This article demonstrates the potential of participatory mapping approaches to coordinate spontaneous volunteers and assist government agencies and humanitarian organizations in emergency contexts. The research focuses on one case study of a volunteer mapping project in the Rockaways in New York City to help communicate the needs reported by community members to outsiders after Hurricane Sandy. The map proved to be helpful in the coordination of relief efforts by volunteers and in understanding the variety of groups involved in emergency response. However, the map could not be sustained for long-term community recovery. The research offers new evidence of the potential contributions of spontaneous volunteers that can be leveraged, replicated and improved upon for future disaster planning and response. It also highlights the importance of volunteered geographic information in ensuring that emergency response is guided by the needs reported by citizens themselves, even if they do not have access to technology.