Salvation Army Participates in Disaster Drill with FEMA, City of Chicago

Aug 26, 2021

In late spring, The Salvation Army participated in an emergency disaster training program funded by FEMA and designed to simulate multiple attacks across the City of Chicago. It brought together Chicago police and fire departments, 311 Center, Chicago Department of Transportation, the CTA, The Salvation Army, the Chicago Park District, the Red Cross, the Chicago Office of Emergency Management & Communications, and a host of other governmental agencies to practice responses to terrorist activities.

Salvation Army personnel from the Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) and public relations departments reported to the Chicago Office of Emergency Management & Communications, where they were informed there were three coordinated attacks in Chicago’s downtown area and neighborhoods. All responses were virtual, simulated, and done in conjunction with other partners. The EDS team provided support to first responders and survivors in the aftermath of the attacks, and the public relations staff helped keep the media and public informed with the latest updates.

“It is unfortunate that we have to undertake readiness exercises like these,” said Major David Dalberg, Director of Emergency Disaster Services for The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division, “but it really prepares us for the inevitable when a disaster of this magnitude does occur.”

During the entirety of the exercise, response agencies were given scenarios such as number of people injured and the severity, the hospitals available to receive and treat the injured, and any streets blocked due to protests, accidents, or other issues. Responding team members had to determine the best course of action and report back to the communications room.

In the event of a real emergency, these response activities would be rapid and ongoing, reunification areas would be set up for families to connect with loved ones or learn more information, and the press office would be providing a steady stream of vetted information to the media to keep the public informed.

“Everything moved so quickly,” said Jackie Rachev, Director of Communications for The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division. “I’ve been deployed to several emergency situations, but this was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There was so much activity and so much information, but everything was so fluid and had to be confirmed because one of the worst things you can do in a situation like this is to put out false information.”

The Salvation Army takes part in several training exercises each year with local airports, national guard, and other response agencies.

Learn more about our Emergency Disaster Services program and how to become a volunteer at

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