How we help after a disaster

Bags of food being pulled out of a cardboard box

First on the scene

Within hours of an emergency – or even before it’s happened – our partners in the local Red Cross or Red Crescent National Society will be at work keeping people safe.

Local volunteers and staff might evacuate homes in the path of a cyclone, or rescue people from buildings knocked down by an earthquake.

So where does the British Red Cross fit in?

We will either send aid directly or fund work carried out by our partners in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

The support we give might include goods like blankets and mosquito nets, or expert help from aid workers. When airports are blocked and phone lines down, getting the right aid to the right place as quickly as possible is a huge challenge. Our logistics teams make this happen.

British Red Cross emergency response units are teams of trained technical specialists. They are ready to leave at short notice to support our Red Cross and Red Crescent partners during global emergencies.

Working with our Movement colleagues, we follow the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies Code of conduct in emergencies. 

The kinds of help we can bring

Shelter and blankets

Every year, millions of people are left homeless after disasters. Tents, tarpaulins and blankets can protect them in the aftermath. We also help people repair damaged homes.


With shops closed, roads blocked and crops and fishing boats wiped out, food supplies can quickly run out. Our support includes food parcels and mobile kitchens.


When water supplies run dry or get contaminated, people go without or drink dirty water – putting them at risk of illnesses such as cholera. Our engineers, emergency purification equipment and bottled water tackle the problem. We also bring community toilet facilities and better plumbing to cut the threat of disease from human waste.

Experts to find missing family members

Disasters can separate families. Our tracing teams put people back in touch.


If shops and traders are still open after a disaster or conflict, it can be better to give local people money to buy emergency goods. This can be much more efficient than shipping them around the world.

In the right situation, cash grants can go further than the same amount spent by us on buying aid.

Emotional support

We work with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) to give emotional support to British citizens affected by disasters overseas. See how we did this in Sudan.

Building back stronger

While most disasters and conflicts only hit the headlines for a few days, the damage they do can last for decades. After the news crews disappear, the Red Cross helps people rebuild their lives so they’re ready to withstand future disasters.

This might mean creating stronger housing, or giving training that helps people find new ways to make money. This work can take years, but it’s absolutely vital – preparing for disasters is always more effective than reacting after they’ve happened.