Disaster Action Team
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American Red Cross

Disaster Action Team

You’ll facilitate immediate support to someone who has just been affected by a disaster. With an hour’s notice, you’ll arrive at a scene, such as a house fire, and connect with the fire marshal to find the people most affected by the situation. You’ll introduce yourself as being a part of the Red Cross, and then help them begin to process what they may have lost and what they’ll need moving forward. You’ll meet their immediate needs with a gift card, toiletries, stuffed animals for the kids, etc.

Over the course of an hour or two, you’ll go through a packet of information with them. You’ll comfort them while they consider what they’ve lost, but you also need to be clear about the things they need to begin moving forward. You’ll help them navigate their immediate and ongoing needs, provide agency referrals, and get them familiar with the support they can receive through the American Red Cross. A Red Cross caseworker will take on their case moving forward.

You’ll be on call for 12-hour shifts, seven days per month, and you need to be able to arrive at a scene in the Greater Grand Rapids area within an hour’s notice. You’re encouraged to coordinate your schedule closely with your team leader so that the team knows ahead of time when you’re available and when you aren’t.

For larger disasters, you and multiple members of the Disaster Action Team will come together to “canteen,” supporting emergency response personnel at the site of a large ongoing fire or large-scale car accident. You’ll work from a response vehicle to offer a quiet place for responders to rest and breathe, get some food, and drink coffee.

Show me how to get started
On-call seven days per month, for at least one year; visits are typically 60-90 minutes
18+; pass a background check
Varies by disaster site
Varies by disaster site

Is This the Right Fit for Me?

You need extremely strong interpersonal and communication and listening skills. You’ll be working with a person who is experiencing a very stressful situation and may be in a state of shock. You’re interested in learning the best ways to balance being a shoulder to cry on while also being straight-forward enough to help someone process what they need to do. You know the importance of self-care so that you can continue to help others in the future without being too drained. In other words, you can find the balance between being empathetic without getting too emotionally invested.

About American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission.

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What Others are Saying

"I help people when they face disasters. Some don't know what they are going to do before the Red Cross arrives. It's rewarding for me to know they feel like they can get back on their feet. I sometimes worry how the people are doing a few days after I leave. But I would advise a potential volunteer to be open to all types of people and situations. Keep an open mind and heart."


Contact the Organization

If you’re ready to ask some questions and get started, contact the American Red Cross directly.

Nikki Salladay Volunteer Services Specialist 269-303-2135

What to Expect

Contact Nikki to let her know you’re interested, and she’ll send you a link to an online profile and application. Your application will be reviewed by the national office and then referred to a local team that will set up an interview with you. They’ll meet with you to get to know you better, learn about your strengths and interests, and discuss how you react to change, handle problems, and respond to urgent situations. (A New Member volunteer will be your point of contact as you are onboarded into this role.) There are in-person orientation classes (which are also online if you cannot attend), and you’ll get the chance to ride along with current volunteers a few times to get a sense for what the work is really like. There are a few more online trainings to complete before you officially get started on your own.