Emergency Organizations 101
With tornado and hurricane season in full swing, you’ll be reading and hearing about all sorts of emergency organizations. Why are there so many and what do they all do? It’s a fair question and it’s easy to get confused. Unfortunately, scam organizations also pop up every time there is a disaster so it pays to know whom you need to contact in case you find yourself in need of help. Here are the basics:
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Their purpose is to coordinate disaster response when the need overwhelms local resources. You’ve heard many times that a governor has declared a “state of emergency.” This declaration precedes a formal request to the president for FEMA assistance. In disasters, FEMA sets up emergency shelters, organizes rescue efforts and organizes emergency supplies from government, private, non-profit and faith-based relief organizations. FEMA also assists disaster survivors with recovery and rebuilding efforts. FEMA has a handy app for mobile devices – download it here.
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
You won’t hear much about the CDC in disasters unless there’s a public health threat. The CDC responds to any situation where there is a risk of infectious outbreaks. The CDC works with local and state health departments to assist with emergency response, critical medical help and restoration of public health after a disaster. The CDC also augments first responder teams with a “Community Emergency Response Team” (CERT) that “helps cover the gap between untrained “good citizen” disaster support and trained emergency personnel”. Anyone who wants to go through training can be part of CERT. Download the CDC’s free app that provides infection disease information, prevention and push alerts.
Army Corps of Engineers
The Army Corps of Engineers responds to disasters all over the world and often remain long after the disaster has passed in order to restore damaged infrastructure. Their mission is to save lives via basic needs and emergency power, assist with recovery and assess the result of disasters in order to mitigate risks of future disasters.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is one of the oldest faith-based relief organizations in the country. They provide shelters and organize basic supplies in disaster zones nationally and worldwide. Their mobile app, The Daily Cup doesn’t help much in the middle of an emergency but it does provide some information in disasters.
The American Red Cross
During and after disasters, the Red Cross is one of the most active and visible organizations. The Red Cross was created by Congress to focus on meeting immediate emergency needs caused by disaster. The Red Cross provides shelter, food, and physical health and emotional health services, and helps people get back to normal after a disaster.
The Red Cross also feeds emergency workers, facilitates communication between affected and concerned family members and provides blood and blood products to victims.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
The HSUS rescues animals and provides care for thousands of animals at our sanctuaries around the country. They also set up and manage emergency shelters, wildlife rehabilitation centers and mobile veterinary clinics. The HSUS doesn’t have a mobile app (yet) that is helpful in a disaster, but we’re crossing our fingers (and our animals are crossing their paws) they come up with one this year.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
The ASPCA organizes temporary shelters, organizes rescues and supplies and provides grants for emergency animal care during and after disasters. The ASPCA is on top of their game with a mobile app that warns owners of weather conditions that may be hazardous to pets, and provides news and tips about pet rescues.
Knowing the major players in organized disaster relief will help you make sense of who to contact if you need help.