ESS/Reception Centre Volunteer

General Emergency Support Service/Reception Centre Volunteer

Emergency Support Services are services provided on a short-term basis to preserve the emotional and physical well being of those affected by an emergency or disaster. ESS plays an important role in emergency management by:
  • Helping people meet their basic survival needs during a disaster
  • Reuniting families separated by disaster
  • Providing people affected by a disaster with accurate and up-to-date information
When a large emergency or disaster strikes which affects a large area or community, the City’s Emergency Support Services will respond by opening up one or more Reception Centres in the appropriate area. A Reception Centre is a safe gathering place where evacuees and individuals affected by an emergency or disaster can register their safety and whereabouts, to make inquiries about loved ones and to receive assistance for basic needs such as food, clothing and lodging.

Volunteers are needed to staff various positions in different areas in a Reception Centre. Some of these areas include: meet & greet, food services, transportation, information, translation services, front line assistance, security, first aid, family reunification, child care, pet care, recreation, emotional support, logistics and administrative support.

Thankfully we do not often need to open Reception Centres, however, each volunteer is expected to attend training sessions, participate in exercises and be available on short notice to assist evacuees.

Complete training for specific tasks will be provided and facilitated through the City’s Emergency Program Office.


  • Be an advocate for emergency preparedness
  • Be personally prepared for an emergency
  • Assist in set-up and take down of Emergency Reception Centre
  • Perform duties as indicated through training or areas of interest
  • Ensure needs of evacuees are met
  • Complete and submit required paperwork
  • Perform assigned duties, as required

Skills and Abilities

  • Basic knowledge of ESS
  • Clear and effective communication skills
  • Ability to respond effectively in a crisis situation and cope under pressure
  • Knowledge of the City’s Emergency Program and related topics
  • Enjoy working as part of a team


  • Introduction to ESS
  • Introduction to Reception Centre
  • Registration and Referrals
  • Inquiry, Search and Reply
  • Documentation
  • Introduction to Group Lodging
  • Managing Walk-in Volunteers
  • Meet and Greet course (Salvation Army)
  • Related training in customer service
  • Other ESS related training courses


  • Must be able to commit during non-disaster times
  • Attend monthly meetings and exercises (approximately 2-4 hours per month)
  • Participation in training courses provided through the Emergency Program Office
  • Must be available to respond on short notice

Tips for Volunteers

As a responder, it is important to remember that you must take care of yourself or you won't be able to help others. The best way to help yourself is to be prepared before your shift starts with comfortable clothing, snacks, water and knowing that your own family and friends know about your role.

Check in with yourself several times during your shift as well - "How am I doing?" Taking regular breaks, stretching and eating healthy are just a few ways to ensure your own mental and physical health while on shift.

When in doubt, ask for help.