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Donating To An Area Hit By Disaster

Updated on May 24, 2011

When a disaster hits an area many people scramble to assist those who have survived. People go through their belongings and visit stores, gathering and buying supplies to send to help people affected. Some organize drives to collect things to send to a disaster area. Many volunteers go to the area to offer their assistance. Many donate money to organizations that help survivors.

But before you do any of the above here are a few points to consider.

The first things that are going to happen in a disaster area are search and rescue and immediate medical care. Soon after the search and rescue start they will start setting up shelter areas and bringing in food and water. Clothes, etc. come later. This is not the time to start gathering foods, clothes and other stuff. You should not go to the area unless they are asking for all available people in the area to go help search for survivors. When a tornado hit Greensburg, Kansas they were asking over the TV for all available people in the surrounding areas to go help. If the area needs help searching they will find a way to let you know. You can also call your local sheriff's office and offer assistance with searching. Every community should have a disaster plan in effect with first responders ready to go. These first responders are very important in starting any search and starting the process of getting things organized on the scene. Do not go into the area until it is okayed by officials.

If you are asked to respond to a disaster area, go prepared. You do not know what you will be walking into. Take flashlights and wear heavy duty shoes. You may fall into a basement where a house used to be. You may step on nails or other sharp objects. Watch out for downed power lines. Listen for leaking gas lines. You will not be any help if you get hurt yourself. Ask the coordinators of the search how to mark any houses or buildings you check. Ask them which areas you are to go search. Find out how you are supposed to notify someone in case you find a victim.

Do not be a curiosity seeker just wanting to see the damage done. That can wait, the damage will still be there next week. You could be in the way, hampering any search that may be going on. You could block a road and prevent emergency vehicles from getting into or out of the area. You could very possibly become a victim yourself. It just increases confusion trying to divert traffic around an area already in chaos. If you have family there, that is different, get there ASAP if you are close, but be careful.

A couple of well known organizations that will be on the scene in a short amount of time will probably be the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. These are only two of the many organizations out there. There are many more. They are dedicated to helping victims affected by disasters. They provide a lot of services, from medical to feeding and sheltering, and many more.

What can you do to help? Call one of the organizations dedicated to responding to disasters and ask them what they need donated. Do not take it upon yourself to start gathering supplies and clothes, or plan on driving or sending donations to the area. These organizations have trained, experienced responders on the scene. They are experienced in evaluating what needs done, and what they need from donations. They do not need donations pouring in with things that are not needed. Stuff that is not needed takes up space that could be used for something needed. Responders that could be helping people in need are stuck sorting through stuff they don't need.The organizations responding usually have a store of supplies to get started with. Every disaster is different and what is needed is different. That's why it is so important to find out what is needed.

Don't forget to ask about pet supplies and pet boarding. Some shelters do not allow pets. If you can pay for a pet to be boarded at an animal shelter, offer that. If you have facilities to board pets, offer that. If you have fencing that can make a temporary dog run, offer that. Or you can ask if anyone is trying to get shelter for pets set up and if not, offer to contact animal shelters and veterinarians to see if they could shelter some pets. If the pet owner has family in a close by area or town, offer to transport the pet to the family member. Think twice about sheltering someones pet in your home. The pet has been through a traumatic experience also. It will be disoriented and confused and may not be able to tolerate a stranger and strange surroundings. It is a great comfort for a disaster victim to know their pet will have a safe place to stay too.

A Word About Organizations And Donating Money

A lot of people don't trust that the money, or material things they donate, actually get to the people they intend it for. Some of the material things do not because it was not needed. If it's a legitimate organization, your money is being used in the best possible way. Allow the organization time to provide it's help in the best possible way. Different needs arise every day in a disaster.

Beware of fake charities. As with everything else, there are those out there that take advantage of the situation. Investigate any charity you may think about donating money to. Call them and ask them questions. If they aren't able to answer your questions to your satisfaction, don't donate. Look for organizations with experience in the disaster you are wanting to donate for. Visit an organizations web site. Take time to get to know about the organization and what they are doing for a certain disaster. Understand what it is specifically that they do. That way you will be able to make informed decisions about who to donate to and what to donate.

Don't judge an organization on what it spends on administation costs. There are many things that can be counted in administration costs that are actually on the spot costs. It depends on how it is allocated. Administration costs are not an indication of it's quality or effectiveness or the help it provides. The size of an organization is not an idication of it's quality or effectiveness either. Find out about them and what they do.

Money is the best thing that can be donated. With that money organizations can buy many of the things needed locally, which helps the community affected. They can buy what they need and how much they need. After a disaster hits a community, people from the community get to work opening damaged or makeshift stores to sell bottled water, food and supplies. Someone will get a damaged gas station operating again. If money is donated, debit or gift cards can be purchased to give victims. That way they can buy what they need. If supplies can be bought locally it helps the community start to get back on it's feet.

After your donation is made, be it money or supplies, think about donating to organizations that teach disaster preparedness and responding to disasters. Think about becoming a volunteer. Many organizations teach their volunteers how to deal with emergencies and disasters.

The next best thing you can donate is your time by voluteering to help. If you are skilled in a profession, can help go through donations, can help clean up debris, or cook and serve food, and can take time from your life, donate your time. Volunteers are needed too.

Here is a link to the Red Cross' page that has preparedness information you can print out.


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    • shaymonu profile image

      shaymonu 6 years ago from Kansas

      Thank you!