How Can You Help in Times of Disaster?

The hours and days following man-made and natural disasters repeatedly prove there are many heroes and helpers who want to respond to people in need.

In response to the question, "What can I do?", there are some helpful ways to assist individuals and communities recovering from the aftermath of a disaster. And, the compassion and generosity of the American people is never more evident than in times of disaster.

Here are some general guidelines from FEMA on helping others after a disaster.

  • Man working on reconstructing home.In addition to the people you care for on a day-to-day basis, consider the needs of your neighbors and people with special needs.
  • If you want to volunteer, check with local organizations or listen to local news reports for information about where volunteers are needed. Until volunteers are specifically requested, stay away from disaster areas.
  • If you are needed in a disaster area, bring your own food, water and emergency supplies. This is especially important in cases where a large area has been affected and emergency items are in short supply.
  • Do not drop off food, clothing or any other item to a government agency or disaster relief organization unless a particular item has been requested. Normally these organizations do not have the resources to sort through the donated items.
  • You can give a check or money order to a recognized disaster relief organization.
  • These groups are organized to process checks, purchase what is needed and get it to the people who need it most.
  • If your company wants to donate emergency supplies, donate a quantity of a given item or class of items (such as nonperishable food) rather than a mix of different items. Also, determine where your donation is going, how it's going to get there, who's going to unload it and how it's going to be distributed. Without sufficient planning, much needed supplies will be left unused.