Assessing the benefits of organized voluntary emergency services: Concepts and evidence from flood protection in Austria

Publikation aus Life
Internationale Klimapolitik und Ökonomik

Bachner G., Seebauer S., Pfurtscheller C., Brucker A.

Disaster Prevention and Management 25(3), 298-313, 2016



The purpose of this paper is to reveal the benefits of organized voluntary emergency services (OVES) in the case of flood events, since such information is mostly not available, but needed to analyze the total effects of disasters and respective responses. Moreover, the efficient allocation of scarce public resources for emergency and risk management should be based on empirical data.


Based on a qualitative framework describing the benefits of OVES, the authors develop different tools for monetizing tangible as well as intangible benefits and apply them for case studies in Austria.


The benefits of volunteer efforts for emergency management cannot be monetized easily, since they are often of intangible character. Nevertheless, we show that the benefits of OVES could be substantial.

Research limitations/implications

As the authors analyze case studies, the results cannot be directly transferred to other regions, but illustrate the empirical dimension of the benefits of OVES. Further research should be undertaken to assess the benefits of avoided losses by OVES using single-object data.

Practical implications

Since many emergency service institutions are involved during/after natural hazards, data availability and exchange should be improved. Objective decisions for investment in emergency services should be based on data of recent hazard events and case studies.


The paper develops a toolbox to evaluate the benefits of OVES and is thus highly valuable for emergency managers, which are responsible for deploying volunteers and non-volunteers in emergency management.

DOI: 10.1108/DPM-09-2015-0203