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Emergency Disaster Services—who they are

The Salvation Army began offering assistance to disaster survivors after a major hurricane hit Galveston, Texas in September 1900, destroying the coastal city and killing thousands of people. At the request of The Salvation Army’s National Commander, Frederick Booth-Tucker, Salvation Army officers from across the country moved into the Galveston area to help provide food and shelter for the thousands of survivors, while also providing much needed emotional and spiritual support.

Since then, The Salvation Army and its Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) departments around the world are ready at a moment’s notice to provide relief and assistance anytime and anywhere. Each year, The Salvation Army serves 1–2 million Americans in hundreds of disaster response efforts nationwide. It is one of the nation’s largest federally recognized emergency disaster services agencies and is a national member of the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) organization.


The Salvation Army was the first relief agency at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001 in New York City, reporting within a half-hour of the first plane crash. Despite formidable challenges, The Salvation Army’s efforts at Ground Zero were effectively carried out from the time the first mobile canteen arrived at the site. In the first two days, over 20 canteens from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania responded to the disaster. The Salvation Army served a total of 3,231,681 meals, requiring the efforts of 7,149 officers and staff, and 32,575 volunteers, representing a total of almost one million volunteer hours. In addition, after quickly assessing what was needed, Salvation Army personnel began distributing work boots, gas masks, clothing and other items to workers. Salvation Army counselors provided words of encouragement and comfort to rescue and recovery personnel working under incredibly difficult conditions. In December 2001, the entire feeding operation at Ground Zero was turned over to The Salvation Army. Volunteers and Salvation Army personnel from all around the country helped make the Salvation Army support tent a sanctuary for workers; a place where they could find a hot meal, comfort and solace.

The Salvation Army’s EDS teams have also assisted in relief operations for Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the earthquake in Nepal and hundreds of other disasters. When disaster strikes, The Salvation Army is often among the first on the scene. In disaster relief operations, EDS trained personnel’s first aim is to meet the basic needs of those affected—both survivors and first responders—by providing food, shelter, clothing and spiritual comfort.

EDS in the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division—where they serve

In the Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division, EDS teams respond to more than 400 incidents a year, including more than 250 incidents in the Southeastern region of Pennsylvania. Our expert disaster relief staff and well-trained volunteers are there before, during and after a disaster. In 2015, EDS served 79,465 meals and 94,182 snacks, and distributed 1,943 items including blankets, gloves, and towels in the Southeastern region of Pennsylvania. In that same year, 9,551 volunteer hours, 9,922 staff hours, and 1,848 officer hours were spent providing spiritual and emotional comfort to countless numbers of individuals in crises throughout the region.

In October 2016, The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware’s Emergency Disaster Services activated teams in response to significant flooding in North Central Pennsylvania. EDS deployed staff and volunteers to North Central Pennsylvania to provide food, comfort and care to first responders assisting with evacuations. They also assisted approximately 100 local residents who were housed at a temporary shelter at Bald Eagle High School in Milesburg, Pennsylvania. At the time of the flood, Robert Myers III, Director of Emergency Disaster Services at The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware Division, said, “Our EDS staff and volunteers are prepared and committed to work around the clock to care for first responders as well as the local residents displaced by the flood waters in North Central Pennsylvania.”


The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware’s Emergency Disaster Services also responded to the crash of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015. The derailment of the northbound passenger train resulted in the loss of eight lives and dozens of injuries, many critical. The Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware EDS team was on the scene 30 minutes after the accident, and worked tirelessly to support the victims, displaced passengers, emergency responders and investigators.

Whether disaster strikes locally, regionally or nationally, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services is always on the scene thanks to its everyday presence in communities across the country.


Community Impact—what they do

While each disaster creates its own unique circumstances and special needs, The Salvation Army disaster relief efforts focus on seven core services to meet the physical, emotional, economic and spiritual needs of survivors and first responders. These services may be modified based on the magnitude of the disaster and adapted to meet the specific needs of the community.


The first step in being ready to respond to an emergency is training. In partnership with other agencies, The Salvation Army’s disaster training program offers a variety of courses designed to help individuals and communities prepare for emergency events and become trained disaster volunteers including advanced training in rescue, first aid and trauma care.


Food and Beverage Services

When disaster strikes, one of the first signs that help is on the way is often the arrival of a Salvation Army canteen, offering meals, snacks and drinks to rescue workers and survivors.

Emotional and Spiritual Care

Motivated by Christian faith, The Salvation Army deploys specially trained individuals to offer emotional and spiritual care to first responders and survivors.

Disaster Social Services

After a family has lost everything in a disaster, The Salvation Army is there to provide emergency assistance to help meet survivors’ most urgent needs for food, clothing, shelter and medical services.

Emergency Communications

The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) includes a worldwide network of volunteer amateur radio operators and other communications specialists, who may be mobilized to transmit emergency information during a disaster event.