Whether it is a local incident or a major disaster, The Salvation Army relief staff and volunteers are often the first on the scene and are some of the last to leave. In most communities in America, The Salvation Army is already at work providing needed assistance with our programs, honoring a century-old commitment to serve those in need at the time of need and at the place of need. During a disaster relief operation, The Salvation Army's first aim is to meet the basic needs of those affected - both survivors and first responders (such as firefighters).

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The Salvation Army's Role in Disaster Services

Federal law has reaffirmed The Salvation Army's authority to provide disaster assistance with the passage of the Robert T. Stafford Emergency and Disaster Assistance Act, which also created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Several factors guide The Salvation Army's role in responding to disasters. These guiding factors include:

  • The Salvation Army has an established right to provide disaster relief services.
  • The Salvation Army's disaster relief services are supported solely by donations.
  • The Salvation Army is not a first responder; rather, it supports first responders.
  • The Salvation Army is a mass-care support agency.

The Salvation Army's Disaster Service Activities

In a disaster, The Salvation Army has the ability to provide both immediate emergency assistance and long-term recovery help. Basic services may include:

Food Service
The most visible of The Salvation Army's disaster services is the delivery of meals and drinks to disaster victims and emergency workers. Food may be prepared and served at congregate feeding sites (such as a Salvation Army corps building, camp or shelter) or from one of the Army's mobile feeding units/canteens, which are essentially kitchens on wheels.

Hydration Service
Hydration service provides beverages which replenish electrolytes (minerals such as potassium), enhance energy and meet general hydration requirements for those served.

Emergency Shelter
When necessary, The Salvation Army provides shelter in a facility identified by the local emergency management personnel. These facilities include municipal shelters, schools, Salvation Army buildings and other predetermined facilities.

Cleanup and Restoration
The Salvation Army supports people as they restore and rebuild after a disaster. Cleanup and restoration services include distribution of cleanup supplies, coordination of volunteer rebuilding teams and set up of warehouses to distribute reconstruction supplies.

Donations Management
The Salvation Army is one of the nation's leaders in collecting, sorting, and distributing donated goods. During a disaster, The Salvation Army may open disaster warehouses to receive and sort donations, establish distribution centers to dispense goods directly to victims and channel donations to support other disaster programs such as mass feeding and cleanup.

Spiritual and Emotional Care
The Salvation Army provides spiritual comfort and emotional support to disaster victims and emergency workers coping with the stress of a disaster. Salvation Army counselors, who are ordained clergy (officers) or lay personnel, will offer a "ministry of presence," as well as examples of spiritual and emotional care activities include comforting the injured and bereaved, conducting or participating in funeral and memorial services and providing chaplaincy services to disaster workers and emergency management personnel.

Disaster Social Services
The Salvation Army provides direct financial assistance to disaster victims through a system of trained caseworkers. The assistance available may include essential living supplies, such as food, clothing, medicine, bedding, or baby products, emergency housing needs and disaster-related medical or funeral expenses.