Santa Clara County

Dan Guhl

Director, Emmanuel House Shelter

Office: (408) 282-1175

San Francisco County

John A. McKnight

Director of Emergency & Disaster Services

Office: (415) 553-3527


WHEN disaster strikes, The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services rolls into action. Mobile deployment teams arrive on site as soon as possible to rescue personnel and aid survivors. We deliver life sustaining meals, water, clothing, emergency shelter, and other needs for the mission. Our ultimate goal is to restore peace and well being by showing love through simple acts of charity through times of human adversity and suffering.

When disaster strikes, The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) rolls into action — offering cold drinks, hot meals, and compassion to both victims and first responders. And in the long term, we remain committed to help — providing food, clothing, shelter, and a plan for real recovery.

Thanks to your kind support, this program is growing. We spoke with John McKnight, EDS Director for The Salvation Army’s Golden State Division.

Have EDS deployments increased as a result of our region’s drought?

They’ve increased enormously. We used to deploy just a few times a year. During the drought, we deployed several times a week to bring water to people waiting in line for other assistance, or whose wells had run dry, or for food banks in the hardest-hit areas. In a way, from last June through September, we were in a state of almost constant deployment. Unfortunately, we don’t expect the situation this summer to be much better, as water reserves remain very low throughout our region.

In addition to the drought, are there other particular threats that we face?

There are several. The Central and Silicon Valleys are mostly flood plains, and one day, a significant storm could flood this area. We also face potential large-scale wildfires, earthquakes, and the threat of a tsunami following an earthquake. Sadly, we also need to be ready for events like a terrorist attack, or a school shooting. We’re working more closely with law-enforcement officials to develop our response to these types of events.

Are you working to increase The Salvation Army’s ability to respond to disasters overall?

Yes, our intention is for The Salvation Army to have a larger, more active presence for emergency response in our region. We want to respond more frequently, and work more efficiently with other agencies. That means more training, bringing our equipment up to speed, and letting other agencies know that we’re available to help before something happens, not after the fact.

What makes The Salvation Army’s EDS so effective?

In a sense, The Salvation Army deals with disasters daily, on an individual, human scale. With EDS, we are shifting from individual disaster assistance to a larger, community disaster assistance. And we know how to work with communities. We also have a wide range of capabilities. If they need translators on the scene, we can find them. If they need water, we can bring that. If they need a hot meal, we can offer one. We can also provide real emotional and spiritual care.

How important are donors to keeping The Salvation Army ready to respond?

Donors are so important, not just to us, but to the whole community. We help people who never thought they’d need The Salvation Army, but who all of a sudden have lost everything. When that happens, we’re there. People who give to The Salvation Army allow us to be there, and to stay there, until the job is done.

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