Emergency Disaster Services
The Army is ready to share the resources needed for recovery, and give the assurance that God is in control, even in life's darkest hour.
The Salvation Army's Disaster Services represent a commitment to serve people in their time of need and at their exact location of need. First begun following a hurricane which devastated Galveston, Texas in 1900, the worldwide program has gone on to serve millions of disaster victims in the 100 years since. In the Eastern Michigan Division, a dozen disaster response teams, directed by trained personnel, are on call to serve at all disasters and civil disorders which may place a community at risk, or disrupt family security and well-being. Mobile canteens provide food, temporary shelter, blankets, communications, pastoral counseling, emergency lighting, clean-up kits and referrals to Salvation Army centers. By partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) and local agencies, The Salvation Army ensures its disaster services are provided in the most efficient manner possible.
Why is the The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services so important to Michigan?
“It’s important because it helps fill the unforeseen gaps that first responders and insurance can’t cover during times of emergency. Luckily, Michigan is blessed because it doesn’t see as many natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes and floods like other parts of the country but we do experience a lot of fires, storms and other community emergencies. When families have lost all their earthly belongings despite the response of municipal services, we are there to provide blankets, food and support. When first responders are exhausted, we provide water, food and a brief respite to help them get rehydrated and reenergized. When victims are waiting for their insurance claims to come through or if they lack insurance all together, we provide a fresh set of clothes and access to extensive resources such as shelters and food banks.”
When you’re on the scene of a disaster what is commonly needed most?
“When our canteens respond, the biggest priority is getting the first responders hydrated and fed. That’s a constant at each disaster. Another big need is for blankets and dry socks for families that have been forced out of their homes with nothing but the shirt on their back. This is especially important during harsh Michigan winters.”
From your experience, how do first responders and victims generally respond to EDS assistance?
“It’s always the same response, one of gratitude and thankfulness. I’ve seen victims stranded for more than two weeks without basic utilities and safe food to eat. The families and first responders are overworked and overwhelmed and we try to help not only by providing food and resources such as shelter, but by offering them a listening ear and just reminding them that somebody cares . . . The Salvation Army and its volunteers care.” Looking forward, what’s EDS’s biggest challenge? “We keep our canteens maintained but many of them are starting to get old. We are looking to replace some of the older vehicles in our fleet to ensure the continued ability to respond when fire and police departments or communities call for help. Aside from the trucks, we are always in need of additional volunteers. There is no rhyme or reason to when a disaster occurs and they most often strike fast and when we least expect them. So, it’s hard to get volunteers on our trucks during peak hours of the day because many people are at work. Many assume the nighttime hours are difficult for volunteers but, the truth is, it’s much harder to get volunteers during the day because they’re at work.”
What volunteer opportunities are available through EDS?
“Well, we’re always looking for the right people. We need volunteers who can come and prep meals and load trucks getting ready to depart, people to serve from the trucks and drivers. There are opportunities to volunteer during all hours of the day and times of the year. Occasionally we need volunteers to travel to other divisions and communities throughout the country. But it’s also important to have volunteers who will spread the word about the many opportunities to serve by attending community events, passing out flyers and encouraging others to get involved.”