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Handbook 11-07
December 2010

Appendix H

Nongovernmental Organizations

This appendix refers to domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that will assist within the United States. It does not address international NGOs that assist with stability, security, transition, and reconstruction operations.


NGOs are often referred to as private voluntary organizations, nonprofits, charities, and humanitarian aid organizations. Each is unique with different objectives, missions, operating procedures, and capacities. Many are religiously oriented, regionally based, technically specialized, or community-based organizations. Most are small, though some are well known with international umbrellas and national chapters.

NGOs respond to natural and man-made disasters and are essential to providing relief. They are founded, developed, and managed by civilians who are highly professional and trained, skilled, and educated in disaster management, public health, logistics, technology, water sanitation, communications, medicine, geology, sociology, and psychology. NGO staffs are from different backgrounds and training, usually with a small professional staff augmented by on-call volunteers.

Some are for-profit; some are not-for-profit. Their funding comes from numerous sources, including government agencies, grants, private contributions, and gifts-in-kind from companies or other organizations.

NGOs and the Military

NGOs and the military should not work against each other in disasters if they want to maximize utility and functionality. Each has a role that is complementary, not contrary, to the other. Communications can be achieved and in some cases, coordination between NGOs and military units can be achieved.

NGOs however, are not required to coordinate with the military and may prefer to remain autonomous for the following reasons:

  • Some NGOs maintain large communications capabilities, and may use the same technologies as military units when there is no local infrastructure.
  • NGO professionals often have more field experience in domestic disaster relief than the military.
  • NGO professional staffs tend to be highly educated with decades of experience applicable to disaster response.

Coordination in a disaster between NGOs and the military should not be equated to command and control. Military command structure is usually very different from the work structures of civilian organizations, and the interface of the two is sometimes challenging. The Center for Lessons Learned recommends identifying a liaison within the NGO community to help manage the interface.

Domestic Disaster Response NGOs

Many NGOs focus only on disaster response. This means they arrive at the earliest possible time during or after an emergency, implement emergency response programs, and leave shortly after the first stages are complete. They focus on being nimble and efficient and operating with very little red tape.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is an organization of amateur radio operators overseen by the American Radio Relay League. ARES amateur radio operators train to provide communications during emergencies. ARES has formal agreements to provide communications for several national nonprofits, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and with state and local emergency management organizations.

AmeriCares (

AmeriCares responds to disasters to help reduce suffering and restore health to communities throughout the country. AmeriCares has reached out to thousands of Americans affected by weather-related emergencies, including Hurricane Katrina, tornadoes in the Midwest, California wildfires, flooding in the Northwest and the mile-wide tornado that destroyed almost all of Greensburg, Kansas. AmeriCares responds in times of disease outbreaks and man-made disasters. On 9/11, AmeriCares sent an emergency medical team to the site of the World Trade Center attacks.

American Red Cross (

Since its founding in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross (ARC) has been the nation's premier emergency response organization. In addition to providing aid to victims of national disasters, it is part of a worldwide movement that offers neutral humanitarian care to the victims of war.

Catholic Charities USA (

The disaster response section of Catholic Charities USA provides assistance to communities by addressing the crisis and recovery needs of local families. Catholic Charities agencies emphasize ongoing and long-term recovery services for individuals and families, including temporary housing assistance for low-income families, counseling programs for children and the elderly, and special counseling for disaster relief workers.

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) disaster response services volunteers help clear debris, assess needs, and rebuild homes after disasters strike. CRWRC volunteers, known as "the green shirts," are visible and respected throughout many disaster-affected communities.

Church World Service (

In disaster preparedness, response, and recovery in the U.S., Church World Service (CWS) works with and through local faith-based and community organizations. CWS has been instrumental in helping communities along the U.S. Gulf Coast recover following devastating hurricanes, has partnered with local organizations that helped families rebuild following flooding in the Midwest, and has worked with groups that organize and build networks to prepare and plan for disaster before it strikes.

Convoy of Hope (

Convoy of Hope is a "first responder" organization in disaster relief. With a fleet of tractor-trailers, a 300,000-square-foot warehouse, a ham radio network, a high-tech mobile command center, and well-planned points of distribution model, Convoy of Hope has become an active and efficient disaster relief organization. It also has a program to educate communities to prepare for and respond to disasters.

Focus Humanitarian Assistance/Aga Khan Development Network (

Since 1994, Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) has provided a full spectrum of emergency response activities from first response to extended relief and recovery support. When FOCUS responds to a disaster, it is able to call upon a prepositioned pool of volunteers from within the Ismaili Muslim community in the country of the intervention. Harnessing local manpower for packaging, delivering, and distributing humanitarian relief provides integral support to staff on the ground and ensures that those in direct contact with affected communities are soundly equipped with local knowledge of the terrain, culture, and language.

