What is a community reserve volunteer?

British Red Cross Community Reserve Volunteers are a network of people ready to help in an emergency, supporting their community by sharing public health messages, connecting with others safely and helping provide basic supplies.

Community reserve volunteers require no specialist skills and are only called upon in the event of a major crisis to carry out practical tasks to support existing Red Cross emergency response volunteers.

Being a community reserve volunteer is perfect for those of you who would naturally feel the urge to help during a major emergency, but don’t have the time to commit to volunteering on a regular basis.

Why do you need them?

When a major crisis hits, members of the public are often quick to offer their support. This help can be invaluable.

By signing up to become a community reserve volunteer, the British Red Cross can harness people’s goodwill so in the event of an emergency you can help your community get back on track, in a way that’s both coordinated and effective.

What would community reserve volunteers do?

By becoming a community reserve volunteer, your help could be invaluable if a major local emergency happens. This may be particularly important right now and we are working with the authorities to support the Covid-19 response in the best possible way.

It might be that a community reserve volunteer will be asked to help distribute food and supplies to those who cannot access it, support local communities by sharing public health messages and to connect with others in their community safely.

Community reserve volunteers would also assist regular British Red Cross volunteers with practical tasks relevant to other crises, such as flooding or fires, like preparing kit and equipment, filling sandbags, sorting supplies and making refreshments.

This extra help allows the emergency services, local councils and regular Red Cross volunteers to provide even more support to people in crisis.

Who can become a community reserve volunteer?

Anyone aged 18 or over and living in the UK can become a community reserve volunteer. Where applicable, the British Red Cross will always follow government guidance on a specific crisis.

We notify our volunteers in a number of ways when we know we need them. You’ll either receive a text message, or for some, dependent on your location, you’ll be asked to download an app. This will be explained when you complete your registration.

You should be physically and mentally fit enough to carry out the tasks during an emergency, and uphold the fundamental principles of the British Red Cross when requested to help.

How do I sign up?

Becoming a community reserve volunteer is quick and easy, you just need to fill in our online form. Watch out for your welcome e-mail which will include information on how to complete your registration.

Do volunteers get training?
We have a short online training course which has information on how to keep yourself safe while you are volunteering, available here. If sent to help during a crisis, community reserve volunteers can expect some additional, task-specific training at the scene from a regular, fully trained British Red Cross volunteer or staff member.
If you need me to volunteer, how will I know?

We work closely with authorities and partner organisations to see how we can best support in an emergency. Currently, we are regularly communicating with these organisations to understand where our help is needed most as we tackle the impact of the coronavirus. When we need people to volunteer, we will send out an alert to our community reserve volunteers via text message or via the GoodSAM Responder app, which will explain what kind of help is needed in your area. Please only download the app if you have been asked to do so by the British Red Cross as it is not needed by all community reserve volunteers.

It is your choice whether you can help, there is no obligation, and you should only do this if you feel well enough to carry out the role. The government explains its guidance on this website.

We understand that many people are ready and waiting to help and we’re working very hard to make sure we make the most of this goodwill. As soon as we’re aware of a volunteering opportunity in your area, we will notify you.

Are community reserve volunteers paid expenses?

Yes, any reasonable out of pocket expenses you incur during your time spent volunteering will be covered. Please keep hold of any receipts related to your time volunteering. To claim your expenses, download this form and submit it to expensesCRV@redcross.org.uk within 4 weeks of your deployment.

Why do I need to sign up? Can I not just turn up at the scene and help?

When a crisis hits, people often turn up at the scene to help in whatever way they can. They can be of great use, but there is no way of knowing how many might turn up.

To be more effective in an emergency situation, a little preparation is better.

By signing up to become a community reserve volunteer in advance of a crisis, we can mobilise you to help more quickly and effectively.

We can also give you tasks that are coordinated with the overall emergency response alongside the local authority, emergency services, and regular British Red Cross volunteers.

I thought the British Red Cross already had emergency response volunteers?

Yes we do. The Red Cross has teams of emergency response volunteers across the UK, ready to help people in a range of crisis situations, from natural disasters to house fires. They have lots of experience and thorough training in supporting people in crisis directly.

Community reserve volunteers are only called upon in the event of a major crisis and carry out practical tasks in support of these existing Red Cross emergency response volunteers.

Being a community reserve volunteer is perfect for those of you who would naturally feel the urge to help during a major emergency, but don’t have the time to commit to volunteering all year round.

May I wear or use the red cross emblem once I am registered as a community reserve volunteer?

The red cross emblem is a special symbol of neutrality and protection, whose use is restricted by international and UK laws. Please do not wear or use the red cross emblem nor the British Red Cross logo without prior permission.

I’ve registered, what’s next?

Please click here to download our Community Reserve Volunteer handbook which contains some useful information about the role, including a Q&A and mutual expectations. You will also find additional information about the British Red Cross, and links to other resources to help you prepare for emergencies. If you plan on using your own car to complete a volunteering task, you must inform your insurance company that you will be using your own car for volunteering purposes.

