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International Disaster Responders

How Does the American Red Cross Respond to
International Disasters?
As part of the world’s largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross maintains a corps of trained disaster responders and strategically positions relief supplies worldwide to deliver immediate support. Our help is triggered by a request from the local Red Cross or Red Crescent team in the country affected and can take the form of relief supplies, cash, telecommunications, mapping, disaster management, and other contributions.
When Does the American Red Cross Deploy
International Disaster Responders?
The American Red Cross plays a different role in international crises than in domestic disasters. Since most countries’ Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations have their own staff and volunteers who are trained to respond to large-scale disaster operations, we send specialists abroad only after the local Red Cross or Red Crescent team requests assistance. On average, the American Red Cross deploys only 20 to 30 people each year in response to international disasters.

Who Can Be an International Disaster Responder?

The American Red Cross maintains a roster of disaster specialists to deploy and provide humanitarian aid during global crises. International disaster responders are highly specialized and experienced professionals with technical skills and expertise in one or more sectors listed below.

Our current priority response domains include:

  • Emergency Relief and Cash Transfer Programming (CTP): Roster members deploy to international disaster zones in a wide variety of emergency relief roles to help meet the immediate needs of people impacted by crises. These teams use innovative tools to identify and register beneficiaries, as well as distribute vital relief items such as food, water, and shelter items. Teams can also facilitate cash transfers, which empower individuals and communities to recover in a dignified, expedient manner. Read this story about delivering cash to communities in need after the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
  • Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications (ITT): Information Technology and Telecommunications teams establish local communication networks and links to help ensure the smooth flow of information during disaster relief operations. Installation of communications equipment (radios, repeaters, satellite phones, VSAT); design, installation, and maintenance of network infrastructure; support for computer workstations and network applications; and global positioning systems (GPS). Read this blog post from an ITT specialist who deployed to Nepal after the 2015 earthquake.
  • Information Management (IM) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Information Management and Geographic Information Systems specialists manage and deploy tools that can help teams rapidly collect, analyze, and disseminate information to aid disaster response decision-making. They create a variety of products—including maps and infographics—to help visualize and understand the impact of the disaster and identify needs. Here is a Q&A with one of our roster members working on maps in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
  • Operational Management & Leadership: Highly-trained American Red Cross disaster response managers provide strategic and operational leadership within relief operations on behalf of the affected country or zone, ensuring appropriate coordination with relevant actors on the ground (including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the local Red Cross or Red Crescent society, and other relevant actors. These specialists also build the capacity of our sister national societies through intensive, hands-on trainings around the world. Watch this Q&A with one of our disaster responders who managed the global Red Cross network’s response team in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak.
  • Required Skills

    At a minimum, international disaster response roster members are required to meet the following:

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      A minimum of 2 years’ field experience in the international development/aid field, or at least three national or international-level disaster response deployments.

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      Availability, on short notice, for assignments lasting a minimum of four weeks, as well as ongoing availability for annual training and refresher courses.

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      Significant technical expertise and demonstrated experience in at least one of the American Red Cross’s priority response domains.

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      Fluency in English is required, and a preference for language skills in Spanish, French, or Arabic.

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      Motivation and strong commitment to the Red Cross Red Crescent’s Fundamental Principles.

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      Excellent physical and mental health with the ability to complete a background check and maintain a thorough medical screening, as needed.

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      Diplomacy, teamwork and problem-solving skills, cultural sensitivity, tolerance, flexibility, and the ability to function effectively in a demanding and often rugged environment.

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      Ability to work effectively in high stress, insecure and volatile environments for extended periods.

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      Ability to live in basic and sometimes harsh living conditions (i.e. – tent).

    How to Join the American Red Cross'
    International Disaster Roster

    Given the unique nature of these assignments and the critical need for highly experienced responders, targeted recruitment takes place only once or twice per year, or as the need arises. Prospective applicants are encouraged to monitor redcross.org/volunteer, devex.org, and reliefweb.com for the most up-to-date information and availability.

    Applicants selected to move forward in the process undergo a series of interviews and a criminal background check. If selected, candidates are invited to a week-long International Mobilization and Preparation for Action (IMPACT) training. IMPACT is a requirement for international deployments and inclusion on the roster.

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    The World of Red Cross and Red Crescent

    This is an online course that provides detailed information about the global Red Cross network. It can be accessed through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Learning Platform.

    Join Us

    You can take action to help save lives and give hope to people around the world.
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    Help Us Map the World

    From your home computer, you can help ensure that disaster responders get relief to the people who need it – even in the world’s most remote areas.

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    Support our international work from your community: support our measles campaigns or help reconnect families after international crises.

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