Throughout Iowa, community members show their heart by volunteering after tornadoes, floods and other disasters, but getting the right volunteers where they are needed can be difficult in the chaos after a disaster.

In Story County, the Central Iowa Retired & Senior Volunteer Program is standing by with trained volunteers to rapidly coordinate community volunteers during a disaster. As a part of National Preparedness Month, RSVP will be testing this capability on Saturday, Sept. 29, from 9-11 a.m. at Ames City Auditorium, and the community is invited to participate in the exercise.

“I want to test our ability to be able to screen and register volunteers, assign them to a task and maintain full accountability of them while they volunteer. To really test them, I’m hoping to get as many people as possible to come and play the role of a volunteer registering after a disaster,” said Lori Williams, who manages RSVP’s Volunteer Management for Emergencies program, which includes planning for the activation of a Volunteer Reception Center.

A Volunteer Reception Center is the central location where volunteers will be instructed to meet if they want to help after a disaster. At a VRC, volunteers will be matched to requests for assistance based on their skills and capabilities. Without a process like this, the well-meaning efforts of community volunteers may inadvertently lead to injury, accidents and confusion.

This exercise will practice the VRC process of receiving and registering volunteers, interviewing and placing volunteers in appropriate assignments, providing safety and training, and tracking volunteers.

“We knew all along that having a volunteer management capability for disasters was important, but recent flood and tornado events reemphasized the need to have well trained people ready to rapidly do volunteer management in order to get help to victims quickly and safely,” said Keith Morgan, Story County Emergency Management coordinator.

Serving Story, Marshall, Hamilton and Webster counties, Central Iowa RSVP engages volunteers in a variety of disaster assignments. Focused on adults age 55 and older, RSVP connects members with rewarding volunteer experiences that also meet community needs.

“RSVP has been coordinating volunteers during disaster preparedness and response for 14 years, and the volunteer management task is a perfect match for our RSVP mission,” said Williams.

Central Iowa RSVP is a member of the Story County Coalition for Disaster Recovery, the mission of which is to strengthen the public’s level of disaster preparedness and increase resource capacity. Organized in 2003, the CDR has grown to over 40 non-profit and faith-based members that make up several active committees and organizations. The members are dedicated to helping Story County communities recover from the effects of disaster.

For more information on the CDR, contact coordinator Lori Williams at