When you ask someone what they know about The Salvation Army, they usually mention two things: red kettles and disasters. The Salvation Army’s red kettle has become a symbol of the Christmas season, the bright peals of the bells serving as a background to Christmas shopping, caroling and strolls along snowy sidewalks. The Salvation Army’s visibility is much lower the rest of the year, but when large-scale disasters strike, the Army’s work is once more in the spotlight.

canteen_at_disaster_sceneWhile The Salvation Army had been working with people in need since 1865, the focus on disaster response and recovery wasn’t initiated until 1900, when a tragic hurricane destroyed Galveston, Texas and took the lives of 5,000 residents. The National Commander ordered Salvation Army officers from across the country to gather in Galveston and help the survivors, providing hot coffee, water and spiritual counsel. From these humble beginnings grew the Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) program, a world-wide network of staff and volunteers who are often among the first wave to arrive in the wake of disasters.

9-11 Jo Ann (Major Robert Scott 2)From earthquakes and tsunamis to wildfires and tornadoes, EDS teams are on the scene during the immediate aftermath and, if needed, for weeks or months following. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., The Salvation Army spent months at Ground Zero proving food and respite to recovery workers and public servants. (Click here to read more about The Salvation Army’s services to survivors in the years following 9/11.)

Indiana’s long history of tornado outbreaks and widespread flooding has given our local EDS teams plenty of experience with on-site response. This includes spiritual and emotional counseling, setting up emergency shelters, deploying mobile feeding units (canteens), and arranging financial and housing assistance. From serving coffee to first responders at a fire to long-term assistance for families who’ve lost everything, The Salvation Army’s disaster response teams meet the unique needs of each disaster.

North Vernon 11-21-14 (1)In Indiana, EDS teams are also on hand for small-scale disasters, like apartment fires and localized flooding. When families are displaced, our disaster services funds help them find temporary housing and replacements for lost items like clothing, shoes, food and household goods.

Because donor intent is so important to The Salvation Army, 100% of donations designated for disaster assistance are used for these situations. This means that every dollar goes to feed displaced residents, keep search and rescue teams hydrated, or get a family back on its feet. Thank you for helping ensure that the people we serve will have the support they need the next time disaster strikes.