Humanist Disaster Recovery

About Humanist Disaster Recovery

Humanist Disaster Recovery (HDR) serves as a focal point for response to major natural disasters and complex humanitarian crises all over the world. For FBB to coordinate such response, the event must meet a well-developed set of criteria.

The HDR program has two primary components:

Major Natural Disasters

In the case of a natural disaster, FBB raises funds to aid in disaster recovery and to provide:

  • Grants to organizations working locally to meet the needs of recovering survivors
  • Trained volunteers for recovering communities

Complex Humanitarian Crises

In the case of a humanitarian crisis, FBB researches and shares ways for volunteers to make an impact. This often includes fundraising for organizations that are working to mitigate the crisis.

Grant Recipients

Grant recipients are rigorously vetted to ensure they meet FBB’s standards for efficiency, effectiveness, and financial transparency. The post-disaster, post-crisis recovery landscape is complex. But we prioritize nonprofits that are well-established, integrate sustainability and mitigation techniques into their work, and empower local communities throughout long-term recovery.

During an HDR response, this page provides:

  • Information about the unfolding situation
  • Opportunities to donate to vetted organizations
  • Opportunities to volunteer and help rebuild affected communities


What is the difference between “response” and “recovery”?

Response consists of actions taken when a hazard is imminent, occurring, or has recently occurred. This is an effort to save lives, property, and the environment. Actions include evacuating, taking shelter, securing food and water, search and rescue, addressing medical needs, and emergency debris removal to clear paths for aid. The length of time a community is considered to be in response varies greatly depending on the disaster. For example, the response period for a tornado typically lasts about three days whereas the response phase for a drought can last for many years.

Recovery consists of actions taken after the life-saving actions of the response phase have been completed. Restoration, rebuilding, and reshaping actions take place at this time. The recovery phase for very large disasters can stretch on for many years.

The Humanist Disaster Recovery program will only be involved in the recovery phase after a disaster.

Why is volunteering during the recovery period so important?

FBB will focus its efforts where affected communities need it most. Evidence indicates that this help is most needed during the recovery phase.

Donations and volunteers tend to dwindle after the response phase and after the media has moved on to the next event. However, the greatest need for money and volunteer hours is during the recovery period after a disaster. Recovery phases can last for weeks, months, or even years after a disaster event. 

Will FBB ever be involved involved in “response”?

Disaster response is coordinated by a strict system, under many federal, state, and local laws. FBB does not currently have a role in the national response system. However, if an opportunity presents itself where FBB can contribute to address the unmet needs of survivors during response, we will consider this opportunity.

How does FBB determine which disasters are good candidates for a volunteer deployment?

FBB consider the following factors when determining if it is appropriate for to mobilize volunteers:

  • Location - Currently FBB only deploys to disasters within the United States in order to maximize the available resources.

  • Size and Scope - Media saturation can distort the scope of an event, either making the event seem bigger or smaller than it is. FBB works to gain an accurate portrayal of the event by monitoring reports from residents, local government officials, and volunteer organizations already on the ground.

  • Unmet Needs - Sometimes an event may require a big response but minimal recovery. For example, winter storms typically have a long response period but often don’t require outside recovery assistance. FBB will only deploy to a location when local governments and local voluntary organizations express the need for outside volunteers during the recovery period.

  • Involvement of Partner Organizations - FBB will only deploy to a disaster if All Hands and Hearts or one of our other pre-vetted partner organizations is on the ground and has established the capacity to host our volunteers.

When will volunteers deploy after a disaster?

It is critical that volunteers do not deploy before the volunteer coordinating systems are in place in the impacted area (e.g., accommodations and organizations to feed volunteers). Spontaneous volunteers that show up in impacted areas before these systems are in place are a major hindrance to first responders and other organizations working to meet the immediate needs of survivors. FBB will not deploy volunteers until after All Hands and Hearts gives us a confirmation of deployment, which can one to several weeks after a disaster has occurred. All disaster volunteers affiliated with FBB’s deployment must wait until they have confirmation that the volunteer system is prepared to receive them before deploying.

Which volunteers will be selected for deployment after a disaster?

FBB staff reviews all applications upon submission and divides applicants by region. Volunteers are chosen based upon proximity and availability, although some with specialized skills may be asked to travel despite their proximity to a disaster. Although “proximity” will often rely on previously defined FEMA regions, it will remain a relative term, defined by the scope of the disaster, and need for additional volunteers.

What is the nature of tasks volunteers will asked to complete?

Deployment volunteers may be asked to participate in a variety of tasks depending on the nature of the event, the needs of the community, and the individual skills of each volunteer. These tasks may include helping in a food bank, working at shelters, gutting homes, rebuilding homes, or clearing debris.

The short and long term recovery environment is dynamic, so volunteers should be prepared for their tasks to change with little notice if more pressing concerns arise that need immediate attention.

Why is training necessary?

Evidence has shown that untrained volunteers cause complications for survivors and other workers. Training gives volunteers the preparation necessary to understand their role in the emergency management system.

When will volunteers receive their training?

Volunteers will receive training once it is confirmed they will be part of a deployment. Upon acceptance to participate in the deployment, volunteers will receive their training documents. They will then receive an on-site orientation and review of their training on the first day of deployment.

This process will ensure that each volunteer has conducted their trainings recently and are immediately prepared to participate. It will also allow for each volunteer to receive the most up to date revision of the training, as trainings will be consistently updated. FEMA and government rules and regulations change over time and the HDR program continues to develop.

How should HDR volunteers apply humanist values in their interaction with survivors?

Each volunteer will receive training on how to think like a humanist when they are working alongside survivors. In this training, it is emphasized that volunteers understand that the experience belongs to the survivor, and that the volunteer can best understand the needs of the survivor by listening to them, taking them seriously, and being the extra hands they need to complete the list of tasks before them.

How will volunteers get to the impacted area(s)?

At this time, volunteers must provide their own transportation. Carpooling is available from the volunteer housing location to the work site. FBB or All Hands and Hearts may have resources during some deployments to supplement travel for those who need assistance, but it is not guaranteed to be available.

What costs are and are not covered by FBB during deployment?

Work vests, equipment, accommodations, breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks at the worksite will be covered by either FBB or All Hands and Hearts.

All Hands and Hearts does not provide food on rest days. However, this may be provided by FBB, depending on resources available during the specific deployment.

Each volunteer will need to pay for their travel to the housing location from their home and dinner each evening, unless FBB or All Hands and Hearts has agreed to supplement these items.

What kind of organizations does FBB partner with to organize deployments?

Because there are no current national humanist recovery organizations, we have developed a primary partnership with All Hands and Hearts: Smart Response (previously All Hands). All Hands and Hearts is a highly-qualified disaster recovery organization with over 12 years of experience organizing volunteer sites in the United States and overseas.

Why does FBB need a partner organization?

At this time, FBB does not have the funding, resources, or expertise to navigate a community impacted by disaster without assistance. All Hands and Hearts has years of experience, significant funding, and established relationships with the broader disaster recovery community.

FBB plans to develop our abilities to perform these functions over time.

Who will be in charge of communicating with the partner organization?

Immediately after a disaster, FBB staff will select which partner organization volunteers will work with throughout the duration of the deployment.

While on the ground, the point of contact between the partner and FBB will be the FBB Deployment Leader.

How do I join the volunteer database?

Visit our Volunteer Application to be added to our list of volunteers. Thank you!

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Foundation Beyond Belief, Inc.
1940 Fountain View Dr #1126
Houston, TX 77057