Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to assess the decision-making process of multi-role emergency response volunteers and their preferences for which agency they would choose to volunteer for in an emergency, utilizing the New South Wales Rural Fire Service as an example. Design/methodology/approach - Large-scale online survey data collection method, which enabled in depth analysis of responses. Findings - There are a large number of individuals who hold multiple volunteer roles and their decisions as to which service they would prefer to volunteer for is influenced by many complex factors. Research limitations/implications - Research in this topic is rare and future research should beundertaken on a wider scale involving both quantitative and qualitative methods. Practical implications - Findings will help policy makers and those responsible for providing emergency services with an understanding of the decision-making process of volunteers. Social implications - The results may help to promote understanding of a volunteers social preferences when engaged in work for emergency services. Originality/value - This is an area that has had little research undertaken in and is therefore quite an original piece of work that will have resonance for emergency services across the globe.