Ready for Anything emergency volunteering scheme

Find out about the Ready for Anything scheme and what it means to be a volunteer.

Ready for Anything is one of two volunteer groups that help in emergencies.

It was set up in 2015 by the York Centre for Voluntary Service and City of York Council after the devastation caused by the Boxing Day floods. 

Resources were significantly stretched but the practical support offered by the public and businesses was invaluable. Following the success of the initial scheme, the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum is now rolling it out across the whole of York and North Yorkshire.

Every day of the year, Ready for Anything volunteers are ready to help. There are currently 333 volunteers across York and North Yorkshire who provide practical support to people whose lives have been affected suddenly and help with the emergency response during an incident.

This video shows what the Ready for Anything emergency volunteering scheme is all about.

Volunteering with the scheme

If you are aged 18 and over and have a desire to help others, sign up to become a Ready for Anything volunteer today. There is no obligation to offer a regular commitment, but you will be notified when there is an incident and if you are able to help you can confirm to us by text message, so a mobile phone is essential. You could be deployed to assist with numerous incidents, from helping in rest centres for evacuated people to door knocking to warn and inform residents.

You will also be provided with appropriate training, awareness sessions, and kept in regular contact.

Frequently asked questions

How often will I be contacted?

You will receive periodic emails where we will tell you about any recent incidents and upcoming training sessions. For actual incidents, it may be infrequent texts, but we cannot always predict when emergencies will occur. 

What training do we get?

There will be an induction session offered to all volunteers, and then there will be additional annual training events and offers to participate in live multi-agency exercises.

Why do we have to have a mobile phone?

We need a primary method of communication with volunteers for incident notification and to be able to keep in contact with volunteers who have been deployed.

Do we need special equipment?

Bring your lanyard and fluorescent tabard provided at the initial training session and warm clothing. You do not need to provide anything else. All other necessary equipment will be provided.

Is ID needed?

All our volunteers are provided with a Ready for Anything lanyard, but it would be advisable to bring some form of identification with you such as a driving licence when you are registering with the volunteer co-ordinator.

Are we covered by insurance?

Volunteers are covered by the council public liability insurance and employer's insurance. If the volunteer uses a private vehicle, they are responsible for arranging their own insurance cover. Volunteers should therefore be advised, in their own interests, to obtain confirmation from their motor insurers that they are fully insured to drive the vehicle they intend to use for volunteering activities for Ready For Anything. Not all insurers require notification and the Association of British Insurers have created a handy document to list each insurer and if any action is required. You can find this document on the Association of British Insurers website.

Do I need to be Disclosure and Barring Service checked?

No. This is not a requirement due to the nature of the roles.

Do I get expenses, such as mileage?

Unfortunately, we are not able to offer expenses. We are extremely grateful to our volunteers for offering their time for free but will often provide you with a cup of tea and a biscuit!

What if I am not available?

There is no obligation to be available for every call for help. We are very grateful for any time that volunteers can give.

How do I respond to your initial text for help?

If you are available, reply to the text from us with ‘RFA YES’. If you are not available, please ignore it.

What if I want to leave Ready for Anything?

You can leave our volunteer list at any time. Tell us that you no longer want to be a volunteer. We will delete all your personal details from our database, and you will no longer hear from us.

Contact us.

Hear more from sociologist Dr Anne Eyre, who specialises in the psychosocial aspects of major incidents, emergency planning, and disaster management, about the impact you can make as a volunteer.

Ready for Anything volunteers tell their stories

Helen Brown - Whitby

When a major incident occurs, you find yourself asking ‘How can I help?’  That was the very reason I wanted to be a Ready for Anything volunteer. Essentially, we know the volunteers are an extra pair of hands, a smiley face, there to lend a listening ear while supporting the responding agencies. In real terms though what does that look like and just how would I fit in and help? 

The opportunity for volunteers to participate in multi-agency exercises and training sessions really appealed to me as I can see the huge value in exploring the bigger picture and considering just how we’d support. I was lucky enough to attend such a session in Riccall recently, a silver tactical co-ordinating group exercise. It gave me valuable insight into what happens during a response to major critical incident.  Considering how volunteers would work alongside the responding agencies means they can be utilised effectively and efficiently. It benefits the volunteers knowing what kind of activities they could do to help the agencies, but it also enables the emergency teams to think about how they can use the volunteers, ensuring the best use of all the manpower available.

The exercise was based around a scenario of a large fire on an industrial estate and included an evacuation. To see how the group came together to ensure they saved lives, reduced harm, assessed the situation, looked at the threats, established their parameters and resources needed, gave me food for thought and made me realise just how much planning and co-ordinating takes place at silver level. I learned it is extremely important that an accurate overview of the procedures takes place to ensure the incident is managed in the best way. 

As volunteers, we observed how the different agencies represented - from the fire service, police, ambulance, council, hospitals, highways, public health, utilities and so on - would respond to this incident and the decision-making processes they go through to come together to ensure they save lives and minimise risks. I found it extremely interesting, especially thinking about how volunteers would be utilised in this scenario. I quickly realised there is a lot of specific terminology, language and acronyms used in the planning exercises. While to begin with it seemed a bit daunting, by the end of the session, I felt much more knowledgeable about the language used and how these exercises work. I think that can only empower me to be a better-informed volunteer and if I’m called upon to help at an incident it means I understand the processes more fully. If you get the chance as a volunteer to attend a similar session, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It means you are as well-equipped as possible to be Ready for Anything.