Once you’ve signed up, we will send you email updates on our progress with our coronavirus (COVID-19) response and information about how to help others in your local community.

If there is a need in your local area, we will contact you. There’s a huge amount of coordination required to mobilise our volunteers, so don’t worry if you haven’t heard from us. We are doing all we can to update volunteers on the needs in their local areas and ensure we deploy our volunteers safely, adhering to government guidelines.

In the meantime, as the eyes and ears of our community, we ask that you check in on your neighbours, via phone where possible. If people are self-isolating, you may be able to pick up their shopping for them, leaving it at their doorstep. A call or text will also remind them they are not alone, in what could be a very lonely situation for some. Please check the government website for advice on how to volunteer safely.

What activities can a volunteer undertake to support the Covid-19 response?

Once you have signed up as a community reserve volunteer, you may be asked to help with a number of different activities related to the Covid-19 response, including calling someone who is isolating to check they are okay or helping to pack and distribute food items. It will depend on what kind of support is asked of us by the local authority or resilience forum, for example.

No access to transport, over 70 or got an underlying health condition? Don’t worry, you can get involved from home with a telephone support role. Please click here for government advice on how to volunteer safely.

Where can I find the GoodSAM role descriptions?

There are three roles available via the GoodSAM Responder app:

The community response role will involve helping pull together food parcels, organising vital supplies and potentially supporting other local charities. Download this pdf to read the full role description.

The check in and chat role will help people who are self-isolating and unable to leave their house, providing them with contact with the outside world and a much-needed person to talk to. You might be self-isolating too, but still feel well enough to check in with others. Download this pdf to read the full role description.

The transport volunteer role will involve transporting vital supplies and supporting the health and social care sector in your community. It can also involve practical tasks to support people isolating in their homes. Download this pdf to read the full role description.

I have already registered on the community reserve volunteer website, why am I being asked to register again on GoodSAM?

We have never seen so many people in the UK signing up to be a community reserve volunteer and wanting to share their kindness. It’s amazing – but it also means we need to make sure that our processes and systems are able to manage the numbers, and keep everyone safe.

We are currently using a number of ways to communicate with our volunteers if their help is needed, depending on their location.

For some volunteer activities, we can only send volunteers who have a DBS/Access NI/Disclosure Scotland/PVG check and we’re using a platform called GoodSAM to help us understand which community reserve volunteers have the relevant certificates. Over the coming weeks we’ll be getting in touch with our volunteers to see if they already have this kind of check and if they do, requesting they register on the GoodSAM platform.

If you have not been asked to register on another website, don’t worry, we will still notify you via text message if we need your help.

If you have one of these checks, but have not yet been asked to register on GoodSAM, please go to www.goodsamapp.org/brc.

If I register on GoodSAM, will other charities / the NHS contact me?

We are working closely with a number of other charities, such as Fareshare, who need volunteers to help ensure they can continue to support those most in need. If the request for support has come from another charity, we’ll make it clear at the time you receive the request.

I have been experiencing technical issues with the GoodSAM website/app. How can I get help with this?

Please email us at reserves@redcross.org.uk and one of the team will get back to you as soon as they can.

I've been volunteering and have some well-being questions, is there someone I can talk to?

We have a dedicated line to support our volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic. If you want to get help, have questions about your welfare or just want a chat after a difficult shift, please get in touch on 0808 1963 652 (calls may be recorded for your safety) or email us at VolunteerSupport@redcross.org.uk.

I cannot register with more than one organisation on GoodSAM. Why are you making me choose an organisation?

Covid-19 is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and we’re working hard to make sure we can get volunteers to those who need help – this is our top priority. We are working closely with local authorities, governments and other organisations to find out where our help is needed, and we are increasing the number of alerts every day. We will still be able to alert you to some volunteer opportunities via the current British Red Cross process – which means you’ll receive a text message when there is a request for help. GoodSAM enables us to provide more opportunities as it gives us the option to verify criminal record checks, which are requested by many organisations when asking for volunteers. However, for the opportunities that do not need volunteers with a criminal record check, we’ll be able to use our current process.

I have registered but not been deployed yet. Why are there no volunteering opportunities for me?

We appreciate that everybody who registers is keen to offer support in their local community and it is possible that for several reasons, we may not need everybody’s support. We are grateful for your time and we understand it can be frustrating if you are not deployed soon after registering. We never know when an emergency situation will happen and how we will need to respond, but please know that by registering, we have the reassurance that you might be able to help us whether this be tomorrow, next month or next year. For the Covid-19 response, we’re working closely with local authorities, governments and other organisations to find out where our help is needed, and we are increasing the number of alerts every day. The crisis is something like we have never seen before and we recognise it’s taken some time to put in place a system that will allow our volunteers to access roles more easily. Ensuring we are providing safe volunteer roles that adhere to Government guidelines and helping those who need us the most is of utmost importance.