When disaster strikes, the images on television and on-line can be heartbreaking. When the worst of mother nature strikes, the best of human nature comes out. Many residents want to help but in order to make a difference, safety matters. To make the most of your contributions, consider these tips for donating and volunteering responsibly. The Norwalk Office of Emergency Management is sharing these tips from FEMA to help residents donate or volunteer safely.
- Cash is the most efficient method of donating. Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. Remember, unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
- Donate through a trusted organization. At the national level, many voluntary-, faith- and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors.. If you’d like to donate or volunteer to assist those affected by disaster, these organizations are the best place to start. Visit: https://www.nvoad.org/hurricane-harvey/hurricane-harvey-how-to-help/
- Affiliate with existing non-profit organizations before coming to the disaster area. Immediately following a disaster, a community can become easily overwhelmed by the amount of generous people who want to help. Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained to respond in the most effective way. To learn more, visit: http://www.redcross.org/volunteer/become-a-volunteer
- Be safe. Do not self deploy until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites and opportunities have been identified. Once assigned a position, make sure you have been given an assignment and are wearing proper safety gear for the task.
- Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster - especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.
- Be kind. Local and State responders and leaders are making complex, life and death decisions that affect millions of residents. While it’s very easy to criticize their decisions from safe and dry homes a thousand miles away, we’re not standing in floodwater. There will always be politics and second guessing after major disasters, but we can choose to be kind and put our efforts into raising funds or volunteering instead.
- Verify before you share. Stories and photos from the disaster area are all over social media, as well as pleas for money or supplies. Not everyone has the best intentions and unfortunately there are scams, mistruths and photo-shopped pictures. Before you share on your social media sites, take time to verify the source.