disasters plague the globe almost daily. Large disasters
such as earthquakes, floods, storms, volcanoes and droughts cause
deaths, destroy entire communities and create huge challenges for
daily human survival. Since 1977, natural disasters caused
an average of 128,000 deaths and affected the lives of 136 million
people annually. Developing nations suffer most from natural
strengths to help disaster victims worldwide
The American Red Cross is extending its strength in disaster
response to assist disaster victims in developing nations.
As a leader in international disaster relief, the American Red
Cross has merged resources and expertise to efficiently provide
critical aid to disaster victims worldwide. The
International Disaster Response Unit (IDRU) was created to respond
to disasters occurring outside of the United States and its
territories. Combining our disaster experience and
international expertise, the IDRU has already responded to
numerous disasters since its formation in 1999 and trained more
than 70 people, available for immediate deployment, to serve in
various international relief functions.
to an international disaster
The American Red Cross continually monitors events around the
globe. When a catastrophic disaster occurs overseas and
international assistance is requested, the American Red Cross
works alongside the Red Cross society in the affected country
throughout the response. This coordination is instrumental
in the provision of quick and appropriate aid to disaster
victims. The Red Cross society serves as experts in the
country's culture, providing guidance to the American Red Cross on
the local resources and the availability of supplies. The
role of the local Red Cross may also determine the type of
assistance provided by the American Red Cross. Every Red
Cross society is different; each has different strengthens and
weaknesses. Some are known for paramedic services, while
others manage hospitals. Not all Red Cross societies are
mandated to respond to disasters. The American Red Cross is
flexible, adjusting to the particular needs of disaster victims,
working with the local Red Cross society and recognizing the
customs of the people affected. There are three possible
forms of assistance the American Red Cross provides:
donation to the local Red Cross society to help jumpstart the
local relief operations;
relief items that are most often purchased in-country to
reduce transportation time and cost and to help boost the
local economy; and/or
of an international response team to provide technical
assistance to the local Red Cross.
The American Red Cross may rely on other
responding Red Cross and Red Crescent partners to help
international disaster victims. Due to limited resources
faced by every Red Cross and Red Crescent society including the
American Red Cross, critical response triggers and criteria must
be met prior to initiating an emergency operations overseas.
Such protocols in responding to international disasters maintain a
high standard for stewardship of donor funds, while also balancing
aid to areas affected. Too much assistance in the form of
goods and services can clutter local economies, hurting the very
people in need of help, by temporarily eliminating service jobs
and reducing demand for basic goods.
The American Red Cross International Response
International Response Team members come from all over the United
States and vary in age and background. Most international
response team members are involved with their local American Red
Cross chapter. Each member brings extensive disaster
experience and the essential knowledge of disaster response.
International Response Teams, generally a
team of four to six people, represent the American Red Cross to
the local Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and
Red Crescent Societies and other Red Cross societies. The
American Red Cross is often one of the primary response
organizations helping disaster victims. The team members
also interact and may coordinate relief efforts with other non-Red
Cross relief organizations, such as Oxfam, Catholic Relief
Services or United Nations agencies.
International response team members are
knowledgeable and have experience in the following areas:
international disaster relief management; water and sanitation;
family linking, logistics, press, reporting and disaster mental
health. Within the first 24 hours of arrival in the affected
country, the team is required to complete a damage and needs
assessment, provide first-hand information as it develops and
provide a comprehensive assessment of the local Red Cross,
including its capacities and vulnerabilities. The team
recommends the most appropriate and effective assistance and use
of American Red Cross resources to the International Disaster
Response Unit. Subsequently, team members manage relief
supplies and determine the most effective methods for distribution
to disaster victims. International Response Team members are
required to meet demanding objectives with flexibility and
diplomacy in a short period of time, often with little rest.
International Response Team training
Offered twice a year, International Response Team training
provides opportunities for candidates to refine skills and share
valuable experiences and knowledge. International disaster
response and relief professionals provide instruction on:
and requirements of damage and needs assessments and analysis.
of the international response team core sector specialty areas
-- relief supply distribution; water and sanitation; family
linking; mental health and others.
international disaster industry standards.
role of an International Red Cross Movement.
American Red Cross procedures.
Red Cross international core competencies.
to and understanding of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Code of
Conduct and other internationally recognized standards.
The American Red Cross receives a multitude
of applications from skilled people. Acceptance for
international response team training is competitive and a maximum
of 30 candidates is selected for each session.
Becoming an American Red Cross international
response team member
International relief work is as rewarding as it is
challenging. Images of suffering move people to action --
they want to do something to help. People can help disaster
victims worldwide by first gaining experience and knowledge
helping disaster victims in local communities. Opportunities
to join a committed group of trained disaster relief workers are
available at local American Red Cross chapters. Other
requirements and expectations sought in choosing candidates for
the international response team include:
domestic/international disaster relief operations experience.
and education in disaster relief principles and industry
with assessments, monitoring, evaluation and analysis
working or living outside of the U.S.
proficiency in French or Spanish preferred.
The American Red Cross responds to
international disasters mostly in developing nations. Often
basic services, such as electricity, clean water and sanitation
are non-existent. Although the American Red Cross takes
every measure to provide for the safety and well-being of
international response team members, the environment is
challenging, the workload stressful and assignment duration may
change from the initial deployment. All international
disaster responses are considered to be hardship
assignments. Based on the nature of international relief
work, candidates for the international response team must:
in good health and be willing and able to endure long work
hours under hardship conditions.
a valid civilian passport, appropriate immunizations and a WHO
able to travel within 24 hours and accept assignments of
flexible and adaptable.
intermediate to advanced computer skills.
American Red Cross chapters nation-wide offer
free disaster relief and international services training
courses. The following American Red Cross courses are free
and should be completed prior to deployment overseas:
to International Services
Relief and Development
the Diverse Community
The American Red Cross is also a leader in
first aid and CPR courses. Candidates for the international
response team are expected have basic first aid and CPR training.