As a truly global organization, with National Societies in 186 countries and more than 97 million volunteers locally, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is very often the first to respond to any disaster, from the small to the large-scale. At any level of response, whether it is local, national or international, the effective coordination of available human, financial and in-kind resources is crucial both for the beneficiaries and for the donors.
One of the primary roles of any Red Cross or Red Crescent National Society, as auxiliary to the authorities, is to provide first-line disaster response services. National Societies have a role (often legally defined) assigned by their governments in disaster response, which varies from country to country. It may involve search and rescue operations, evacuating the injured or people endangered by the disaster, managing shelters, restoring family links, running ambulance services or retrieving and evacuating dead bodies. In most National Societies, volunteers are trained in first aid, so that they can bring life-saving assistance to people injured in a disaster. They are also trained to assess damage and the emergency needs of the population, to identify those in need of assistance and to organize relief distributions. They may also provide health care and psychological support.
In about 80 percent of cases, National Societies respond to a disaster at the local or national level, without the need for regional or international support. However, whatever the size and level, the National Societies’ response is governed by the same principles and policies.
Internationally, National Societies, each within the limits of its resources give assistance for victims of natural disasters and other emergencies. Such assistance, in the form of services and personnel, of material, financial and moral support is given through the National Society of the country concerned by the disaster and the International Federation.
At community level, groups of volunteers are trained to work together in Community Disaster Response Teams bringing assistance to people in their communities affected by disasters.
National Disaster Response Teams are made up of National Society staff and volunteers, often from different branches or chapters, trained and working alongside Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers at community level to bring assistance to people affected by disaster. They are made up of generalists and specialists in health, logistics, relief or water and sanitation. They can be mobilized at short notice and are trained to work as a team and support the local Red Cross or Red Crescent branch or chapter in its response to the disaster.
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