Meet the Staff: John McEwan, Divisional Emergency Disaster Services Director

John McEwan with award for Disaster Services
by British Columbia

In October 2018, John McEwan received the Marie Rogan Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Pacific Northwest Emergency Preparedness Society at the annual Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity Conference. This award recognized John’s 15 years working with Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) as the Divisional Emergency Disaster Services Director, a title he took on after 15 years with The Salvation Army beginning in 1989 in Regina, Saskatchewan.

What has nearly 30 years with The Salvation Army looked like for John? We recently sat down with him and asked.

John’s parents were Army officers before the modern day EDS was established, he recalls his father responding to emergency disasters the best he could. 6 year-old John, would tag along and help collect resources needed to feed firefighters.

Later on John would work at Grace Haven, and become the Executive Director of Waterston Centre in Regina before a move to Abbotsford in 1999. As the Community Ministries Director he held a number of responsibilities including looking after emergency response.

It was April 1st 2003, that he assumed the title he still holds today, Divisional Emergency Disaster Services Director (DEDSD), responsible for a growing number of EDS vehicles, training hundreds of volunteers, working with the government to coordinate responses to emergencies, and acting as co-chair of the Integrated Disaster Council of BC. 

Food Distribution in Haiti

During emergency events John has become an Incident Commander, organizing EDS teams that provide services including feeding, clothing, emotional and spiritual support. From forest fires in BC, to Hurricane Katrina, to Haiti after the catastrophic 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck in 2010, where after 9 weeks he described the damage as “like nothing he’s seen before”.

Every deployment is different for John, he’s travelled as far as Uganda helping a village that had been displaced by a torrential downpour and mudslide that destroyed an entire school. Providing support after many lives were lost and an entire community had to rebuild after being moved from their ancestral homes.

EDS team in Uganda

John has been around some of the largest natural disasters, missed birthdays and Christmases, but has an ability to focus on all the positive The Salvation Army is able to provide. He is also extremely proud of the teams he’s worked with. During the 2003 forest fires EDS teams with only 7 mobile kitchen served over 50,000 meals in six weeks, a number similar to the 2017 fires where there were 12 kitchens and additional support from Alberta.

A very meticulous person, John can bring up statistics for the exact number of meals served by a Community Response Unit team, or tell you the exact date he began work with The Salvation Army. It is with this talent for organization, a strong desire to respond to the call for help, and ability to lead others that John has done, and continues to do, such an amazing job as the DEDSD.

When not combatting emergencies John enjoys fishing, spending time with his grandchildren, and traveling to see his daughter who teaches at an international American school in Qatar. John acknowledges God’s direction during his lifetime of service.