We've all seen it happen on the news....a terrible tragedy happens in another part of the country and we all want to help. There are different kinds of help. The kind that actually gets to disaster victims and helps restore communities, and the kind that, while well-intentioned, is more trouble than help.
What do disaster victims need most? MONEY.
Financial contributions to established, creditable organizations such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army are best. These donations help in two ways. One, victims will get 'vouchers' to get new clothing and other items that THEY choose. And two, those vouchers are usually used in the victims' community, helping to reestablish the local economy further helping to bring that community back to normal. Just think, if you and your community were flooded, would you rather buy new items of your choosing or would you like to pick through second-hand donated clothes, furniture, etc., much of which is usually 'junk' people were donating just to get rid of? Sometimes disaster victims will need specific items. If specific items are needed, emergency officials will put out the call for them. Unsolicited donations, such as the tractor-trailer loads of used clothing that arrived in Florida after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, can often cause more problems than they were intended to solve. Officials in Florida buried and burned literally tons of used clothing that had just been dumped when people with good intentions sent donations that were neither requested nor needed and there was no way to distribute them. How else can I help? Donate blood. Blood is always needed after a major disaster. Even in your own community supplies are generally lower than needed.
Volunteering in Disaster Operations
How can you assist in disaster operations after a disaster?
Get Involved Now!
Emergency situations, from large to small, bring out those who volunteer to help others in need. A disaster, by definition, overwhelms local government response capability because of its scope and magnitude. Volunteers play a key role in mitigating the problem both in the response and the recovery phase of emergency management.
Government agencies and established volunteer organizations have traditionally joined together in responding to disasters and assisting with recovery activities. MEMA works in conjunction with the Maryland Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (MDVOAD) to coordinate disaster response activities and long-term recovery needs for the State. MDVOAD is an umbrella organization of voluntary organizations that coordinate to foster more effective response to the people Maryland during disaster situations. VOAD is committed to increasing to the volunteer contingency for the State of Maryland, and continuously seeks volunteers to assist in various facets of response and recovery. If you are interested in becoming involved with MDVOAD contact MEMA.
In addition to the State VOAD, there are established volunteer organizations at the local level. If you are interested in becoming involved in disaster operations at the local level, there are some local voluntary organizations active in disasters and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). Contact your local emergency manager regarding how you can become involved with disaster response and recovery at the local level.