An Overview of the Five Lines of Service

When the American Red Cross was first chartered by Congress, a mission statement was drafted that would soon become the focal point motivating all the operations our organization carries out on a daily basis. Since then, the Red Cross has expanded into five distinct lines of service, delineating an extensive community-based network that has provided life-saving assistance for more than 130 years. All of these branches work cooperatively to both fulfill the mission as well as promote One Red Cross values. Check out this fact sheet about youth volunteer opportunities in the five lines of service. Here is a brief overview of that network:

Disaster Services

From large-scale disasters such as hurricanes and floods, to local home fires, the Red Cross has always been there to help individuals and families cope in times of need. Disaster relief focuses not only on the most urgent disaster response efforts, but prevention and preparedness as well. On any given day, when a disaster strikes, Disaster Action Teams and local caseworkers are deployed on-site, stationed at shelters, and on standby at local Red Cross chapters to help those affected receive the food, care, and basic resources they need to recover. Other volunteers may be involved with promoting awareness efforts and educating local communities on how they can be prepared in the event of an emergency.


Service to the Armed Forces

This branch of the American Red Cross focuses on active service members, veterans, and their families. The Red Cross is responsible for providing various humanitarian services and resources to over 1 million active-duty personnel and over 1 million members of the National Guard/Reserves. These services are available across the United States, and in military installations around the world. Emergency communications services play a central role—uniting families with the armed forces, connecting military hospitals and wounded warrior units, providing assistance in health care facilities, and more. The Red Cross also plays an active role in advocating for veterans’ benefits through community-based programs and representation before the Board of Veterans Appeals.



Training Services

Trainings and preparedness education are key facets to the Training Services branch. In an effort to help save lives and strengthen communities, the American Red Cross has a history of providing opportunities to be trained in many of the most useful life skills; from first aid and adult/child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), to automated external defibrillation (AED), to swimming, to lifeguarding, to babysitting, and more, these trainings hope to enable those certified to prevent, prepare for, and respond in a number of life-threatening scenarios. Be Red Cross Ready is a program that teaches people the basics of emergency preparedness using three simple steps: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, and Be Informed. It combines elements from both Training Services in addition to Disaster Services!


Blood Services (Biomedical Services)

One of the most well-known of the five lines of services, the American Red Cross Blood Services branch provides a life-saving supply of blood to 3,000 different hospitals, transfusion centers, and medical facilities every single day. We are the United States’ largest single supplier of blood and blood products, collecting 6.5 million units of blood annually! In order to maintain a supply that meets the demands of patients in need, the Red Cross relies on blood donation centers at individual chapter locations in addition to blood drives held on a regular basis at local high schools, college campuses, and community centers. The National Testing Laboratories of the American Red Cross and U.S. Food and Drug Administration work hand-in-hand to maintain Quality Assurance and Good Manufacturing Practices across the country.


International Services

By partnering with the over 180 other national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies through emergency health services and external disaster response, we strengthen leadership, financial management, volunteer networks, and support the global movement. When disasters arise, American Red Cross volunteers are deployed to these locations in order to provide the most direct assistance to affected homes and families. Community-based programs are at the heart of the American Red Cross’ relief work. International Humanitarian Law education continues to allow youth volunteers here in the US a place to explore the Geneva Conventions and human rights through the lens of limits on warfare.


– Cody Tran, National Youth Council Member, Youth Consortium Call Lead

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