It is impossible to say “all is well”: how to prepare volunteers in Russia

Five years have passed since the terrible floods in Krymsk. In the summer of 2012 in the region attracted thousands of volunteers from all over Russia to help those who have suffered as a result of rampant disaster. This gave rise to the beginning of the volunteer wave in Russia. Five years have passed, and still a huge number of people want to be involved in work for the scene. But I don’t know where to start.

Russian humanitarian mission has developed a course for volunteers working in the area of emergency situations and participating in relief operations. “MK” has dealt with what should know and be able to volunteer to be helpful to others. As it turned out, the first task is to not become victims.

Photo: Sasha, Haraze.


Volunteering in Russia — a phenomenon popular. To some extent, even fashionable. And this popularity is not all it is good for the business. A lot of volunteers, but how many of them were really useful, and how underfoot?

From the diary of a volunteer Natalia Kiseleva, the head of the camp “Good” in Krymsk: “the disaster in Krymsk, a mass volunteer help was not. Unfortunately, not all people who come here, the volunteers. Even if they believe themselves to be. I’ve seen dozens of people who spend days drinking tea in the shade and sit in social networks, posting photos of yourself, a loved one, against the monstrous realities of Krymsk. They are preventing”.

Not to say that young people went to the flooded city solely for the sake of pictures for social networks. People really do come from a good place. But without a basic training run the risk of being a burden and not a helper. The man who arrived in a flood zone or earthquake unprepared, it will be difficult to find something without the risk to be in the role of someone who needs help.

From the memoirs of professionals working in the field of emergencies: “Came to a group of boys and girls with a small backpack and complete ignorance that they do know how to do. The first questions: “when do you feed? But where will we sleep?” Guys, we’re not in summer camp. A roof over your head we will of course provide. But it can be, for example, the school Assembly hall. About the sleeping bags you had to look ahead. Food right now you can buy in the store. No card there is, unfortunately, not accept.” Untrained volunteers are a big burden on those people who work in the area of disaster duty. This does not mean that it is better to stay at home. When a person throws everything and goes to help people who are worse — it deserves respect. Still, experts believe that the volunteer must be at least in theory, ready for what awaits him. And best and practice.

It is for this Russian humanitarian mission has developed a course for volunteers. Teachers, rescuers, firemen, psychologists, long time working in the Ministry. Experts have extensive experience working with volunteers in the zones of emergency situations and on the basis of joint work made conclusions about what must be trained volunteers. All five days will be covered in theory (with practical tasks), on the sixth day need to apply the training in the field.

“Preparing for a flood, don’t think rubber boots will give you on the spot”

— Preparation for departure should begin at home, before you are going to go somewhere. The better prepared you will be, the lower the probability to get under the danger — explains the first day of the rescuer of the international class Oleg Grozovsky.

…Ten people 18 and older. Journalist, scientist, lawyer, future psychologist, a student of the medical University, a civil servant etc., All as in life. In volunteer groups to meet people of different professions and social statuses. Someone is still in illusions on a thrilling adventure. That volunteer help is hard work, many people realize only after arrival on a place. We have the opportunity to realize this much earlier.

Interestingly, the main principles of work of volunteers in the disaster area the same, regardless of whether it is an earthquake, flood or something else.

For your safety you are responsible for yourself — insist that teachers and give examples.

Suggests starting introductory: a volunteer going to the emergency area, the road to the destination may take several days. What items do I need to bring? It would seem that the answer is obvious, but few of us have included in the list of equipment drinking water and a sleeping bag. We are not the first in the flooded Krymsk volunteers came without rubber boots. On that terrible July to help residents of the Krasnodar territory, the people broke right into what was. And in the end they themselves needed help. According to experts, such examples occur at every emergency.

Photo: Sasha, Haraze.


In the presence of strong currents in a flood are not allowed in the water if its level is above the knee. It must be remembered that in the streams may run at high speed scrubbed from the homes large appliances and furniture.

Need to know what kind of assistance is necessary to the population. It makes no sense to drive a truck with drinking water if you find that more than enough water, but almost no dry clothes, shovels to clean up the rubble, and mattresses for the night.

If the destination is hot spot, training should be even more careful, from the style of clothing. A volunteer, equipped in camouflage, inconspicuous at the first checkpoint. The question arises naturally: if you come with humanitarian aid, then why are you dressed in masking outfits? And the answer is that it is convenient, the inspector may not to make. It is important to explore the cultural and religious customs of the area. In many countries customary for our area gestures are considered a terrible insult. Loving the “peace” — two fingers in a V English in Arab countries means “cuckold”. A big thumbs-up in Iran is equivalent to insulting on a par with the exposed middle finger.

The approximate list of equipment which should have a volunteer at the check-out to the emergency site:



Sleeping bag and Mat

Clothing for the weather

Protective equipment (gloves, masks, helmets…)

First aid kit

A means for water purification (e.g., aquatabs)

Protection from insects and the sun

Personal hygiene


Food and water

Folding knife




A means of orienteering

Photo: Sasha, Haraze.

The relief items, which are always not enough in the emergency area:



Drinking water (the tank from which you can drink)

Disposable tableware


Washing powder

Toothbrushes and toothpaste

Baby bottle nipples

Baby food, formula, cereal

Spoon in the teeth of the epileptic does not help

Unit for first aid leads the firefighter, the rescuer of the first class Michael Safronenko. Within two days he teaches volunteers how to help the person to survive until the medics arrive. Discusses situations that can happen not only as a result of some catastrophe, but in everyday life. Getting a foreign object in respiratory tract, heart attack, burns, drowning, stroke, wounds and fractures, frostbite, poisoning, shock…

In my view, such courses should be introduced everywhere, from school. And, of course, these skills needed to be a volunteer.

