The Halifax Explosion occurred when two ships, a Belgian relief ship – the Imo, and a French munitions ship – the Mont Blanc, collided in Halifax harbour on December 6, 1917. The explosion and subsequent tsunami-like wave destroyed much of the city of Halifax, killed more than 1,600 people and injured thousands more. This was also the start of The Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services program in Canada. The Army dispatched personnel from across the country and Newfoundland to assist with relief efforts, which lasted for months. In addition to providing for the practical needs of those impacted, such as food and clothing, Salvation Army personnel provided emotional and spiritual support to responders. "We do not know how we would have gotten along without them," wrote R.T. MacIlreith, Chairman Relief Committee.
Today, The Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) has grown into an international network involving thousands of trained personnel worldwide, including many volunteers. The Salvation Army plays a critical role in all aspects of the emergency management continuum: mitigation/prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Mitigation entails actions to reduce the impacts of hazards. Participating in groups such as Canada's Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, the CACP Emergency Management Committee and the Canadian Risk and Hazards Network, allows The Salvation Army an opportunity to advocate for the most vulnerable who are unequally affected by hazards and emergencies.
The Salvation Army utilizes volunteers in every aspect of Emergency Disaster Services. Full training is provided through the National Disaster Training Program (NDTP), a very detailed emergency response training program whereby personnel are trained in every aspect of Salvation Army emergency response. Only pre-trained, pre-registered personnel are called on during an emergency or disaster response.
In addition, The Salvation Army serves on numerous preparedness committees including Public Safety Canada's Multi-Stakeholder Planning Group for Emergency Preparedness Week. Each year during Emergency Preparedness Week, The Salvation Army encourages Canadians to prepare for potential hazards and provides practical advice about actions that can help individuals and families be less vulnerable.
The Salvation Army provides numerous disaster relief services. Since each disaster is unique and devastating in the way it impacts the lives of individuals and communities, The Salvation Army's emergency & disaster response is community based, varying from place to place based upon the community's situation and the magnitude of the incident.
Emergency response services are activated on short notice according to an agreed-upon notification procedure. As one of Canada's major emergency relief organizations, The Salvation Army is often assigned specific roles by emergency preparedness authorities. 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. These services form the core of The Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services program.
Food and Hydration
Often, the most visible Salvation Army emergency disaster service is the meals and drinks served to disaster survivors and emergency first-responders. This food may be prepared and served at congregate feeding sites, such as community centres, Salvation Army buildings, camps or shelters, or from one of the Army's Community Response Units (CRU's), which are mobile canteens. The Salvation Army's CRU's are strategically placed in various communities to allow for a rapid response.
Emotional & Spiritual Care
Emotional & Spiritual Care includes spiritual comfort and emotional support to those impacted by the incident, their families, as well as emergency first-responders coping with the stress of a disaster. This support may include comforting the injured and bereaved, conducting memorial services, and providing chaplaincy services. Emotional & Spiritual Care respects all faiths and traditions.
In addition, individual, family and group trauma intervention and emotional support may be available through trained personnel and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) teams.
In some communities The Salvation Army offers Meet & Greet. The primary role of Meet and Greet is to provide support for evacuees and staff, mainly in designated Reception Centres, Group Lodging, Staffing Bureau or at Disaster sites. Meet and Greet services at these venues could: welcome evacuees, provide initial information, perform initial screening, help to maintain order, assist special needs evacuees, and ensure evacuees' needs are met.
During a major disaster, the generosity of Canadians enables The Salvation Army to solicit and distribute donated goods. We may elect to purchase and distribute basic commodities (food, water, medicines, etc.) not readily available at the time of need. Financial donations are the best way for the public to assist The Salvation Army during a disaster. This is because:
• It allows for a rapid response (i.e. money can be sent immediately)
• Ensures we can purchase exactly what is needed and when it is needed
• Supplies are purchased as close to the impacted community as possible to help offset economic losses caused by the incident
Donations are gratefully accepted online at:
SalvationArmy.ca/emergency or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).
Additionally, The Salvation Army may be tasked with the collection, sorting and distribution of in-kind donations, including but not limited to: food, clothing, cleaning supplies, hygiene supplies, furniture, or personal protective equipment.
Disaster Social Services
The Salvation Army may provide direct financial assistance to disaster survivors. In the early phases of a disaster event, emergency financial assistance is focused on survivors' essential needs: food, clothing, shelter, and medications. Assistance may be provided through vouchers or gift cards.
In addition, The Salvation Army may provide clothing, usually through vouchers to our Thrift Stores, or other essential items such as hygiene kits.
The Salvation Army has the ability to provide both immediate emergency assistance and long-term recovery help. Long-term recovery is strategically planned in response to the situation, through working and partnering with many other community entities.
Following a major disaster support may be required for months or years. The Salvation Army's role in long-term recovery may include provision of clean-up kits, opening a Disaster Assistance Centre or providing case management. This support may be provided by Emergency Disaster Services personnel or transitioned to pre-existing Salvation Army operations such as Community & Family Services.