Roles, Goals and Activities
Federal law has reaffirmed The Salvation Army's authority to provide disaster assistance with the passage of the Robert T. Stafford Emergency and Disaster Assistance Act, which also created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This Act specifically names The Salvation Army as a relief and disaster assistance organization.
Several factors guide The Salvation Army's role in responding to disasters. These guiding factors include:
- The Salvation Army has an established right to provide disaster relief services. That right is recognized by public law and through signed Memorandums of Understanding and Agreements (MOUs) with government agencies and other voluntary organizations.
- The Salvation Army's disaster relief services are supported solely by donations.
- The Salvation Army is not a first responder; rather, it supports first responders.
- The Salvation Army is a mass-care support agency.
When The Salvation Army initiates a disaster relief operation, the first aim is to meet the basic needs of those who have been affected, both survivors and first responders (such as firefighters). Even at this level, The Salvation Army's workers are ministering in that they serve as a means of expressing God's love. The Salvation Army's goals are to offer:
- Material comfort
- Physical comfort
- Emotional comfort
- Spiritual comfort
The Salvation Army provides help as an outgrowth of faith and as an act of obedience to God, but no service is withheld because of a recipient's beliefs. If disaster relief recipients ask for prayer or spiritual counseling, The Salvation Army can provide these. The Salvation Army's service might be described as a "ministry of presence," just as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15)
The Salvation Army provides numerous disaster relief services. Each disaster creates its own unique circumstances. The Salvation Army's disaster response is community based, varying from place to place based upon the community's situation and the magnitude of the disaster.
In a disaster, The Salvation Army has the ability to provide both immediate emergency assistance and long-term recovery help. Emergency response services are activated on short notice according to an agreed-upon notification procedure, while long-term recovery is strategically planned in response to the situation, through working and partnering and many other community entities.
Even with the ability to be flexible and to respond based upon the community's situation, there are several basic services that The Salvation Army offers in most major disasters. These services, described below, form the core of The Salvation Army's disaster services program.