Civilian agencies can offer a great deal of aid during emergencies, in part because they are able to mobilize supplies and volunteers quickly thanks to large networks. Two of the oldest and best known are the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
The American Red Cross, founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, has been providing emergency assistance for more than a century. With nearly 1,300 chapters across the United States, the Red Cross is able to get volunteers to disaster sites within two hours of being notified of the crisis, The Red Cross provides needed essentials such as food, clothing, and shelter to victims of crises, and it also provides health care services as an adjunct to whatever local doctors or hospitals can provide. The Red Cross also maintains a national blood bank and can provide blood for much-needed transfusions. One of the important supports the Red Cross provides is mental health service. Understanding that the trauma of disasters can produce devastating emotional reactions, even if those suffering are unaware, and trained licensed mental health professionals are provided to offer assistance. They work with local mental health providers and professionals to coordinate both short- and long-term care.
The Salvation Army, founded in 1878, offers services similar to those of the Red Cross. It provides food, clothing, and shelter, and it also assists with cleanup and restoration. It distributes brooms, mops, shovels, buckets, and detergent, and it also sets up warehouses to house and distribute reconstruction supplies such as lumber. Because the Salvation Army is a religious organization, it can also offer spiritual comfort by providing chaplain services to disaster workers, emergency personnel, and disaster victims. Salvation Army counselors who are ordained as clergy can conduct funeral and memorial services.