DISASTER STRIKES, DONATED GOODS AND VOLUNTEERS
MAY BE NEEDED HOW YOU CAN HELP
information is provided by the Federal Emergency Management
Agency and the National Voluntary Organizations Active
in Disaster (NVOAD). For more information about FEMA
please see www.fema.gov
and for NVOAD see www.nvoad.org.
Both organizations believe it is very important for
people to get involved and help their fellow citizens
in time of disaster. The generosity and kindness of
people around the country does a lot to help communities
heal from the tragic consequences of disasters. However,
it is very important to coordinate the help first with
experienced disaster relief organizations and/or the
State and local emergency management offices so that
the people in need of help receive it in the most timely
and effective manner.
is moved when they hear the news that disaster has struck
a community. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes,
fires, and other types of disasters can suddenly change
the lifestyle of a family, community and country.
National Donations Steering Committee, composed of voluntary
organizations active in disasters, federal, state and
local government emergency management personnel has
developed the following information for people interested
in supporting disaster relief efforts.
FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS ARE OFTEN THE BEST KIND
OF DONATION TO MAKE.
a financial contribution to a voluntary agency involved
in disaster relief is often the most sensible and the
most efficient way of helping the people in need after
a disaster. There are several voluntary agencies with
considerable disaster relief experience. These organizations
have disaster skills in many areas such as disaster
needs assessment, disaster clean-up, mass feeding, mass
shelter, first aid, crisis counseling, pastoral care,
child-care, home repair, family casework, meeting "unmet
needs" and many other areas. When the public supports
these organizations with financial contributions it
helps ensure a steady flow of important services to
the people in need after a disaster.
to see a list of the major disaster relief organizations
involved in disaster preparedness, disaster prevention,
disaster response and disaster recovery in the United
States. To learn more about disaster relief organizations
involved in foreign disasters please see www.interaction.org.
Try to find out as much as you can about the work of
the voluntary agency by asking questions of them and
learning of their track record in disaster work.
contributions to voluntary agencies also make sense
for other reasons. The voluntary agency will often spend
the money in the local disaster area thus helping the
local economy get back on its feet. Cash donations rather
than unsolicited donated goods avoid the complicated,
costly and time-consuming process of collecting, sorting,
packing, transporting, unloading, resorting, storing,
repackaging, and distributing the goods. Cash donations
to voluntary agencies help meet peoples' needs more
precisely as the voluntary agency is in a better position
to purchase what the people need or can provide vouchers
for people to purchase what they need. Cash donations
to recognized relief organizations are also tax deductible.
USED CLOTHING IS RARELY A USEFUL ITEM TO COLLECT
FOR DISASTER RELIEF.
clothing is rarely a useful item to collect and send
into the disaster area because it is hard to clean,
sort, pack, transport, store, and distribute. Mounds
of clothing take up valuable warehouse space and frequently
end up being discarded. Constructive things to do with
used clothing are to have a yard-sale to raise money
for the disaster relief organizations that provide goods
and services that the disaster survivors really need.
Used clothing and other small items can also be donated
locally to help community-based organizations in the
CONFIRM THE NEED BEFORE BEGINNING A COLLECTION
OF DONATED GOODS.
most effective way the public can assist is to support
the experienced disaster relief organizations with either
financial contributions or in-kind goods and services
that the organizations report are needed. Many of the
experienced voluntary agencies involved in disaster
relief have toll-free numbers for the public to call
in order to learn what kind of donated goods might be
needed in the disaster area. Often, when large-scale
disasters occur in a State, that State's Office of Emergency
Management, working closely with the voluntary agencies,
will establish a toll-free Donations Coordination Hotline
for the public to call in order to find out what donated
goods and services are needed, if any.
is often a mistake to assume what is needed in a disaster.
Over the years, there has been considerable waste of
countless tons of clothing because it was collected
and sent with no prior coordination. Donors should be
wary of anyone who claims that "everything is needed"
in a disaster. Try to get more precise information before
collecting any donated goods.
DONATE THROUGH AN ORGANIZATION.
is never a good idea to collect goods for disaster relief
without a firm plan in place that confirms the goods
are needed and that addresses who will receive the goods,
how they will be transported and how the goods will
be distributed. Experienced disaster relief organizations
base their disaster relief activities on overall disaster
situation assessments and detailed needs assessments.
Many relief groups, if interested in the donated goods,
have some infrastructure in place to store and distribute
the goods. Coordination with the relief group is essential
so that the right goods are collected, the right amount
is collected, and that the logistics issues of transportation,
warehouse and staging area coordination, and distribution
are fully discussed. Donors will find that it is often
most practical to focus on one or two items that an
organization says is needed rather than collect a variety
of items and have boxes filled with mixed goods.
TRANSPORTATION MUST BE PLANNED IN ADVANCE.
is frequently a major challenge for donors. It must
be planned for in advance otherwise a donor can easily
be stuck with large amounts of donated goods and no
means to bring it to the recipient agency in the disaster
not assume unsolicited relief supplies will be transported
at no charge or at government expense. The donor has
the primary responsibility to find transportation for
the donated goods. Local trucking firms may be willing
to help in times of disaster, if funds are available
to cover part of the expense. Often times donors raise
money themselves to put towards the transportation of
the donated supplies.
DONATED GOODS MUST BE WELL PACKED AND LABELED.
confirming that the goods are needed and there is a
plan to receive, store, and distribute them be sure
that the goods are properly sorted, packaged and labeled.
If unsure, discuss these steps with an experienced disaster
relief organization. Specific content lists should be
taped to the side of each box sent. This allows the
receiving officials to determine what is in the box
without opening it, and gets it to the proper distribution
location in a timely manner. Put yourself in the shoes
of the person on the receiving end of the shipment and
think about making the unloading, unpacking, warehousing,
and distribution as simple as possible.
VOLUNTEERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO AFFILIATE WITH A
VOLUNTARY AGENCY INVOLVED IN DISASTER RESPONSE
the next disaster strikes, get some disaster training.
You will be in a better position to find meaningful
volunteer work at the time of a disaster. Volunteering
through an organization also provides a better chance
of insurance and liability protection. There are many
tasks to do after a disaster - cleaning up and rebuilding
are two of the biggest. Both voluntary agencies and
the local government may be aware of opportunities for
volunteer labor in the long and difficult recovery phase.
Watch the local media carefully to see what volunteer
coordination efforts are being organized. Often the
Volunteer Center in the area is an excellent source
of information about volunteer opportunities after a
the immediate disaster response period there are often
many people wanting to volunteer at the same time. Remember
to be patient. It may not be perfectly clear until a
few days after the incident how a volunteer can get
involved. There are often greater needs for volunteer
help when the community enters the long-term recovery
period. Also, note that volunteers should plan to be
as self-sufficient as they can be so that they are of
little, if any, burden on the disaster-affected community.
following disaster relief organizations belong to the
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
Radio Relay League, Inc.
American Red Cross
(Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team)
Reformed World Relief Committee
of the Brethren
Relief Friendship Foundation
Emergency Response Team
Organization for Victim Assistance
Medical Teams, International
Points of Light Foundation
Harvest National Food Bank Network
of St. Vincent de Paul
Federation of North America
Methodist Committee on Relief
States Service Command