Crisis Response
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Red Cross


Mental Health Professionals (MHP) who desire to serve their communities in times of disaster or crisis are urged to join their local American Red Cross Chapter. With its effective infrastructure and resources, the Red Cross is at the forefront of disaster response education and training. The Red Cross actively recruits, trains, and deploys mental health professionals to provide support services to disaster survivors and workers across the stages of preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.

The American Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services (DCS) is client-facing throughout the entire disaster cycle of preparedness, response and recovery. DCS response provides relief when disasters strike for those affected by residential fires, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, transportation accidents, terrorist attacks, mudslides and other man-made and natural disasters 24 hours a day, 365 days-a-year (over 70,000 disasters in the US each year). All American Red Cross assistance is free. Disaster Cycle Services activities include casework, health services, mental health, logistics, sheltering, feeding, communications, governmental liaison, community partners, etc. Disaster Action Teams (DAT) are the staff and volunteers who actually respond to the event. Disaster Mental Health volunteers support DAT activities and may be deployed with the Team.

Red Cross Disaster Mental Health (DMH) volunteers in California must be California licensed and live in California to be eligible: Psychiatrists (M.D.), Psychologists (PhD), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC). Other professionals eligible to become Red Cross DMH volunteers include nurses with a bachelor’s degree (BSN) as a registered nurse and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certification for psychiatric and mental health nursing to include RN-BC or PMHNP-BC or PMHCNS-BC. In addition, School Counselors with a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential with a specialization in School Counseling and School Psychologists with a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential with a specialization in School Psychology are also eligible. If you have the required qualifications, you can train and serve as a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health (DMH) volunteer. See Opportunities for DMH Volunteers.

While interns and unlicensed mental health personnel in all mental health disciplines who lack the above qualifications are not eligible to participate in Red Cross Disaster Mental Health activity, they are encouraged to serve as volunteer providers of other client-oriented Red Cross services such as client casework services and recovery, working in shelters, and mass feeding. These vital disaster services require excellent people skills and working in close collaboration with the disaster health and mental health services system. Mental health professionals can take classes to become an instructor and to teach informative classes on disaster mental health, talk with volunteers who return from deploying from a disaster, and attend various training institutes while experiencing great collegiality and satisfaction in using mental health skills with those served, the volunteers, and staff. The Red Cross is a pioneer in emphasizing the importance of self-care and caring for its own.

Complete the following tasks to become an American Red Cross DCS Volunteer:

  1. Contact the Red Cross chapter closest to you by going to and select “FIND YOUR LOCAL RED CROSS” at the top of the page
  2. On your chapter web page click on “Volunteer” on the left side and submit an application by making an account in Volunteer Connection
  3. Attend a Red Cross orientation as local chapters have their own procedures
  4. Complete your application by doing other required paperwork and background check
  5. Take the following Red Cross training

Disaster Cycle Services: An Overview [60/120 Minutes] is a web-based or instructor-led course that provides an overview of how DCS fulfills the Red Cross mission and describes the whole cycle process of helping individuals, families and communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. The course also reviews the role of community and government partners and describes opportunities for volunteers in Disaster Cycle Services. Note: This course replaces all versions of Disaster Services: An Overview. See Course Fact Sheet.

Disaster Mental Health: Introduction [30 Minutes] is a web-based course for credentialed professionals who are interested in becoming Red Cross Disaster Mental Health responders. The course presents an overview of the services that Disaster Mental Health responders provide both on a local response and on a large disaster relief operation and identifies the next steps to becoming a volunteer. It is currently not a required course for Disaster Mental Health volunteers but it is strongly encouraged that interested volunteers take the course before moving forward with additional trainings. See Course Fact Sheet.

Disaster Mental Health Fundamentals [3 Hours] is a basic level, webinar or instructor-led course for qualified MHP that introduces the key concepts, knowledge and skills required of a Red Cross Disaster Mental Health (DMH) responder. It provides participants the opportunity to apply their learning to real-world examples that reflect challenges experienced by DMH responders, be it on a Disaster Action Team (DAT) response or serving on a larger disaster relief operation. Note: This course was formerly titled, Foundations of Disaster Mental Health. See Course Fact Sheet.

Psychological First Aid [4 Hours] is a basic level, instructor-led course. It provides a framework for understanding the factors that affect stress responses in disaster relief workers and the clients they serve. Participants engage in practice exercises and complete a self-review questionnaire. See Course Fact Sheet.

Finally, you’re ready to research, select, and become trained with the crisis intervention approach and method that best suits you by selecting STEP 5 – CRISIS INTERVENTION MODALITIES.