Professional emergency responders and unorganized volunteers: incident sites as meeting places
Department of Social Sciences Mid Sweden University Östersund, Sweden
Incident sites, e.g, places where a road traffic accident or a fire has occurred, are often meeting places of different kinds of actors. Some of these actors work for emergency response organizations, and they are trained and equipped to deal with the incident more or less as a matter of routine. To them the incident site is a place of work, and the situation is usually broadly familiar and regarded as part of everyday life. To other people, on the other hand, the situation at an incident site may be regarded as extreme, and as a total disruption of everyday life. Among this kind of actors are individual volunteers who just happens to be at the scene when a traffic accident, a fire, or some other kind of incident occurs, and who take some kind of rescue action. The purpose of the paper is to study the encounters between professional emergency responders and individual volunteers, from the former?s point of view. The three most common emergency response organizations at incident sites, at least in Sweden where the study was carried out, are the police, the fire and rescue service, and the ambulance service. Interviews were carried out with personnel from these three organizations. Some common traits were discerned, but the differences between them, with regard to their attitudes and behaviour towards the volunteers, were far more salient. The police had the most positive attitude and the most extensive contacts with the volunteers, the firemen hade the least extensive contacts, and the ambulance personnel had the most ambivalent attitude towards the volunteers. To the police, interaction with volunteers is of primary importance to their work, but this kind of interaction is of secondary importance to the other two organizations. These differences are largely due to the division of labour between the three organizations, and to their different organizational logics.