Today a range of humanitarian organizations and federal agencies provide emergency services and assistance for those affected by natural disasters, such as devastating earthquakes and hurricanes, to man-made accidents and explosions. Their services include providing disaster and emergency relief, such as food and shelter, as well as responding to situations that call for damage control. Organizations that provide emergency disaster relief frequently focus on providing immediate and basic needs, such as medical care, relocation and shelter. In the United States, recent examples of horrific situations that demanded emergency disaster services included Hurricane Katrina and the tragic shooting that occurred in Aurora, Colorado. At times, the management of emergency disasters by organizations and federal agencies includes addressing more long-term concerns, such as the lack of infrastructure and preventative measures.

The following is a list of domestic and international major humanitarian organizations. This includes the Red Cross and Salvation Army, two of the largest international organizations that are frequently called on in situations that demand medical or humanitarian relief services.

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): Established in 1978, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s primary goal includes responding to and mitigating hazards, which includes both natural disasters as well as man-made disasters (such as fires, attacks, bombings, etc.). States must follow a national protocol when enlisting the help of FEMA; this includes the governor of the state formally declaring a state of emergency and requesting the help of FEMA and the federal government. In the past decade, FEMA has undergone controversial transformations, including its absorption into Homeland Securities and its slow and inefficient response to Hurricane Katrina.
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies:  The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, previously known as the League of Red Cross Societies, is a worldwide humanitarian institution that is related to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Founded in 1919, the federation works closely with governments and other humanitarian relief organizations in providing relief assistance and responding to domestic and global emergencies.
  • Mercy Corps: Mercy Corps is an international, global aid agency that works to help societies and communities transition from natural disasters, economic collapses and violent conflicts. Originally founded in 1979 as Save the Refugees Fund and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, the organization believes that access to dependable financial services is key in helping victims of emergency disasters. Mercy Corps focuses mainly on fostering local entrepreneurship and helps rebuild social capital. Its past successful campaigns have included mediating land conflicts in Guatemala and providing food assistance and long-term agricultural solutions in North Korea.
  • The Salvation Army: Founded in 1865 in London, England, the Salvation Army is an international movement, as well as a Christian church, that focuses on emergency relief and charity work in 125 countries. It employs over 100,000 individuals and enlists more than four million volunteers, which makes it one of the largest humanitarian-based organizations in the world. It is also one of the world’s largest providers of social aid, with an annual budget of about $3 billion dollars. Its current disaster-relief based programs include international community centers, as well as work on refugee camps. In the United States, the Salvation Army has provided disaster relief for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Recently, it also provided financial support for victims of the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2006 Indonesian earthquake.
  • The American Red Cross (ARC): Founded in 1881 by Clara Barton, the American Red Cross is a humanitarian, all volunteer-led organization that provides emergency assistance and disaster relief in the U.S. Its disaster services focus on meeting the immediate needs of individuals who have been directly affected by disasters, including providing basic human needs such as shelter, food and mental health services. On the local level, Disaster Action Teams respond to local accidents and disasters, including floods and fires.