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Direct Relief Establishes Search and Rescue Fund Following Devastating California Storms 

The organization aims to mobilize private resources to help equip SAR volunteers throughout California with the gear and equipment. they need.


Extreme Weather

A specialized vehicle for Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue was purchased by Direct Relief for use during emergency response and rescue efforts. Direct Relief is launching a fund to ensure search and rescue groups across the state, most of whom are volunteer and pay for their own equipment, have what they need to respond to future emergencies. (Courtesy photo)

In response to the devastating storms that flooded much of California, Direct Relief today announced the establishment of a Search and Rescue Fund and an initial $100,000 from its general operating expenses to further equip search and rescue teams across the State with needed equipment and gear.

Increasingly frequent and intense climate-related disasters are stretching first responder agencies, especially regional search and rescue (SAR) teams. Statewide in California, approximately 7,500 certified SAR personnel serve as unpaid volunteers and purchase their own equipment and gear.

In launching the Search and Rescue Fund, Direct Relief aims to mobilize private resources to help equip SAR volunteers throughout California with the necessary gear and equipment. The initial focus will support SARs in the six counties that were recently identified under the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration: Merced, Monterey, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz.

In announcing this dedicated fund to expand what Direct Relief has done informally for years, the organization’s president and CEO Thomas Tighe said “California’s volunteer Search and Rescue are a tremendous resource for the people of California. They train hard, obtain certifications, and deploy constantly – often at their own time and expense – to help people in dangerous circumstances. They epitomize the finest traditions of citizen service.

“Direct Relief always has been pleased to help the SAR volunteer teams and members secure the gear they need to operate safely, particularly in light of increasingly extreme conditions they encounter, as occurred in the recent severe storms that pummeled the state. This fund simply provides the opportunity for anyone who might be interested to participate in a focused way.”

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

  • Following the deadly Paradise Fire in 2018, Direct Relief purchased several vehicles, including off-road trucks and a utility vehicle.
  • This month, Direct Relief purchased a high-water rescue vehicle for the California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), which is responsible for SAR units in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties. This vehicle will be a shared resource among the three units.
  • Five years ago, after the 1/9 Montecito Debris Flow in Santa Barbara County, Direct Relief purchased vehicles and equipment for a number of first responder agencies, including UTVs, specialized rescue gear, and a new rescue truck for Santa Barbara County SAR. These vehicles and equipment were critical in their efforts to get to people who were injured or stranded after the devastating event.
  • In 2021, Direct Relief also helped fund a replacement rescue vehicle for Santa Barbara County SAR.

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

As a California-based disaster relief and medical aid organization, Direct Relief has responded to disasters in the State for decades, including to its many wildfires, storms, and flooding.

Direct Relief is a long-time 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 benefit during emergencies and ensures resources are deployed in coordination with public officials managing the response.

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