Direct Relief establishes search and rescue funds after devastating storms in California

From the staff

In response to the devastating storms that swamped much of California, Direct Relief today announced it will establish a search and rescue fund and initially $100,000 from its general operating expenses to provide search and rescue teams across the state with the gear and equipment they need equip.

Increasingly frequent and intense climate-related disasters overwhelm first responders, particularly regional search and rescue (SAR) teams. Statewide in California, approximately 7,500 certified SAR employees work as unpaid volunteers and purchase their own gear and equipment.

With the launch of the  Search and Rescue Fund, Direct Relief aims to mobilize private resources to provide necessary gear and equipment to SAR volunteers across California. The initial focus will be on supporting SARs in the six counties recently identified under the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration: Merced, Monterey, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz.

In announcing this special fund to expand what Direct Relief has been doing informally for years, the organization’s President and CEO Thomas Tighe said, “California’s voluntary search and rescue services are a tremendous resource to the people of California. They train hard, receive certifications, and continually dedicate themselves—often at their own expense and time—to helping people in perilous situations. They embody the best traditions of civic service.

“Direct Relief has always been pleased to help SAR volunteer teams and members obtain the equipment they need to operate safely, especially given the increasingly extreme conditions they are encountering, such as those seen in the recent severe storms have occurred that have ravaged the state. This fund simply provides the opportunity for all interested parties to participate in a targeted manner.”

The fund builds on previous support provided by Direct Relief to SAR teams including:

  • After the deadly Paradise Fire in 2018, Direct Relief purchased several vehicles, including SUVs and a utility vehicle.
  • This month, Direct Relief purchased a flood rescue vehicle for the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), which serves SAR units in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. This vehicle will be a resource shared by the three entities.
  • Five years ago, following the 1/9 Montecito Debris Flow in Santa Barbara County, Direct Relief purchased vehicles and equipment for a number of first responder organizations, including UTVs, specialized rescue equipment and a new Santa Barbara County SAR ambulance. These vehicles and equipment were vital in their efforts to get to those injured or stranded after the devastating event.
  • In 2021, Direct Relief also helped fund a replacement rescue vehicle for the Santa Barbara County SAR.

In addition to supporting first responders and search and rescue teams responding to recent storms, Direct Relief has shipped more than 80 emergency shipments of medical assistance to 66 health centers, free and nonprofit clinics and other organizations in 43 cities across California since January. 1, 2023.

A California-based disaster relief and medical assistance organization, Direct Relief has responded to disasters in the state for decades, including the many wildfires, storms and floods.

Direct Relief is a long-standing partner of the State of California through its Office of Emergency Services and the California Department of Public Health. Direct Relief also serves as a key member of California’s Business and Utilities Operations Center, which mobilizes private resources for the public good during emergencies and ensures resources are deployed in coordination with the officers responsible for the response.


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