David Johnson - Harrogate

Along with other Ready for Anything volunteers, I attended Harrogate Convention Centre for Exercise Rainbow Rose. This large-scale training exercise brought together almost 200 key stakeholders from across Yorkshire in preparation for the UCI World Road Race Cycling in Harrogate in September 2019.

As volunteers we were invited to observe the morning's activities which concentrated on a range of complex scenarios that could impact on this major event that spread across the region for nine days. The scenarios were multi-layered  - flooding, crowd control, severe weather, accidents, media issues, missing persons - to ensure that all attendees, whether emergency services, local authorities, military, Yorkshire 2019 event staff, broadcasters, communications officers, contracted services and utility companies had the opportunity to work together to test and improve their standard operating procedures.

As part of this, the filtering of decision-making and upward communication was highlighted as critically important. It was fascinating to see how the knowledge and influence at each level was used as efficiently as possible through the agreed command structure of on-the-ground bronze officers, logistical silver officers and senior gold officers who make financial, media and reputational decisions.

As a group, we discussed the scenarios in general and identified opportunities for possible Ready for Anything involvement, should similar circumstances present themselves in the future. This was particularly motivating as these discussions highlighted some of the amazing skills, expert knowledge and enthusiasm that my fellow volunteers were bringing to Ready for Anything.

I would like to highlight both as a Ready for Anything volunteer and a member of the public that I found the day very reassuring as I am now partially aware of the effort and resource that goes into supporting major events and to making them successful.

Nick Palmerley - Northallerton

On the 31st July, 2019, approximately one month’s rain fell in just four hours, resulting in catastrophic damage to the villages of Bellerby, Grinton, Reeth and further parts of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale in North Yorkshire. Along with huge damage to property, flash flooding caused extensive destruction to transport infrastructure, including highways, farm tracks and bridges. Additionally, local farmers suffered widespread loss of sheep and other livestock.

I attended the memorial hall in Reeth at the appointed time of 11am on Friday, 2nd August, having responded to a text request to assist from Ready for Anything co-ordinators on the evening of Thursday, 1st August. The hall was busy and noisy, with lots of people engaged in doing all they could to respond to the emergency in what appeared to be organised chaos.

Following a slightly frustrating delay of perhaps an hour while we waited for volunteers from another agency to join us, our co-ordinator tasked us with identifying isolated properties affected by ingress of flood water and to find out whether fresh food was required. We were able to deliver perishable goods, such as milk, drinking water and bread, along with dried foods and cleaning materials to these people. I undertook visits to affected properties in Grinton, Reeth and remote farms in Arkengarthdale, accompanied by a council officer and a fellow Ready for Anything volunteer.

We liaised with locals to find out where vulnerable people might be struggling and made visits to them our priority. As well as the delivery of provisions, it seemed that people were pleased to see a member of council staff and simply have volunteers to chat with. Locals in the incident hub also told of us of an elderly lady in Grinton who required fresh food – we were able to deliver basic groceries and freshly-made sandwiches for her lunch.

We were also able to find out if other forms of help were required and information was recorded so that services could be mobilised later. By 3.30pm, we were confident that we had visited all isolated properties with vulnerable persons in our given area.

I felt my skills in driving my 4x4, which meant we were able to reach isolated properties, were utilised, but perhaps more than anything just being a friendly face on the ground to listen to and support those affected was probably the most important task we undertook all afternoon.

The training we all received on signing up for Ready for Anything prepared us for this type of incident, although future training would definitely be helpful too.

 As volunteers, we were able to offer the emotional support emergency services were simply too stretched to provide. We were also able to attend vulnerable people and provide essential provisions – this is not something emergency services had the time or resources to do and probably wouldn’t have happened without our input.  

As well as working with a council officer at all times, we were kept informed with frequent updates by mobile phone to ensure we were okay. Overall, the experience was enjoyable and I think, useful – I think we all felt a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.


Volunteers are likely to become aware of confidential information about an incident or individuals affected. Volunteers should not disclose this information or use it for their own or another's benefit without the consent of the party concerned. This does not prevent disclosure once the information is in the public domain, unless it has been made public as a result of the volunteer's breach of confidentiality, or where the law permits or requires disclosure.

Health and safety

All roles are risk assessed and the risk assessments are shared with the volunteers. Volunteers have a duty to take care of themselves and others who might be affected by their actions. Volunteers should not act outside of their authorised area of work and should report all accidents and near misses to their volunteer co-ordinator.

Training and events

Introductory training sessions are held throughout the year to help you become Ready for Anything.

Training details will be added throughout the year with various emergency partner agencies.

These are some of the events on offer to volunteers.

Ready for Anything conference

In 2022, the first ever Ready for Anything conference was held at the National Emergency Planning College at Easingwold. It was fantastic to see so many volunteers turn up to the event. The morning had various speakers and an insightful talk from Dr Anne Eyre. The afternoon comprised workshops, including one on how a rest centre is run. 

Take a peek into our day with this video.

Tactical co-ordination centre tour

Visit the new multi-agency tactical co-ordination centre in Northallerton, take a tour and go through some of the technology and systems that we use when responding to a major incident. To make an appointment, contact us.

Introductory training

If you would like introductory training face to face or via Microsoft Teams, whether for the first time or as a refresher, contact us.

Register your interest in becoming a Ready for Anything volunteer

Register your interest online. 

Ready for Anything volunteer recruitment