Helping in an Emergency

When a disaster happens, the question always
arises, “What can I do?” Here are five things, according to a disaster
specialist, that we can all do.

I asked The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, U.S. Director of The United Methodist Committee on Relief, what we can do when we get the first notice of a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood. It’s more than an idle question, of course.

When a disaster happens we hear reports and see images, and we want to do something. This desire to help is a good thing, of course. It demonstrates our concern for others and expresses genuine compassion. This kind of positive behavior should be encouraged.

But some activities, despite their good intentions, are not helpful. For example, one of the first things many people do is set out to collect donations of material aid. Often this becomes a glut, clogging supply lines and taking up storage that could be used for more immediately needed goods. Often second-hand clothing becomes a burden that relief workers call the “second disaster.”

because it’s not appropriate to the immediate need. Sometimes people offer to contribute services or goods that reflect their own desires rather than the needs of affected persons.

I’ve heard stories in the past few days about people calling shelters insisting that they receive services that aren’t needed. And officials In more than one distribution center told me of individuals arriving with loads of goods (sometimes truckloads) that could not be used. Sometimes they must argue with the potential donors who insist that they take the unwanted goods.

This led to my question of Tom Hazelwood. His response was helpful. First, give money. This allows relief organizations to purchase goods appropriate to the needs based upon their assessment on the scene. Second

Join the conversation!

Post a reply in the form below.

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image