Disaster Spiritual Care emerged from efforts by the National Transportation Safety Board to support the victims of airline disasters and their families. The Red Cross now provides this care through thoroughly trained and screened spiritual care providers who are deployed with every disaster team. Furthermore, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) also offers a .4 CEU course, “IS-505: Religious and Cultural Literacy and Competency in Disaster.” Many chaplains are members of other professional chaplaincy organizations like the Association for Professional Chaplains or provide disaster spiritual care through their specific denominational bodies, such as The Foursquare Church. If you’ve got more resources you think we should include on this sector, let us know at

Disaster Chaplaincy Services

In Spring 2000, Rabbi Stephen Roberts approached the American Red Cross in Greater New York (ARC-GNY) about recruiting a committee to facilitate partnerships with faith communities so that spiritual care could be immediately available in the event of a local emergency. Over the course of a year, a multi-faith team including Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Muslim professional chaplains worked with ARC-GNY to develop this concept and create a disaster response spiritual care program for the New York metropolitan area.

The program was finalized one week prior to 9/11/2001. With disaster protocol ready to be implemented, more than 800 chaplains volunteered their time and skills over the next nine months of rescue and recovery efforts. The largest multi-faith chaplaincy effort ever in the United States, the program had an immediate impact.

After 9/11, ARC-GNY received a grant from Aid Association for Lutherans; a small part of which was directed to increasing capacity in spiritual care. This lead to the formation of an autonomous agency for the direct provision of spiritual care within ARC-GNY’s tri-state jurisdiction. ARC-GNY hosted the agency until March, 2004 when it became an independent 501(c)(3) organization named The Institute for Disaster Spiritual Care (IDSC).

In Spring 2005, diverse faith communities joined together to take on its financial responsibilities and IDSC became entirely volunteer run; Rabbi Stephen Roberts, Hayyim Obadyah, and Dr. John Scabilia were the three founding board members.

The organization changed to its current name, Disaster Chaplaincy Services (DCS), in the Fall of 2005. Today, DCS is headed by an Executive Director and three support staff, with volunteer leadership in the form of a Board of Directors, a Chaplain Leadership Team, and over 170 chaplains representing diverse cultural and ethnic as well as faith traditions.

DCS continues to partner with ARC-GNY and collaborates with agencies such as the Office for Emergency Management (OEM), NYC police and fire departments, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. DCS chaplains have volunteered over 60,000 hours since 2001 and are deployed side-by-side with other disaster response professionals, often providing peer support as well as survivor care.

Our faith partners represent a full spectrum of New York faith communities, ranging from American Baptist to Zen Buddhist. All faith traditions are invited to sign Letters of Agreement (LOA) with DCS and to have representatives on the Board or Advisory Committee. Chaplains endorsed by their community are also encouraged to join our work and/or take advantage of professional development and disaster preparedness trainings.

Disasters and Religion App

The Disasters & Religion App helps disaster responders better serve America’s diverse religious communities and build partnerships with religious leaders, with easily accessible religious literacy and competency information on 27 unique religions. It was created by the National Disaster Interfaiths Network (NDIN), New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS), and the University of Southern California Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CRCC)