Opening and Extending the Crisis Cleanup Hotline

Opening the Crisis Cleanup Hotline

Request: We will open a hotline whenever requested by a local relief organization. Crisis Cleanup will provide a toll-free or local phone number for members of the public to call, to request help cleaning up. Emergency management may also request a hotline be opened, provided we meet these requirements:

  1. Survivors need help: This requirement is never a challenge to meet.
  2. Volunteers are available to answer calls: Due to high burn-out and diminishing media coverage, maintaining a sufficient volunteer staff typically becomes a challenge after a few weeks.
  3. Field volunteers are doing a substantial amount of work: Field work typically takes a steep dive after 3-5 weeks. We will close the hotline if there is not a substantial degree of field work occurring, even if many people are calling. We do not want to create false hope.

Gathering statistics or damage assessment data (alone) is not a sufficient cause to open the Crisis Cleanup hotline.

Purpose: The purpose of the hotline is:

  1. Help voluntary organizations help more people by quickly gathering and sharing cleanup requests.
  2. Minimize the public relations and work risk to local partners who might want to open a hotline, but are not able to handle an overwhelming number of requests.

Staffing: Volunteers staff the hotline remotely (e.g. from their homes). Crisis Cleanup has no paid staff. Local volunteers tend to be more dedicated than those who live far from the disaster.

For non-catastrophic disasters, 3-5 volunteers are required to open a hotline, and hours are very flexible. Volunteer turnover is typically 30%-50% each week, so ongoing recruitment and training is necessary.

Answering the hotline is a marathon, not a sprint. Volunteers who answer calls for short hours for a couple of weeks are more valuable than volunteers who work long hours over a short time. For example, one hour volunteered answering calls each day for seven days is far better than seven hours in a single day.

Period: To manage public expectations, we always publish a date the hotline will close. The initial period is typically 2-3 weeks. We can extend, provided we meed the criteria in the "Request" section, above.

Support: We will provide train-the-trainer sessions and training material for any relief organization that wishes to answer calls. Each organization is responsible for managing, scheduling, and training its own volunteers. We may also provide door-to-door flyers and handbills the public may print to distribute to survivors and affected neighborhoods.

Relationship with 2-1-1: Crisis Cleanup always plays "second fiddle" to 2-1-1. Crisis Cleanup wants to support local preexisting public messaging. Ideally, the local 2-1-1 would answer all calls and enter them directly into Crisis Cleanup. However, 2-1-1 may not always be able to do this. Crisis Cleanup has worked in several configurations with local 2-1-1s, any of which may be appropriate in a given disaster. These include:

  • Public Message: "Dial 2-1-1." 2-1-1 answers all calls, and does direct intake.
  • Public Message: "Dial 2-1-1." 2-1-1 refers the survivor to the Crisis Cleanup Hotline, which does the intake.
  • Public Message: "Call Crisis Cleanup." Crisis Cleanup volunteers do the intake.

This policy applies to any entity who might take phone calls from the public, including emergency management.

Extending the Crisis Cleanup Hotline

We will extend the Crisis Cleanup Hotline indefinitely, provided that the three conditions in "Request" above are met. Gathering statistics or damage assessment data (alone) is not a sufficient cause to extend the Crisis Cleanup hotline.

The Website Never Closes

Don't Panic: When the hotline eventually closes, many relief organizations contact us to find out whether "Crisis Cleanup is closing." The website and incident at will remain available indefinitely. Relief organizations may continue to add, claim, and complete cases on, even without a live hotline.

Policy Effective: June 7, 2019. Updated: June 9, 2019 (Simplified language).

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