Still in the minds of the people a strong outdated prejudices that have long been refuted by modern physicians. How’s that for splint on a broken limb better suited to a wooden ski. Or that person is beating in a fit of epilepsy, it is necessary to thrust in a mouth a spoon or other metal object so he wouldn’t bite off his tongue. To anything good it does not. Sometimes even hurts. When a person rushes to the aid of the call of the soul and heart, but trying to push the spoon breaks victim teeth.

Surprisingly, if you do not do some — not very difficult! manipulation, a person can die, even if his injury does not pose a threat to life. When mass poisoning by gas people can die from the tongue: lose consciousness from the gas, unconscious muscles of the tongue relax — and it blocks your airway. Enough to put victims in a different pose or throw back the head, and death from suffocation can be avoided.

Up to 40 percent of amputations in some armed conflicts have occurred due to the unjustified use of the harness. In the case of a tourniquet should not only write on his forehead (!) affected time the tourniquet was applied, but also to warn the doctor that he needs immediate assistance. If this is not done, then there is a risk that the physician will detect a tourniquet when a limb is in such a state that will have nothing to save.

“Because of the heat the bodies had to be stored in trucks equipped with reefers”

A psychologist on the scene of the emergency should be mandatory. Moreover, the volunteer psychologists, as practice shows, without special training often cannot cope with what they face. The experts themselves also are not willing to let people volunteer first comer, who knows how qualified this person is and do not inflict any harm to his psychological help?

Psychologist Tatiana Kuznetsova for two days of talks about the peculiarities of the human psyche in an emergency. It is a home you can be anything — a misanthrope, or a pest, but at the scene you will have to deal with victims, to encourage them to leave the shelter and come to the point of temporary accommodation, to record their questions and look for answers, to listen, to reassure and not to promise anything unrealistic.

There are prohibited, which in any case can not speak to the affected population, — explains Tatyana Kuznetsova. One of them is our favorite “all is well”. You just can’t know.

Consequences of inappropriate use of this phrase can be devastating. In Beslan psychologist spoke with the relatives of the children held hostage in school. She literally escaped the phrase: “all is well”. And then the assault began… Man, who were held captive native child, I had to literally pull away from the officer.

Inexperienced volunteers often go to the emergency place with the idealistic picture that the local population will greet them as heroes and saviors. In fact, it happens in different ways. In the power of stressful experiences are affected tend to blame and suspect all around. There was a case when refugees from the Donbass who were placed in temporary accommodation, are very suspicious of the food that they were fed. And the only case of poisoning was seen as a signal that they knowingly poisoned. Guilty in this case be everyone who comes their way.

Sometimes it happens that an emergency and is not for population stress. For example, in Russia there are areas that are constantly flooded. And local residents, and the administration long ago got used to retrieve from your location benefit. Despite the fact that the owners of houses in dangerous areas have long allocated money for more housing, they prefer a new apartment to rent. While they themselves continue to live there, where there is regular flooding. They are so comfortable: an extra day’s holiday, humanitarian assistance, children can “pass” in temporary accommodation, and at the same time there for lunch. This situation is ordinary for them, they are not experiencing stress. And volunteers are faced with the fact that their assistance is not only unnecessary, but may even cause an aggressive reaction.

According to psychologists, the most dangerous and unpredictable thing that occurs in the place in almost any emergency situation is rumors. This occurs from the lack of awareness about the current situation and forecast of its development. People find themselves in an information vacuum, high emotional significance of the situation gives rise to a large variety of conjectures, assumptions, interpretations. Volunteers are at the center of these rumors: they must not only possess accurate information, but to be able to bring it to people based on their status.

Photo: Sasha, Haraze.

So, on Sakhalin island after an earthquake out of nowhere, spread information about the upcoming aftershocks. People poured into the streets from their homes and refused to return, although experts have not confirmed this information. When they began to investigate where the wind blows, it turned out that the locals misinterpreted the information that was spread through the loudspeaker. Many homes were destroyed the first floor, people began to get the furniture through the Windows. Seeing this, the security services decided to warn the neighbours not to stand under the Windows. The car toured the districts and gave this information to the speaker. The population decided that the expected second wave of the earthquake, and no arguments had no effect on them.

Returning to the Krymsk — a huge number of rumors around the exact number of victims. The number of victims of “word of mouth” reports reached 3000. According to official data, 171 people died. Panic sowed the appearance of trucks with refrigerating equipment. Because of the hot weather refrigerators on wheels was used for storage of bodies. Among the local rumors that the trucks are filled to the brim with corpses… no One believed the explanation that each refrigerator accommodates so many people, because it was necessary to lay them so as to able to identify native. Later, residents staged a boycott of the chain stores, to allocate the trucks: they were accused that in the same cells they store the food products. Unable to withstand the pressure of absurd rumors, the management of the network organized a demonstration of the disposal of refrigerators.

If volunteers give people a reliable (!) the information they could obtain in the headquarters, it would help to reduce the level of anxiety and to avoid panic.

Professionals of all rescue services are unanimous in the opinion that volunteering is very, very necessary. World experience confirms this. No country in the world lacks the professional bodies involved in liquidation of emergency situations. In the U.S., for example, 70 percent of firefighters are volunteers.

It is clear that at the moment, the American system of volunteers we are far away. But to seek, teach and encourage those who at any moment ready to break away and go to the disaster area, where any pair of hands on your account, you can and should. What if volunteering will ultimately unite us?

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