Volunteer: Emergency Comfort Center

Authors experiences Health Social Special Interests

In the Halifax, Nova Scotia (HRM) area, a Volunteer organization plays a crucial role in establishing Comfort Centers during regional emergency situations, such as forest fires or flooding incidents that have occurred in recent years. If you’re keen on volunteering during emergencies, consider joining a JEM Team to contribute to community safety and well-being.

JEM – Joint Emergency Management

Joint Emergency Management (JEM) team is a concept developed by the Halifax Regional Municipality’s Emergency Management Division. These teams allow community organizations to prepare for and respond quickly to a wide range of emergencies. JEM teams consist of community volunteers who play a crucial role in ensuring safety during emergencies and disasters. Here are some key responsibilities of the Emergency Management Division:

  1. Initial Response: The division leads the initial response to emergencies and disasters.
  2. Emergency Planning: They prepare emergency plans.
  3. Coordination: They coordinate and manage emergency planning with first responders.
  4. Training and Exercises: The division facilitates emergency training and exercises with other first responders and municipal staff.
  5. Essential Services: They provide essential services to those impacted by disasters.
  6. Holistic Approach: The division engages with multiple emergency management stakeholders to support overall community safety and wellness before, during, and after disasters.
  7. Specialized Volunteer Disaster Response: JEM teams deliver comfort center services during a disaster.

Official HRM JEM website: click here

There are FIVE JEM zones (as of 2024-04) in HRM that each have monthly meetings: Eastern Shore, Musquodoboit Valley, Sheet Harbour,  Western Region – Hatchet Lake, Mainland Peninsula North.

Comfort Center Volunteers

What is expected of volunteers? You will be part of the “green shirt” staff members that are located in a comfort center if it gets activated by Halifax Emergency Measures Organization (EMO). The comfort center is a safe place for citizens to go to during a regional crisis. It offers warm shelter, with coffee, tea, and basic snack food, plus electric charging for mobile phones, with WiFi access. It does not offer overnight sleeping accommodations, which are handled by other organizations. In the event of a mobile phone outage, it also has radio based communications.

Prior to working in a Comfort center, volunteers are provided with training and orientation for dealing with citizens in crisis, media, and pass a formal background check. There are various courses and levels of accreditation.

Monthly meetings help to broaden a volunteers understanding of the resources available in the community area, that may be helpful when a comfort center gets activated. Examples of past meetings include:

  • Using 211 services to find social assistance help, including services for Seniors and people with disabilities, plus language translation services.
  • Comfort Center mock up, and kit contents
  • Neighborhood awareness for hazards and resources.
  • Vulnerable people assessments

It can be helpful for volunteers to understand the Incident Command System (ICS) which is used by Emergency responders (Fire, Police, Ambulance) in North America. This video gives good insight to how that process works.


Volunteering for JEM is a great way to help your community and meet new people in your neighborhood.

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