Habitat for Humanity (

Habitat's disaster response focuses on the housing needs that arise from natural disasters and humanitarian emergency conflicts. Habitat offers expertise in technical information, program design and implementation, and disaster response policies, protocols and procedures. Habitat also provides support and informational resources for disaster mitigation and preparedness, helping communities in disaster-prone areas protect themselves against future threats.

Hands On Disaster Response (

Hands On Disaster Response (HODR) is a United States-based, volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization with 501(c)3 certified NGO dedicated to timely disaster response and relief. Its mission is to apply volunteer resources to aid survivors on natural disasters. HODR has responded to 14 disasters, including five in the United States.

International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (

The mission of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. is to provide leadership, education, training, consultation, and support services in comprehensive crisis intervention and disaster behavioral health services to the emergency response professions, other organizations, and communities worldwide.

International Relief Teams (

International Relief Teams (IRT) offers both immediate and long-term relief to disaster victims. IRT's skilled reconstruction teams repair the homes of uninsured, low-income families and elderly residents who have sustained damage from hurricanes and floods in the United States.

Medical Teams International (

Medical Teams International is a Christian, global health organization whose mission is to empower communities to live full and healthy lives. It works with grassroots organizations, churches, and ministries of health to ensure projects fit seamlessly into local contexts. Medical Teams International volunteers, staff and supporters assist people suffering from disaster, conflict, and poverty in 70 countries. While the work of Medical Teams International focuses primarily on developing countries, it continues to respond to large-scale disasters in the United States.

National Emergency Response Team (

National Emergency Response Team is committed to the establishment of independent and joint ventures to conceive, develop, and implement disaster response services and educational programs that coordinate publicly available resources during a crisis situation.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) is a forum where organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle - preparation, response, and recovery - to help disaster survivors and their communities. NVOAD is a consortium of approximately 50 national organizations and 55 state and territory equivalents. During major incidents, NVOAD typically sends representatives to the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA National Response Coordination Center to represent the voluntary organizations and assist in response coordination.

Operation USA (

Operation USA is an international relief agency that helps communities at home and abroad to overcome the effects of disasters, disease, and endemic poverty by providing privately funded relief, reconstruction, and development aid. Working with grass-roots partners on the ground, Operation USA provides material and financial assistance in the face of a disaster and works to combat the effects of systemic poverty. Operation USA listens to community voices to determine the best ways to assist and stays in the field after many other organizations have left. Operation USA supports long-term projects that promote education and health services, sustainable development, leadership building, income generating activities, and advocacy for vulnerable people worldwide.

Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (

Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) provides radio communication for civil defense purposes. It is administered by local, county, and state civil defense organizations and is supported by FEMA as well as the Federal Communications Commission. The rules that apply to RACES are in Section 97.407 of the Commission's Rules. All communications transmitted in RACES must be specifically authorized by the civil defense organization for the area served and only certain types of civil defense communications may be transmitted.

Salvation Army (

The Salvation Army disaster response programs include spiritual ministry, counseling, identification/registration, mobile feeding, congregate feeding, financial assistance, shelter, donated materials, basic commodities (food, water, health and sanitary needs, baby and child care products, medicines, bedding, etc.), reconstruction, services for volunteers, and advocacy.

Save the Children (

The mission of Save the Children is to create lasting, positive change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world. For domestic disasters, Save the Children's domestic emergencies unit has rapid emergency disaster initiative teams to provide essential programs to several communities in need during and after a disaster.

World Emergency Relief (

World Emergency Relief (WER) offers relief aid for impoverished disaster-struck communities, such as those suffering from earthquakes or hurricanes. WER offers disaster-struck communities three types of aid relief: (1) Emergency relief addresses basic needs in the first month after a disaster. WER's emergency relief is primarily practical aid in the form of gifts-in-kind such as food, clothing and medical supplies; (2) Sustained aid occurs after 45 to 60 days, when supply pipelines are reasonably restored; and (3) Development normalizes and improves communities, which involves sustainability programs.


Lynn Lawry and Grey Frandsen, Guide to Nongovernmental Organizations for the Military, 2d ed., Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM), Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS), originally written by Grey Frandsen, Fall 2002; edited and rewritten by Dr. Lynn Lawry, Summer 2009. Used by permission of Dr. Lawry.

Joint Publication 3-08, Interagency, Intergovernmental Organization, and Nongovernmental Organization Coordination during Joint Operations, Vol. I and II; Joint Staff, 17 March 2006.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5, Management of Domestic Incidents, the White House, 28 February 2003.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive-21, Public Health and Medical Preparedness, the White House, 18 October 2007.



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