“How can I best help the ___ disaster?”

I’m seeing a bunch of posts here and elsewhere about donations to Texas.  Let me offer you my perspective.  Right now, I’m in the Harris County EOC.

Unsolicited donations take a huge amount of resources to receive, sort, and distribute.  The priority now is life-saving and life-sustaining.  All resources (people, stuff and money) need to focus in this direction … and also to a longer view of helping people recover to a new normal which may take weeks or months for most, and never for others.

Organizations purchase the primary disaster supplies in advance of a disaster.  A good size chunk of the monetary donations will be used to replenish stock for the next disaster.  They’re all emptying their warehouses.  A lot on faith that the American public will donate.

Pick your favorite charity.  Examples: American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Convention, Save the Children … many more are listed at https://www.nvoad.org

See what they’re asking for.  A lot ask for money because that is what helps things move.  Money fuels the trucks, pay for transport and distribution.  Even volunteers aren’t free; they need to eat and sleep too which takes money.  Money is also given directly to survivors.  It replaces prescriptions, purchases medical equipment, and other supplies to help drive survivors’ recovery.

Not certain you believe what charities post on their website?  Go visit https://www.charitynavigator.org

They’re widely accepted as a neutral and reliable third-party rating of charities.

While I’m here…. the new cycle.  Many people are working very hard on this (and every) disaster response.  During the disaster and at the start of the response, the news is everyone friend.  The dramatic rescues and visuals are good for ratings.  But that wears off in about a week.  Then the news media turns on the responders.  Shouldn’t you have been more ready?  Why didn’t you do ___?  Everyone knew that Texas would get record setting rain sometime, right?  Why did you evacuate the tourists and ruin their vacations?  Why didn’t you evacuate the residents?

Everyone is talking about Houston.  There are many communities in Texas suffering that don’t make the news.

Want to know what rivers are flooding?  https://waterwatch.usgs.gov

Want to know how much rain will fall?  http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/qpf/day1-7.shtml

Want to know where the storm will hit?  http://www.spc.noaa.gov and http://www.nhc.noaa.gov

Want to know where the winds are?  https://www.windy.com/

Social media doesn’t help either.  You’ll see an email or post somewhere claiming some blown out of context tragedy, and passionately click the forward button without checking it.  Please pause and verify against multiple trustworthy sources.  The airport didn’t flood so bad that planes were underwater (despite the photo you’ve seen).  I’m waiting for the obligatory shark swimming past house photo we see at every flood.


What do I think a person can do to help?

  1. Support your favorite charity with either your money or time. And keep doing it after this disaster ends.
  2. Test your smoke alarm. Home fires are still the leading disaster that kills people.  If it were a single event, you’d be outraged at the deaths.
  3. Get to know your neighbors. The single biggest indicator of the resilience/recovery of a community is how well people knew each other before the disaster.  Income, location, demographics and other factors don’t matter.


Thank you for reading this far.