Resources >> Browse Articles >> On the Job


Disaster Relief Nursing 101

Disaster Relief Nursing 101

Marijke Durning | NursingLink

“We worked until sundown usually, because we didn’t have lights (the city became dark). We had a ‘de-briefing’ meeting around 9 p.m. and usually ate dinner at 10 p.m.” And what was on the menu? “Our dinner usually consisted of pizza. That was the local restaurant that was open and we trusted," she said. "It was quite delicious!”

Volunteer Through an Organization

While Patty went abroad to help people who had undergone a tremendous disaster, others prefer to stay close to home, where their help is also needed. For nurses who want the challenge of disaster relief within the U.S., the American Red Cross is the perfect venue to volunteer your services.

This kind of volunteer disaster relief involves working in the community to help support victims of home fires and other emergencies. But many also aid with larger emergencies, such as floods, explosions, and earthquakes. The organization responds to over 67,000 disasters in the U.S. each year. According to Sharon Stanley, Ph.D., RN, RS, Chief Nurse and Director of Disaster Health and Mental Health Services of the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., 87%of the more than 5,500 registered ARC volunteers are nurses and 88% of the nurses are RNs.

So, how does a nurse become an ARC volunteer?

It is highly recommended to get experience as a volunteer with the ARC prior to any disaster. This allows nurses to make relationships in the community and among each other. By knowing the people and organizations around you, and by getting some disaster training ahead of time, you’re ready to hit the ground running when your services are needed.

There are four levels of disaster nursing at the ARC. When you first volunteer, you are trained at the level of service associate, and – if you want – training continues as you move up to supervisor, manager, and finally, chief.

While it is possible to volunteer during an actual crisis, if nurses don’t have prior relationships, “[You] are stressing an already stressed system,” said Dr. Stanley. “We’ll take you and we’ll welcome you, and we’ll give you just-in-time training. But it is so, so important for the infrastructure of your community that you have made those relationships and volunteered prior to the disaster.”

Next: What the Red Cross Looks For >>

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    I never thought there are nurses who actually do that.I guess they should carry with them pharmaceutical grade supplements who you can find in a disaster like that and in what state, injured or not.I also think that there are not so many nurses who put their life in hold to wade into situations like that atleast not in my country.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    Good Post... dental implants

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 4 years ago


    thanks to all those who volunteer through ARC, you're efforts are greatly appreciated wherever you go. There was no mention though about nurses who respond to disasters through DMATs or Disaster Medical Assistance Teams. These government formed teams or nurses, MDs, medics and pharmacists respond to disasters across the US and beyond! Also, props to the nurse who travels to disasters on her own will to help out but let it be known that that is not always a good idea. Many people want to get up and travel to a disaster area to help but are quite unprepared. Once you get there, there are often no places to sleep, nothing to eat or support yourself on and you need to bring all you're own equipment. Not to mention make sure you have a way to get there and back because there are not always roads intact or airports running.

NursingLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a nursing or healthcare degree program. Use NursingLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.