PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Natural disaster relief agencies want you!

The height of hurricane season is on its way, and local officials and nonprofits are hoping for trained volunteers when the time comes to provide food, shelter, and caring.
The height of hurricane season is on its way, and local officials and nonprofits are hoping for trained volunteers when the time comes to provide food, shelter, and caring.

As the Atlantic hurricane season heads toward its peak weeks of activity, disaster-relief agencies are gearing up for the worst and hoping for the best.

The nonprofits need volunteers now to train how to help with recovery should disaster strike. The volunteers will learn what to do when rough seas, storm surge, and screaming winds caused by a hurricane and tornadoes embedded within it take everything away and leave a place in shambles.

Disaster training classes

The American Red Cross needs volunteers to learn how to prevent suffering in the face of any upcoming post-disaster emergencies, and to do that the agency is offering free recovery classes.

The coursework is tailored to people at all levels of experience, including none, in helping after fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural and manmade disasters.

Training sessions are online and in-person. Disaster volunteers also work to get those in the storm’s path prepared, and then return to help with recovery for those affected by the tragedy.

The first course provides an overview of how those offering disaster services fulfill the Red Cross mission and describes the proven processes of helping individuals, families, and communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. The course also reviews the role of community members, government workers, and volunteers when serving their cities and towns after disasters.

Another basic-level course focuses on storm shelter operations. Using checklists, volunteers are taught to move through several phases of the operation from opening, organizing, operating, and closing. The fundamental of running a shelter is taught either by an instructor or online.

Another program teaches children from 8 to 11-years-old how they can prepare themselves and help others.

Other free disaster preparedness training includes the agency’s smoke alarm installation program, how to best provide food, shelter, and comfort for families whose homes were destroyed, and how to volunteer as a public relations officer and answer questions from the press.

Volunteers make up over 90 percent of the Red Cross disaster workforce and make it possible to respond to nearly 70,000 disasters every year, most of them home and apartment fires. Search here for current local volunteer activities.

Help Lee County and its partners

The Lee County Emergency Management Volunteer’s Program is designed to enhance the delivery of the five phases of emergency management: prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation. This program provides a wide choice of volunteer services including service learning and helping around the office.

Fill out an application here.

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service volunteers work under the direction of the Lee County Emergency Operations Center staff when disaster strikes. While Lee County has state-of-the-art communications systems, it is considered prudent to have a second communications network, should the primary become incapacitated, especially in times of extreme hazards. To take part, call (920) 251-6249.

The United Way of Southwest Florida in Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee counties provide trained staff to operate the county’s storm information hotline during hurricanes and other disasters. The hotline provides information to the public on shelters, evacuations, and other important information so residents can stay safe before, during and after a storm. Call (239) 433-2000 to volunteer.

The Salvation Army can provide food, clothing, and crisis counseling to those in need after a disaster. To help, call (239) 278-1551.

Run a shelter

Lee County Emergency Management and Florida Gulf Coast University will teach volunteers how to host an emergency shelter on Thursday.

The shelter training is available for free to anyone who is interested in volunteering, but Florida Gulf Coast University students and staff are encouraged to attend. Registration is required.

The class is for those who want to help their neighbors during a hurricane or other crisis when an emergency shelter is open. FGCU students and employees are invited to learn the basic components of shelter management.

This training will prepare volunteers for emergency shelter operations at FGCU and Lee County if needed.

The class will be Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. It will be held on the FGCU campus at the Alico Arena Hospitality Suite, 12181 FGCU Lake Parkway East, Fort Myers, FL, 33913.

Register here.

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. 

Sign up for WGCU's monthly environmental newsletter, the Green Flash, today.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.