By Tim Serban
What are the steps to become an American Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care volunteer?
In the past, Red Cross simply collaborated with our cognate chaplaincy organizations as part of the Federal Aviation and Family Assistance Act. But recently, Red Cross has created a new national function called Disaster Spiritual Care. It is equal partners with Disaster Mental Health and Disaster Health Services (nursing). We recognized on earlier deployments that chaplains bring a tremendous amount of obvious experience, creating a safe non-judgmental presence consistent with Red Cross fundamental principles of neutrality, universality, and impartiality. However, board-certified chaplains were not as easily able to integrate into a mass casualty event or natural disaster without some training and preparation to ensure that they were prepared for the hardships — to say nothing of working within an incident command structure.
Also, while we would have liked to staff every response only with board-certified chaplains, we realized there are simply not enough BCCs to support the many natural and human-caused disasters and tragedies that happen locally and nationally. As a result, our cognate chaplaincy partner organizations bring a strong team approach and a consistency in the area of leadership.
In the past, Red Cross would call on the NACC for available chaplains and they would be deployed by name. However, today there are clear and focused steps to follow to become a Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care volunteer.
To get started:
- Sign up: Go to www.RedCross.org and sign up to be a basic volunteer. (Note: Disaster Spiritual Care is not an option listed on the website, as one needs to be screened to meet the eligibility requirements, including a mandatory background check.)
- Verify DSC initial eligibility in one of three ways:
- Board-certified chaplain (APC, ACPE, NACC, NAJC, CASC, CPSP, ICPC, or cognate partner)
- Spiritual care training from a National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster partner that has established a recognized course
- A recognized faith leader in a local faith community provided with a demonstrated letter of endorsement from a leader of the endorsing faith tradition (Online ordination programs are excluded.)
- Complete a live eligibility screening (40-50 minutes with a regional or division DSC lead or adviser).
- Complete the Disaster Spiritual Care Overview course: online web-based training (one hour) with post-test
- Complete Psychological First Aid: four hours of in-person or web-based training
- Complete fundamentals in Disaster Spiritual Care: generally in-person five-hour instructor-led training, although virtual training will be available soon. (Cognate chaplaincy groups often will offer this course during a national conference, but the previous steps need to be completed first.)
- Engage with your local regional chapter or DSC adviser to begin integrating DSC into local response efforts. Remain in contact with your Regional, Division and National DSC leads.
Tim Serban, BCC, is the NACC liaison to American Red Cross Disaster Spiritual Care and the chief mission integration officer for Providence Health Oregon.