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. Salvation Army EDS personnel respond to incidents of various sizes and scopes. In following with its holistic ministry, the Army provides supports that meet the immediate, as well as long-term, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of disaster survivors and responders.

The frequency and impact of hazards is on the rise worldwide. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, forest fires, tornadoes, ice storms and severe rainstorms are happening more often than ever before. The Red Shield continues to be a symbol of hope and compassion; of immediate aid, psychosocial and spiritual support to individuals and families whose lives have been disrupted or shattered by forces beyond their control.

For example, in September 2018, when six tornadoes touched down in the Ottawa and Gatineau area, The Salvation Army was immediately on the scene providing food, hydration and emotional support to those responding. In addition, EDS personnel continued to support those affected in both provinces. Working with municipal and provincial governments, as well as other partners, The Salvation Army provided vital support in both the short and long term.

The Salvation Army plays a critical role in all aspects of the emergency management continuum: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The figure below highlights the four interdependent functions of Disaster and Emergency Management (DEM): mitigation of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from emergencies and disasters. These functions can be undertaken sequentially or concurrently, and they are not independent of each other.

The inner circle includes all the elements that influence the development of the Disaster and Emergency Management Plan (DEMP), such as:

  • continuous program evaluation;

  • engaged leadership;

  • regular training;

  • regular exercises;

  • implementation of after-action reports and improvement plans

Disaster and Emergency Management


Mitigation entails actions to reduce the impacts of hazards. Participating in groups and partnerships allows The Salvation Army an opportunity to advocate for the most vulnerable who are unequally affected by hazards and emergencies.




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 & Hydration

  • Emotional & Spiritual Care

  • Donations Management

  • Disaster Social Services


With a presence in over 400 communities across Canada, The Salvation Army can 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 and Family Services.



How You Can help

Donate: By phone 24/7 at 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769) for disaster events, regular donations, or memorial donations. During regular business hours, you can contact Divisional Headquarters at 780-423-2111 or our Calgary office at 403-410-1112.

Make an online donation at and print off your receipt immediately.

Volunteer: The Salvation Army has developed a National Disaster Training Program (NDTP), a very detailed emergency response training program whereby volunteers are trained in every aspect of Salvation Army emergency response. Only pre-trained, pre-registered volunteers are called on during an emergency or disaster response. To inquire further about volunteering with EDS, please visit our website: