National Disaster Response Opportunities

Disaster Services Human Resources (DSHR)

When a national disaster strikes, Disaster Services Human Resources (DSHR) is the division of the

American Red Cross that coordinates trained volunteers from local chapters around the country to respond to national disasters.

Each year, the American Red Cross responds to more than 67,000 disasters, including house or apartment fires (the majority of disaster responses), wildfires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous material spills, transportation accidents, explosions, and other natural and man-made disasters.

If you want to join the corps of hundreds of thousands of dedicated volunteers that are called upon to respond to national tragedies, the place to begin is with your local chapter.

How Can I Become a Volunteer with DSHR?

To be a DSHR candidate you must:

•Be recommended by your Red Cross unit of affiliation.

•Be an active member of your local Red Cross chapter's Disaster Action Team (DAT).

•Have completed the 4 primary disaster services classes, including: Introduction to Disaster Services. Mass Care: An Overview, Family Services, Damage Assessment.

•Be flexible and willing to serve on disaster operations anywhere in the United States or its territories - with little or no advanced warning - for a minimum of three weeks.

•Be willing to live under adverse conditions and work long daily hours for extended periods of time.

•Be in good health including the stamina, endurance and physical capability to protect the health and safety of disaster victims and other disaster relief workers.

•Have a sense of professional spirit and adventure.

When do I get Called Out to National Disasters?

After you have completed the 4 primary disaster classes, a volunteer should continue to be an active member of a current DAT team, and maintain current First Aid and CPR certification. Local disaster response experience is required for membership in the DSHR system.

Once you have responded to five local disasters, you should contact the Emergency Services Manager to request to be a DSHR volunteer. By continuing to take emergency preparedness classes, a volunteer will maintain their skills and be prepared to respond when disaster strikes. A higher level of local and/or national disaster experience, as well as continued participation in disaster classes will contribute to a higher likelihood that you will meet the criteria needed by the DSHR system for a particular disaster response.

DSHR volunteers are often activated on a very short notice, and must commit to a 3-week assignment. Disaster assignments can be classified as "hardship assignments" where amenities such as running water, electricity, etc. may not be available. Your DSHR recruiter will inform you of the likelihood of such possible challenges during the recruitment period. You may always decline an assignment with no repercussions as to the assignment to future disaster responses.

DSHR Specialties

A broad array of services and programs is provided in a typical disaster response. The DSHR system is composed of 23 specialty functions to ensure an efficient and organized disaster relief operation. On your application, a volunteer will be asked to choose a specialty based upon their personal goals and disaster response skills. The following is a list of DSHR specialties, and the role each function plays in the national disaster response system.

Direct Services

•Disaster Health Services

•Disaster Mental Health Services

•Disaster Welfare Information

•Family Services

•Mass Care

Internal Support Services


•Damage Assessment

•Disaster Computer Operations

•Local Disaster Volunteers


•Operations Data Management

•Safety and Security



External Support Services

•Fund Raising

•Liaison, Chapter

•Liaison, Government

•Liaison, Human Relations

•Liaison, Labor

•Liaison, Volunteer Agencies


•Public Affairs

About DSHR Classes

Disaster classes are scheduled, primarily, on a quarterly basis. Beginning and Intermediate courses are offered several times a year, according to the influx of new volunteers, and the requirement needs of current volunteers. If you are interested in taking a particular class, feel free to contact the Emergency Services Manager and request the class(es) you are interested in taking.

Advanced classes often require that American Red Cross staff and nationally trained instructors travel from National Headquarters in Washington D.C. and the lower 48 states to teach the classes. Because of this great distance, and cost related to travel and expenses, advanced courses are generally only offered when 10 or more students need the course. This requires extensive preplanning and should be coordinated with the Emergency Services Coordinator.

If you need or would like to inquire about specific classes, contact the office nearest you so that a roster of potential students can be developed. The more volunteers who show a desire to learn and take emergency response and preparation courses, the more classes will be offered. You, the Volunteers, are the foundation of the American Red Cross. Please visit our Disaster Class Schedule to see what classes are being offered in your area.

Basic / Introductory Classes

•Intro to Disaster Services

•Mass Care: Overview

•Damage Assessment

•Family Services

•Mass Casualty Disasters

•Disaster Mental Health - An Overview

•Disaster Mental Health Services I

•Disaster Health Services I

•Disaster Health Services Simulation

•Disaster Welfare Inquiry

•Disaster Welfare Inquiry Simulation Exercise

•Emergency Operations Center


•Food Service

•Liaison I

•Human Resources in Disaster

•Logistics I

•Logistics Simulation Exercise

•Public Affairs I

•Records & Reports

•Shelter Operations

•Shelter Simulation

•Weapons of Mass Destruction/Terrorism: an Overview

•Working with Total Diversity

Intermediate Classes

•Fundamentals of Chapter Disaster Operation

•Liaison II

•Mass Care II

•Public Affairs II

•Staffing II

•State Relations - Disaster Liaison

Advanced Classes

•Additional Assistance to Families

•Disaster Instructor Specialist Training

•Family Service Supervision I

•Instructor Candidate Training

•Service Delivery Site Management

•Supervision in Disaster

Disaster Preparedness and Response for Nurses

New Disaster Case Study Online Course - Continuing Education Offering

The American Red Cross Office of the Chief Nurse has collaborated with Sigma Theta Tau, the international honor society of nursing, to develop an online continuing education offering, "Disaster Preparedness and Response for Nurses." Available at a minimal cost to nurses, this offering is designed to provide nurses with an overview of their role in responding to a weapons of mass destruction/terrorism (WMD/T) event or other disaster. While it is not a replacement for Red Cross disaster health services training, it is an excellent way to expand the visibility of Red Cross nurses, as well as to increase the awareness of the importance of nurses in disaster preparedness and response. Nurses completing this case study can receive 2 contact hours of continuing education credit. The case study may be found here.