Emergency Disaster Services

The Halifax Explosion occurred when two ships—a Belgian relief ship, the Imo and a French munitions ship, the Mont Blanc—collided in Halifax Harbour on December 6, 1917. The explosion and subsequent tsunami-like wave destroyed much of the city of Halifax, killed more than 1,600 people and injured thousands more. This was also the start of The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services program in Canada. The Army dispatched personnel from across the country and Newfoundland 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 personnel 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 Daywoman serving food

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

The frequency and impact of hazards is on the rise worldwide. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, forest fires, tornadoes, ice storms and severe rainstorms are happening more often than ever before. The Red Shield continues to be a symbol of hope and compassion; of immediate aid, psychosocial and spiritual support to individuals and families whose lives have been disrupted or shattered by forces beyond their control.

For example, in September 2018, when six tornadoes touched down in the Ottawa and Gatineau area, The Salvation Army was immediately on the scene providing food, hydration and emotional support to those responding. In addition, EDS personnel continued to support those affected in both provinces. Working with municipal and provincial governments, as well as other partners, The Salvation Army provided vital support in both the short and long term.

The Salvation Army plays a critical role in all aspects of the emergency management continuum: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The figure below highlights the four interdependent functions of Disaster and Emergency Management (DEM): mitigation of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from emergencies and disasters. These functions can be undertaken sequentially or concurrently, and they are not independent of each other.

The inner circle includes all the elements that influence the development of the Disaster and Emergency Management Plan (DEMP), such as:

  • continuous program evaluation;
  • engaged leadership;
  • regular training;
  • regular exercises;
  • implementation of after-action reports and improvement plans