When a disaster or emergency happens, we're ready to go. We provide assistance and support when needed — to help communities anywhere in the country. 

In an emergency, we support and work alongside several other organisations including the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), local Civil Defence Emergency Management groups, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, New Zealand Police, and others.   

New Zealand Red Cross has 20 Disaster Welfare and Support Teams (DWST) across the country made up of more than 300 highly trained volunteers. In a disaster or other emergency, you might see our DWST volunteers in the community. We are there to help you and your whanau get through the crisis. 

Our role in an emergency   

New Zealand Red Cross focuses on looking after people’s welfare during an emergency.  This can include setting up and providing support in evacuation centres, undertaking needs assessments to understand what support people need, providing psychosocial support, and inquiry which helps loved ones reunite after a disaster.  

Shelter support 

In an emergency, you may need to evacuate your home if it’s not safe to stay. Our teams will often support evacuation centres. Each team has access to shelter and welfare equipment to make sure impacted people feel comfortable. This includes:  

  • stretchers 
  • portacots 
  • bedding 
  • toiletries, and  
  • a few games to keep kids entertained.   

We will make sure that evacuees have a warm cup of tea or coffee on their arrival, and our teams are trained to welcome and support evacuees throughout their stay.   

Finding out what’s needed 

It’s hard to help people when it’s not clear what their needs are. Needs assessments can help Civil Defence Emergency Management and other agencies to understand what people need and how support agencies can help.  During or after a disaster we will often undertake outreach, visiting people in their homes to do welfare checks and understand how people have been impacted. This information helps people get the help they need in an emergency. 

Emotional support 

Psychosocial support during an emergency and throughout the recovery period is about easing the mental, emotional, and social difficulties for individuals, whānau, and communities, as well as enhancing wellbeing. Our volunteers are trained to provide emotional and practical support to people impacted by emergencies. 

Find out more about emotional support 


Inquiry involves identifying people who have been affected by an emergency and assisting whānau, and significant others to make contact.  Red Cross works with New Zealand Police to reconnect loved ones. We can support by providing international tracing facility through International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies partners. This helps international people connect with their whānau and friends in New Zealand. 

After a disaster 

When the emergency is over, it can take weeks, months, or even years for a community to rebuild and recover. Our role in helping communities recover is determined by the needs of the community and the context of the emergency. This could be related to social connection and emotional support. Where funds are available, we may set up provide financial assistance to those most severely impacted. 

We also run workshops to support communities to help them recover.  

Find out about Recovery Matters workshops  

Future planning 

Part of recovery is building resilience so communities can cope better if there is another emergency. We help communities around the country to get prepared though our Good and Ready programme. 

Find out about Good and Ready 

Useful links in a crisis 

Download the Hazard App 

Find your local civil defence group  

Your local Civil Defence emergency management Facebook page or other social media channel will often have the most up-to-date information.  

Apply to join a Disaster Welfare and Support Team