Emergency Disaster Services

History

In Canada, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services program began back in December 1917 in response to the Halifax Disaster. The Salvation Army dispatched personnel from across the country to assist with relief efforts which lasted for months. In addition to providing for the practical needs of those impacted, such as food and clothing, Salvation Army Officers provided emotional and spiritual support to responders. “We do not know how we would have gotten along without them”, wrote R.T. MacIlreith, Chairman Relief Committee.

Present Day

Today, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) has grown into an international network involving thousands of trained personnel worldwide, including many volunteers. EDS personnel respond to incidents of various sizes and scopes. In following with its holistic ministry, the Army provides support that meet the immediate, as well as long-term, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of disaster survivors and responders.

The Army’s established and well-rehearsed emergency protocol allows the organization to deliver fast, efficient service to first responders as well as those impacted. The Salvation Army endeavours to ease human suffering wherever it is found and draws on a wide range of resources which rapidly shift into action when a disaster strikes.
The frequency and impact of natural disasters is on the rise worldwide. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, forest fires, tornadoes, ice storms and severe rain storms are happening more often than ever before. The Red Shield continues to be a symbol of hope and compassion; of immediate aid, psychological support and spiritual counsel to individuals and families whose lives have been disrupted or shattered by forces beyond their control.

For example, in May 2016, when raging wildfires triggered the evacuation and caused catastrophic damage in Fort McMurray, Alberta, The Salvation Army was immediately on the scene providing food, hydration and emotional support to those fighting the fire. In addition EDS personnel continued to support those evacuated throughout the province and beyond and was a crucial part of the re-entry phase for months following. While people tried to resume some sense of “normal” the Army provided food, clothing, gift cards, furniture vouchers, as well as emotional and spiritual support and critical incident stress management.

Response and Recovery Services

The Salvation Army provides numerous disaster relief services. Since each disaster is unique and devastating in the way it impacts the lives of individuals and communities, The Salvation Army’s emergency & disaster response is community based, varying from place to place based upon the community’s situation and the magnitude of the incident.

The Salvation Army has the ability to provide both immediate emergency assistance and long-term recovery help. Emergency response services are activated on short notice according to an agreed-upon notification procedure, while long-term recovery is strategically planned in response to the situation, through working and partnering with many other community entities.

As one of Canada’s major emergency relief organizations, The Salvation Army is often assigned specific roles by emergency preparedness authorities. Even with the ability to be flexible and to respond based upon the community’s situation, there are several basic services that The Salvation Army offers.

These services form the core of The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services program:

  • Food and hydration
  • Emotional and spiritual care
  • Emergency communication (SATERN)
  • Donations management
  • Disaster social services
  • Long-term recovery
  • Training and volunteers

Visit the Government of Canada’s Get Prepared (www.GetPrepared.ca) site for information on how you and your family can be better prepared.

To learn more about the services listed above, click here.

Donations are gratefully accepted online at: www.SalvationArmy.ca/emergency or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).

Types of Services

Often, the most visible Salvation Army emergency disaster service is the meals and drinks served to disaster survivors and emergency first-responders. This food may be prepared and served at congregate feeding sites, such as community centres, Salvation Army buildings, camps or shelters, or from one of the Army’s Community Response Units (CRU’s), which are mobile canteens. The Salvation Army’s CRU’s are strategically placed in various communities to allow for a rapid response.

Emotional and spiritual care includes spiritual comfort and emotional support to those impacted by the incident, their families, as well as emergency first-responders coping with the stress of a disaster. This support may include comforting the injured and bereaved, conducting memorial services, and providing chaplaincy services. Emotional and spiritual care respects all faiths and traditions.

In addition, individual, family and group trauma intervention and emotional support may be available through trained personnel and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) teams.

In some communities The Salvation Army offers meet and greet. The primary role of Meet and Greet is to provide support for evacuees and staff, mainly in designated Reception Centres, Group Lodging, Staffing Bureau or at Disaster sites. Meet and Greet services at these venues could: welcome evacuees, provide initial information, perform initial screening, help to maintain order, assist special needs evacuees, and ensure evacuees’ needs are met.

SATERN (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network) is a tactical communications network designed to ensure that vital supports reach disaster survivors and workers. SATERN provides communication support including establishing health-and-welfare nets and passing messages between field workers and their respective command posts. SATERN teams may assist with all communication such as commercial radios, internet, email, telephone, fax, etc., as well as setting up ad-hoc networks.

During a major disaster, the generosity of Canadians enables The Salvation Army to solicit and distribute donated goods. We may elect to purchase and distribute basic commodities (food, water, medicines, etc.) not readily available at the time of need. Financial donations are the best way for the public to assist The Salvation Army during a disaster.

This is because:

  • It allows for a rapid response (i.e. money can be sent immediately)
    Ensures we can purchase exactly what is needed and when it is needed
  • Supplies are purchased as close to the impacted community as possible to help offset economic losses caused by the incident

Additionally, The Salvation Army may be tasked with the collection, sorting and distribution of in-kind donations, including but not limited to: food, clothing, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, furniture, or personal protective equipment.

Disaster Social Services

The Salvation Army may provide direct financial assistance to disaster survivors.  In the early phases of a disaster event, emergency financial assistance is focused on survivors’ essential needs: food, clothing, shelter, and medications.  Assistance may be through vouchers or gift cards.
In addition, The Salvation Army may provide clothing, usually through vouchers to our thrift stores, or other essential items such as hygiene kits.

Long-Term Recovery

Following a major disaster support may be required for months or years. The Salvation Army’s role in long-term recovery may include provision of clean-up kits, opening a Disaster Assistance Centre or providing case management. This support may be provided by Emergency Disaster Services personnel or transitioned to pre-existing Salvation Army operations such as Community and Family Services. Training and VolunteersThe Salvation Army utilizes volunteers in every aspect of Emergency Disaster Services. Full training is provided through the National Disaster Training Program (NDTP), a very detailed emergency response training program whereby personnel are trained in every aspect of Salvation Army emergency response. Only pre-trained, pre-registered personnel are called on during an emergency or disaster response.

To register as a volunteer or learn about training opportunities in your area, please click here.