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Engaging With The Voluntary Sector

Working with the spectrum of voluntary sector organisations on resilience matters provides great mutual opportunities for the response community. But voluntary and community organisations have also shared the barriers they can face such as lack of knowledge around capabilities, confidence and coordination. 

The following note identifies a range of issues for Category 1 &2 responders and their voluntary sector partners to consider when entering into collaborative arrangements so as to ensure that expectations are clear and organisations can work together effectively. 

The voluntary sector has an important role to play in working alongside statutory services in response to many emergencies.  Active engagement of the voluntary sector in emergency preparedness work such as planning, training and exercising, will enable all partners to be effective in the event of an emergency. 

Category 1 and 2 responders will already be working alongside voluntary organisations in both formal and informal relationships.  In some circumstances they may wish to develop a more formal working relationship. 

Options for formalising the relationship include:

  • Service level agreements
  • Memoranda of Understanding
  • Establishing Protocols
  • Developing co-ordination systems
  • Formally reflecting arrangements within actual plans

If formalised in this way structures need to suit local circumstance, be understood by all concerned and have clearly identified points of contact.  Arrangements should be kept up to date by regular contact between those involved.

It is of course for each responder and organisation to determine the best working practice for them and to decide if there is a need to enter into a more formalised working agreement as mentioned above.

Issues for Consideration

Existing arrangements between organisations

  • What existing arrangements has the voluntary organisation entered into?
  • What priority will the new partnership be given?
  • Will the other arrangements have any impact on the level of support the voluntary organisation is able to provide i.e. if there are duplicate demands? 
  • Are existing arrangements formal e.g. MOU, contract or informal and which suits?
  • Is the contribution of the organisation included in existing local plans? 


  • What is the personnel capacity of the voluntary organisation i.e. numbers, skills?
  • Is the estimate of the emergency response realistic?
  • Would the capacity be impacted by time of day, day of week, nature of emergency?
  • Is the organisation able to call on a mutual aid facility?

Services and activities 

  • What types of services and/or activities does the organisation provide?
  • Do these services and/or activities respond to a likely need in an emergency?
  • Do these services and /or activities complement or supplement similar services and/or activities provided by another organisation?
  • Is there flexibility in the organisation's emergency response capability?

Payment of Costs

  • Will the Category 1 or 2 responder be expected to meet or contribute to costs incurred by the voluntary organisation during:

1) The planning phase e.g. volunteers involvement in training and exercising

2) The response phase e.g. if the emergency is a protracted one

3) The recovery stage e.g. aftercare - Humanitarian Assistance Centre


  • Does the voluntary organisation provide insurance for its volunteers? Does it provide insurance for its volunteers in an emergency response; if so is the cover appropriate/adequate?
  • Does the Category 1 or 2 responder's insurance cover include volunteers undertaking tasks on its behalf? 

Training and Exercising

  • What training programme does the voluntary organisation have in place?
  • What additional joint-training would the voluntary organisation and/or category 1 or 2 responders want to undertake?
  • Could voluntary organisations contribute to the delivery of training?
  • To what extent would the voluntary organisation be involved in exercise programmes i.e. planning, operation, review and evaluation?
  • Will there be assistance with funding for the costs of training inclusion in exercise?
  • Is there any opportunity for internal/external accreditation of standards in training? 

Provision of Equipment/Resources

  • What equipment/resources does the voluntary organisation have?
  • What additional equipment will the Category 1 or 2 responder provide?
  • Who is responsible for replacing equipment damages during an exercise or live event?
  • Does the equipment/resource comply with legislation and regulations?
  • Is the equipment/resource compatible with that used by other organisations part of the response? 

 Notification Procedures

  • Does the plan include robust notification procedures agreed by the voluntary organisation?
  • Are other SCG partners aware of these arrangements?

Command and Control Issues

  • Who is responsible for tasking of individual volunteers?
  • Does the organisation have a capability to support its personnel during and after the response? 

Role in Lessons Learned Process

  • What mechanisms will be put in place to involve the voluntary organisation in de-briefs/lessons learned process?