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It seems to good to be true

Posted Wed, 04/10/2013 - 18:18 by Scott Robinson

Why did I start VolunteerRescue ?

My wife and I semi retired to Fernie from the United Kingdom 5 years ago and became involved with Fernie Search and Rescue as ground search volunteers.  Over time we got more and more involved with helping out with the day to day running of the group and noticed the amount of paperwork that was required to ensure safety of volunteers and to demonstrate that the group was being run and managed in a safe and professional manner even though it was run by unpaid volunteers.

Being a software developer in the UK I started to look for software that I could use to assist with the paperwork and couldn't really found any that suited our needs at an affordable price, sure there were a few other products out there that were similar to VolunteerRescue but they were to expensive for a not for proft group.  The open source tools I found (namely CRM systems) needed a high degree of technical expertise to use and whilst this was no problem for myself I needed the solution to be usable by my wife and others in the group who are not from a computer background.

Therefore around the summer of 2010 I started to put together a system for Fernie SAR's internal use just to centralise information like member contact details and training.  Around that time two of the primary volunteers that ran Fernie SAR, who were also the SAR managers, announced they were moving away from the area one in September 2010 and the other in January 2011.  This was going to leave Fernie SAR as an untaskable group because a SAR manager is needed for every call and we were about to have none, therefore out of necessity my wife, myself and another member became certified as SAR managers in December 2010.  The SAR managers course opened my eyes to the even more paperwork I was now going to have to complete and again I saw that there was no system realistically available to myself or Fernie SAR to help with this unpaid and time consuming task.

As a result of the SAR manager course I took the decision over the 2010 Christmas period to take the basic system I had already created for Fernie SAR and expand it to suit my requirements as a SAR manager.  As a SAR manager I was now also expected to be "on call" and carry round the 24hr call out phone a few weeks each month therefore working from home on VolunteerRescue was ideal as it meant that if and when the phone rang I could instantly switch from software developer to SAR manager and this is still the case today.

Why should you use VolunteerRescue ?

Well firstly VolunteerRescue is developed to meet my requirements as a SAR manager and I use it daily for Fernie SAR and to assist me with the tasks I am SAR manager on.  This means the features of VolunteerRescue are added because they are needed and are used by the very person adding them (myself), they are not decided on and added by developers who will never have a need to use and rely on them.

If it has passed you by my wife is also a SAR manager with Fernie SAR and also has a need to use and rely on VolunteerRescue so time for another phrase "happy wife, happy life"; over and above my own needs I  have another huge incentive to make sure the features are functional, robust and work as required.

Often software and technology can be seen as an evil in our working lifes because the driving factor behind management making a decision to purchase is to save costs by replacing staff.  In the volunteer not for profit world this is exactly what you want, you want to find and use software that reduces the amount of time it takes you to achieve a task as you are volunteering your time, time saved can then be spent on the things that are important to you such as family, leisure activities etc...

Just because we are volunteers does not remove us from accountability, more and more SAR is percieved as a professional organisation, maybe even the fourth emergency service, and we have the same requirements as any professional business to track every aspect of our organisation to ensure the safety of our members who we routinely ask to operate in dangerous conditions even though we are still volunteers.


Hopefully the above has explained the reason why I am doing what I am doing and has helped to explain the motives and reasons behind a service that truly does seem to good to be true.

I believe in SAR and the volunteers that make themselves available to help those in need and feel I can use my knowledge and experience in software development to improve safety for volunteers whilst reducing the time needed for the ever increasing requirements in running a rescue organisation.