters, trained volunteers play an important role in response efforts. People are often willing to volunteer following a disaster, but many are not trained for skilled positions, which can overwhelm relief organizations during a crisis.

For National Preparedness Month, consider getting involved in one of the following organizations, so you will be ready to help in the most effective way.

Community Emergency Response Teams

Thousands of these teams across the country train volunteers in basic disaster-response skills such as fire safety, search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. Click here to learn more and find a program near you.

Veterans Active in Citizens Corps

This program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency allows veterans to stay connected to public service during disasters. Because of their experiences and skills, the organization said veterans are qualified to assist in disaster relief. Click here for ways to help.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is always looking for volunteers willing to be trained in blood services, communications, disaster education and preparedness and more. Click here to find opportunities.

Medical Reserve Corps

The Medical Reserve Corps organizes practicing and retired medical doctors, nurses and health professionals who are willing to help with public health needs in emergencies. To find a chapter near you, click here.

Neighborhood Watch and Volunteers in Police Service

Volunteers for these two organizations support law enforcement agencies during emergencies and help monitor neighborhoods for suspicious activity. For information on volunteering through Neighborhood Watch, click here and for Volunteers in Police Service, click here.

Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster


This national group is a coalition of nonprofit disaster response organizations. It serves as a contact for the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters and reduces duplication of relief efforts during a disaster. Click here for ways you can support the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

Fire Corps

As a member of the Fire Corps, you can help your fire or EMS department in non-emergency roles such as teaching fire safety to children, installing smoke alarms, providing refreshments to first responders, maintaining websites. Click here to find a program.

Civil Air Patrol

The Civil Air Patrol was formed one week before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and thousands volunteered through the patrol. Today the organization is known for its search and rescue missions, air force support, disaster relief and humanitarian services. Click here for volunteer opportunities for children, adults (pilot and non-pilots), clergy and educators.

American Radio Relay League

The American Radio Relay League trains volunteers interested in learning about ham radio and supports strengthening the Amateur Radio Network. During emergencies, the organization is able to provide communications support and equipment. Click here for more information.

Meals on Wheels Association of America

In addition to its year-round commitment to serving meals to senior citizens in need, Meals on Wheels provides meals and disaster preparedness information. To find volunteer opportunities, click here

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