Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Disaster Relief: How to Get Involved.. effectively

How to Effectively Get Involved in Disaster Relief:
All of our attention has been focused on the communities affected by the Oklahoma tornadoes, and I think most of us are wondering what can we do to effectively be of help.  Relevant Magazine posted an article that had some really great points to remember when thinking about disaster relief.  I shared a few of them on-air this morning, and I've paraphrased them below.  Click the link above to read the full article.

Here are five key things to remember when thinking about disaster relief:

1) Get prepared and received proper training, before sending volunteer teams.  The time to prepare to help in a disaster is before a disaster strikes.  Rushing off to a disaster zone without proper training and support doesn't make the situation better; it just adds to the chaos.  So, do this instead.  Contact reputable organizations like Samaritan's Purse or the Redcross who have volunteer networks with a list of specific projects you can help with.  You can also get your church involved by training in disaster relief now.  Ask the trained professionals for suggestions on how your ministry can effectively help in the case of a disaster.  The Lutheran Disaster Response Ministry says, "It is nearly impossible to predict when or where a disaster is going to take place. It is possible, however, for communities to prepare for what may happen. Disaster preparedness readies us for the unexpected, and it allows for a more organized, timely, and efficient response when disaster strikes."

2) Monetary Donations are often more helpful than volunteers. I know that when disaster strikes we want to do something to help.  It's a natural response when you see someone in need, but we need to remember that disaster victims needs are ever changing and monetary donations give Relief organizations like the Red Cross the ability to help with the current needs of victims.

3) Make sure you donate to established reputable relief agencies.  These relief agencies have been at work preparing for potential disasters long before anything happens, and you can trust that your donations are going to be effective and used for the assistance of those affected by disaster.

Here are a few links of some long standing relief agencies:
Red Cross
Samaritan's Purse
Salvation Army
Convoy of Hope

Each of these organizations have opportunities to assist with the relief efforts of the Oklahoma Tornado as well as other resources for you and your ministry.  "By giving to agencies already in place, you minimize inefficiency and get resources to the areas of need."

4) Find out what is actually needed before needed.  "Avoid the temptation to load up a tractor-trailer with supplies unless you are directly connected with someone on the ground.." and they have made a specific request for those items.  Again, we need to keep in mind that our goal is to meet needs and not add to the chaos.  So if you want to do fundraising efforts to support a reputable relief agency, it is better to either donate money or ask the organization for a list of specific items that they need donated.  Disaster zones don't need any unnecessary items piled up and unfortunately that's what happens when well meaning individuals send items that haven't been requested.  Needs will vary with time and depending on location.  So it's better to ask so we can be most effective and get the right resources in the hands of those who need them.

The Red Cross now offers a Tornado App
Prepare YOUR Family:
The Red Cross now has many great resources to help you prepare your family for any scenario.  We are entering severe weather season, and while we put our trust in God we should have an emergency plan.  Make sure your family knows the safest place to go in case of severe weather in different scenarios (home, while driving, in a store, etc).  The Red Cross Website will help you teach your family about severe weather safety.  Here are a few of their suggestions:

The Red Cross urges everyone to pick a safe room in their household where loved ones and pets can gather, such as a basement, storm cellar or interior room on the lowest floor with no windows. Mobile homes are not safe during tornados. If someone is in a mobile home, they should get to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately—do not wait until the tornado is visible. People should also:
  • Know your community’s warning system.
  • Prepare for strong winds by removing diseased and damaged limbs from trees.
  • Move or secure lawn furniture, trash cans, hanging plants or anything else that can be picked up by the wind and become a projectile.

  • If someone is caught outdoors, they should seek shelter in a basement, shelter or sturdy building. If that’s not possible, they should take the following steps:

  • Get into a vehicle immediately, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If flying debris occurs while driving, pull over and park. They can stay in the car with the seat belt on with their head down below the windows, covering their head with their hands and a blanket if possible.
  • If it is possible to safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, another option is to exit the car and lie in the low area, covering their head with their hands.
  • Your choice should be driven by your specific circumstances.

  • More information on tornado safety, including videos and downloadable checklists, is available in the Preparedness section of

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