and the needed communications were there--not lacking.
We're talking about communications emergencies here though. In the worst case, the served agency could have zero communications when the incident happens. That communications disruption could be the very emergency. If it's agreed with the served agency in advance, a few volunteers could show up at pre-determined locations if a certain event happens, re-estblish communications, and call out further volunteers if needed. I know some groups have such agreements in place, but if random people just spontaneously showed up offering help, they might only add to the chaos.
The CAP and mountain rescue groups were and are special cases as in those groups had their specialized training already.
Mountain rescue groups tend to consist of people who had mountain climbing as a hobby before they joined the rescue group. The mountain rescue volunteers already know how to climb when they join, they just need training in skills and procedures specific to rescue - which includes litter belays and hoists, first aid, and how to work with professional emergency services.
In Norway, while this started out in an ad hoc fashion, it has long since been formalized, and they have standard procedures that all members have to follow. They're particularly closely linked to the SAR helicopter service which is run by the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
I know the UK has a similar thing for volunteer cave explorers called the British Cave Rescue Council. I think some of their members have experimented with ground penetrating radio for underground communication in rescue operations too. But I digress.
The Red Cross also, but not to the extent of the other two.
While the Red Cross (nationally, not talking about the ICRC here) does have doctors and nurses, most volunteers join without any experience or training except that which they bring from their daily lives. My local Red Cross chapter goes on stuff like ski trips where they learn about finding shelter, avalanche rescue, etc. but it's also a social thing.
Dotted i's and crossed t's are all well and good, but when someone suffers--or even dies--because all the i's have to be dotted and all the t's crossed before anyone can even start doing what is needed, there is something definitely wrong with the system.
Is that a real problem though? Isn't the idea that the i's are dotted and t's crossed before the incident? This of course leads to "wasted" resources in as much as one spends time training skills that one might never get to use in a "NOPLAY" situation, but the same could be said for DoE radiation response teams, or weapons training for the Sheriff's department in some one horse town that hasn't had a shooting incident in decades.
Ad hoc organizations based on "I know this guy/gal that can help us with that" can sometimes do amazing things, but it would be highly dependent on luck and personal skills.
On the other hand, the best prepared and trained volunteers in the world won't help if the leaders sit on their hands when an emergency happens and fail to actually activate their emergency response volunteers, and mutual aid from other agencies. It might be due to denial, pride, failed loyalty to thier unions, penny pushing, or in the mistaken belief that acting will scare the public (in fact, it would reassure the public). The antidote to this is more exercises for the leaders. If they get used to calling out radio amateurs in training and know what their capabilities and limitations are, they're more likely to call on them when the need arises, I think.
In Norway, we've seen the police chiefs in the north of the country being more proactive in calling on NGOs and other government agencies in emergencies and SAR situations than some districts in the south - and I think that's a personality issue.