Emergency Management Capacity Building: Park and Recreation Professionals as Volunteer Managers in Cross-systems Collaboration


  • Anne L. Drabczyk
  • Nathan A. Schaumleffel


emergency management, local capacity building, crosssystems collaboration, volunteer management, recruitment


Acts of terrorism and natural disasters necessitate cross-systems collaboration in order to successfully manage disasters by building local capacity. In many communities, park and recreation professionals (PRPs) may serve a central role in emergency management, because public park and recreation agencies often have organized corps of volunteers that provide a wide variety of assistance to the agency.

A new emergency management trend is emerging that expands local capacity by using trained citizen responders (volunteer responders). The trend of volunteer responders explored in this article demonstrates opportunities for PRPs to provide a supportive function of volunteer management, and the inclusive tasks of recruitment, mobilization, and retention of a trained volunteer corps.

The data for this investigation came from research that examined shared values of citizen volunteers and first responders (Drabczyk, 2005). For data collection and interpretation, the researcher implemented the qualitative appreciative inquiry (AI) method of participatory action research (Cooperrider, Whitney, & Stavros, 2003). Ninety-four value statements shared between volunteer and first responders were identified through this study. Thirty-two of the shared values were acknowledged as cohesiveness/relationship values, 29 were functional/task-related values, 20 were development/change-related values, and 13 were stability/status-quo values.

This study has documented that in addition to basic volunteer recruitment, both volunteer and first responders require training opportunities, maintenance of clear communication channels, and coordination of effort, in order to function as a disaster management team. As collaborative partners with emergency management, one function a PRP could implement is recruitment of the right type of volunteer, one who will take the time to be properly trained in emergency management skills.

A considerable amount of time and resources have been spent identifying the community level benefits that public park and recreation agencies provide to their constituents (Driver, 1998a, 1998b; Driver, Brown, & Peterson, 1991). The need to manage trained volunteer responders in cross-systems collaborative role that PRPs can contribute toward expansion of emergency management capacity. Public parks and recreation can play a supportive role working with emergency management partners to build local capacity for disaster response through recruitment and management of volunteer responders.