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Tips for Disaster Relief Volunteers

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The great fires of California and the Pacific Northwest. Earthquakes, floods, mudslides and avalanches. Mother Nature has always brought her share of surprises, but their impact, and frequency are on the rise. You can help make a difference in the lives of those affected by disasters. Here are a few ways to Create the Good in your community and around the world, by helping people plan, prepare for and recover from unexpected events.

Think before you leap.

When you first hear the news of a disaster, your inclination may be to hop in your car, book the next airline ticket, or do whatever you can to get to the scene. But by first reaching out to organizations on the ground, you can help minimize chaos and make a bigger impact. On a national level, the American Red Cross and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) can help you find volunteer opportunities, including local shelters in need of assistance. If you’re somewhat handy, you could sign up to help rebuild homes. Injuries sustained during disasters inevitably increase the demand for blood donations. You can make a difference without leaving town when you find a local blood drive or donation center. You also could potentially save a life. Many animals become separated from their owners during disasters, or are outright abandoned. If disaster strikes in your community, you can help an affected pet by contacting your local animal shelter.

Visit our Disaster Relief Page for additional opportunities, links and information about immediate disaster response.

Always be prepared.

One of the best ways to minimize the impact of a disaster is to have a plan and emergency provisions in place before it occurs. You can help your family, friends and members of your community get a head start by helping them develop an emergency checklist that’s relevant for their geographic risks such as hurricanes or earthquakes. Or help them build an emergency kit and remind them to keep it replenished. You can also help them find a local shelter and ensure they’re aware of the safest evacuation routes for their communities.

Help smarter.

Think ahead about the ways in which you’d like to be of help should disaster strike. Are you willing to travel? What skills can you bring to the scene? How flexible is your schedule? One way to have a direct impact during a future emergency is to learn how to become a volunteer firefighter or first responder. Or if you’re a licensed mental health professional, you can be a calm voice of reason and hope for a disaster victim suffering from anxiety.

However you decide to help, consider that the effects of a disaster can last for months, or even years after news crews leave the scene. And this is when communities may benefit from your assistance the most.

Find more ideas and ways to help communities affected by disaster here.