10 Ways to Help in Hurricane Harvey Disaster
Monday, August 28, 2017
Hurricane Harvey aka Tropical Storm Harvey is unfolding as the largest US catastrophe since Hurricane Katrina. Rain and flooding are expected to continue this week.
What can you do to help? Also, how can you do no harm?
1 -- DO NOT SEND STUFF. Donations clog up all kinds of works and take logistical support away from priority material needs. Don’t send them even if your church or any other group says they will do good. They almost never do - especially during response - take tons of time to sort out, and often end up in warehouses or landfills. It is not helpful for organizations to deal with unrequested donations in the middle of a disaster.
DO donate items to local charities where you live who can actually use them, now.
2 -- DO send money - only if you are financially able. Find a reputable organization that is trusted. Use good cyber hygiene. Only send money via trusted channels and organizations. Scammers will pop up during any disaster. Be aware. Follow your instincts.
3 -- DON’T even think about going to the disaster now. Do not self-dispatch. Do not go while the disaster is unfolding. Do not go anywhere near the disaster, unless attached to a very organized volunteer organization that actually expects you and needs your specific skills and abilities. This will not happen until days or weeks after the impacts are the worst. Volunteer organizations are more needed in the “recovery” phase - and we will be in “response” still for the next several days at least.
People who show up to “help” in disasters outside of the established protocols create confusion and additional needs for logistical support when resources are already stretched. It does not matter if you are a highly skilled medical doctor or a generally able-bodied person: stay home. Systems are in place to mobilize qualified individuals to places where they are specifically needed.
If you are interested in volunteering, find an existing organization that does disaster recovery work and make a plan to help with disaster recovery for this event. Help will be needed for months and years - there is time.
If you want to sight-see, there will also be time for that. Plenty of damage to see later. Don’t go during the disaster or the immediate aftermath - you will only add to traffic congestion in an area with damaged infrastructure and capability.
4 -- Do not spread misinformation. Double-check your info before sharing it with others. We can counter fear by speaking truth - and by not amplifying false or biased information. This includes rumors about the response, and rumours about donating money to organizations that help with disasters. There are channels online to verify rumours, and to determine organizational effectiveness for donations, and to check the cyber security of data/money you send.
5 -- Support people in the disaster zone. If you are in communication with those in the impacted areas, be supportive. Do not try to panic them more: they will hopefully be trying to stay calm or at least reasonable. We make better decisions when we are not panicked. Try to provide constructive support, and not support that complicates their situation. Also, those with limited or no power will need to conserve batteries. Reach out in the comments section if you have specific questions about supporting those inside a disaster.
6 -- Support people who are in need of rescue. 911 systems within the disaster are overloaded, and this is known by local agencies. If you know of alternative numbers, post them in comments below. A few US Coast Guard numbers are in the comments. Local cities and counties are encouraging people to use 911 in lieu of social media, as social media channels are complex to monitor and track responses to. If you are in touch with those in impacted areas, you may be able to use your internet to research options for people inside the zone. This may include checking local jurisdictions’ websites and social media channels for any new information about how to make contact to get rescued. You may also be able to research shelters, road closures, flood impacts, or other info.
7 -- See what you can do in your local community to receive potential evacuees. After Hurricane Katrina, evacuees were resettled across the US. There are many resources available on this, as communities have shared successes for approaches that worked.
8 -- Get ready for a disaster where you live. See what you can do to be ready for a disaster in your home, community, or state. We can always be more resilient and more prepared. Whether it is a broken leg, an active shooter, or a tornado – we are all vulnerable. Stuff is going to happen. We’ll be better if we have put some thought into it ahead of time. We are also better able to help others and other communities when we can take care of ourselves. That’s why you put your own oxygen mask on first on the plane - we can’t help anyone if we can’t breathe.
9 -- Take care of people where you live. Do it in honor of the people who won’t be able to in this current disaster. Do it because you don’t want to have to wait for a wake-up call to appreciate what you have. Do it because you can. Thousands are already impacted by this disaster – the power outages alone will be expensive and cause loss, let alone the impacts from wind and flooding. Take care of your people now. That’s something we can all do.
10 -- Practice empathy and empowerment. Disasters can cause panic, trauma, anger, and helplessness. We can help take care of each other by getting and staying grounded ourselves. We can be empathetic to those struggling, panicked, impacted, and also coordinating the response, volunteering, organizing, and reporting. We can empower those who are struggling to take decisive action. In crisis, we can each be the person who makes a decision that matters, and that makes a difference. We can also support those who are leading. Disasters bring out the best and worst in people. We each make a choice which it brings out in us.
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NOTE: This post was also published on the Counterfear Facebook page here, and includes discussion and comments.
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