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Disaster Assistance Response Team

The Canadian Forces Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is a unique organization created to deploy to a crisis situation anywhere in the world - situations ranging from natural disasters to complex humanitarian emergencies. The DART, formed in June 1996, gives Canada additional capabilities for speedy response to requests for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This military team deploys quickly into a crisis area, bridging the gap until members of the international community arrive to provide long-term help.



The Canadian government has consistently demonstrated strong support for humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief operations throughout the world. In 1994, the CF deployed 2 Field Ambulance to Rwanda to provide medical relief to the refugees suffering from the many ill effects of the conflict in that country. Despite the best efforts of all concerned, the relief effort arrived after the peak of a cholera epidemic that brought great suffering. This experience convinced the Canadian government of the need to create a rapid-response capability to provide effective humanitarian aid. The concept of the CF Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) was born.

Nationally and internationally, the Canadian Forces has deployed to disaster-stricken regions to conduct humanitarian relief operations. DART's international missions include relief operations in Honduras (hurricane - 1998), Turkey (earthquake - 1999), Sri Lanka (tsunami - 2005), Pakistan (earthquake - 2005), Haiti (earthquake - 2010), Philippines (hurricane - 2013), and Nepal (earthquake - 2015).

Operational Criteria

The DART is a military organization designed to deploy rapidly anywhere in the world to crises ranging from natural disasters to complex humanitarian emergencies. The DART:
  • responds rapidly, in conjunction with national and regional governments and non-governmental agencies, to stabilize the primary effects of an emergency or disaster;
  • provides purified drinking water and medical aid to help prevent the rapid onset of secondary effects of a disaster; and
  • gains time for the deployment of national and international humanitarian aid to facilitate long-term recovery in a disaster-stricken community.

Mission Capabilities

Comprising about 200 CF personnel ready to deploy quickly to conduct emergency relief operations for up to 40 days, the DART can either enhance emergency relief efforts or bridge the gap until members of the international community arrive to provide long-term help. The DART is designed to deploy only to permissive environments that is, locations where it will not encounter any organized resistance or threat.

For international missions, the DART can be activated by a request from either an individual country or from the United Nations (UN). Regardless of the source of the request, the final decision to deploy the DART rests with the Canadian government, based on advice from Foreign Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the Canadian International Development Agency.

In a UN operation, the DART is required to co-ordinate its work with the UN-appointed humanitarian co-ordinator. The DART also co-operates with international agencies on site to achieve the maximum positive impact.

The DART serves four critical needs in emergencies, namely:
  • primary medical care;
  • production of safe drinking water;
  • a limited specialist engineer capability; and
  • a command and control structure that allows for effective communications between the DART, the host nation, and the other agencies involved in the relief effort, including international organizations, non-governmental organizations and UN aid agencies.
Many domestic and international organizations are committed full-time to the relief of pain and suffering. The DART complements these organizations; it does not compete with them.

DART Composition

The DART is composed of highly trained military personnel drawn mostly from Land Force units. It comprises the following main elements:
  • DART Headquarters, consisting of about 45 personnel drawn mainly from the Canadian Forces Joint Headquarters and the Canadian Forces Joint Signal Regiment, both based in Kingston, Ontario. DART Headquarters is responsible for command and control in theatre, and for the strategic-level liaison required to determine and co-ordinate the DART's humanitarian response with the governments of Canada and the host nation, and officials of international organizations and non-government organizations operating in theatre.

  • A logistics platoon of about 20 personnel, responsible for the logistical support services essential to the sustainment of the DART, such as maintenance, transport and movements control, supply, procurement and contracting, and food services.

  • The headquarters of the various DART sub-units deployed on the mission, each comprising about nine personnel, to co-ordinate on-site tasking priorities and provide a command capability for split operations when required. These headquarters provide the day-to-day command and control of the following DART sub-units:

    • An engineer troop of about 37 personnel, including both field and construction engineers. The field engineer element consists of a water supply section, a field engineer section and a heavy equipment section. The construction engineer element provides limited construction and utility services. The engineer troop produces bulk and bagged water from its Canadian-built Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU), which can produce purified drinking water for use by medical services and for distribution to disaster victims. Once it has completed the DART camp an austere facility the engineer troop can take on other tasks in support of the host nation and humanitarian aid agencies.

    • A medical platoon of approximately 40 personnel is able to provide support to area hospitals or to operate a small medical aid station, a tented facility capable of providing care for 200 to 250 out-patients and 10 in-patients per day, depending on the requirements of the mission. The medical aid station currently includes a laboratory, a pharmacy, limited obstetrics services, and re-hydration and preventive medicine sections; it has no surgical or trauma-care capabilities. The medical platoon provides treatment of minor injuries, disease control and routine health care services to relieve the host nation's medical facilities of these responsibilities.

    • A defence and security platoon of about 45 personnel to provide camp security and general support for DART operations

SOURCE: Department of National Defence.

See also
Chief of the Defence Staff
Canadian Army
Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Canadian Air Force
Joint Task Force 2
Communications Security Establishment
CFS Alert

External Links
National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces Official Website
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Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt