Update (10/9): Since the original date of publishing, the death toll in Haiti and the United States continue to climb. For resources on how to help these affected communities, please refer to the organizations in this blog and suggestions provided by our community of nonprofits in the comments below.
In the United States, extensive preparations were made to address Hurricane Matthew’s impending destruction across the states of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas following the Hurricane’s landfall in Haiti and the Bahamas. The National Weather Service even reported that the storm — now Category 3 — could render Florida “uninhabitable for weeks.”
On Thursday, October 6, 2016, President Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida just hours after Florida Governor, Rick Scott, warned Floridians of its dire potential, and moments before governors of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina declared states of emergency.
In response, 2,500 National Guard members have been deployed with an additional 4,000 at bay if needed. FEMA is proactively responding, too, by placing personnel and equipment close to areas where heavy hurricane damage is expected.
By the time the storm passes this Sunday, millions of Americans may have experienced its devastating effects. Just take a look at the slew of damage Hurricane Matthew left in its wake after making landfall in Haiti on Tuesday, October 4, leaving at least 271 dead.
As our nation watches this natural disaster unfold, the staff here at VolunteerMatch is doing our part to ensure that if you’re in a community that’s expected to be affected, you’re prepared and safe.
And if you’re looking to help an affected community, that you are properly trained or informed about the most effective ways to contribute.
Earlier this year, we published a blog post outlining three ways volunteers can maximize their impact during natural disasters. The key takeaways are still relevant: be realistic about your goals and capabilities, do your research before giving, and keep helping — in whatever capacities you can.
In this post, we’ll expand upon these three points to help you maximize your efforts when it comes to Hurricane Matthew disaster relief specifically.
1. Donate Blood, Money, and Supplies
You can donate money and supplies to organizations that support relief work in affected communities throughout the United States and in the Bahamas and Haiti. In order to help you determine where your valued donations should go — and dodge disaster relief scams like the ones following Hurricane Sandy — we curated a list of organizations that are nationally recognized, reputable, and ready to respond.
These organizations have mobilized to include activities in their strategies specific to Hurricane Matthew, promising to assist survivors with anticipated needs like medicine, shelter, food, and rebuilding efforts. They include (but are not limited to):
Have an organization to add? Share it in the comments section below and add your
organization to the list of disaster relief responders on VolunteerMatch.
If you are able and willing, you could also donate blood to those in need through one of the
American Red Cross’ blood donation centers.
2. Volunteer Your Time
In the wake of natural disasters, it’s important to realize the extent in which you can help. If you live on the west coast, for example, is it realistic for you to jump on a flight and head to Florida? Possibly. And what if you’re not trained in disaster relief but want to help?
You have to be willing to ask questions like these and assess your options thoroughly before making any concrete decisions. Special training and certification are normally required of initial responders to ensure the safety of those impacted.
If you are in — or live near — one of Hurricane Matthew’s affected communities, you can sign up to volunteer with organizations that are directly involved in emergency response operations. The American Red Cross of Central Florida and the American Red Cross of Georgia are some of the more recognizable ones.
CitiImpact Ministries — an organization that bridges hope in life’s disasters by mobilizing partnerships between churches, groups, and individuals — is another.
To get started, visit VolunteerMatch.org and filter volunteer opportunities by location and cause (e.g. disaster relief), or, more specifically, hurricane relief to find a way to give back near you.
Have a volunteer opportunity to add? Share it in the comments section below and add your disaster relief volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch.
3. Keep On Giving
Hurricane season began earlier this summer, and will likely continue through November. Forecasting groups predict the 2016 season to be more active than usual due to an expected transition to La Niña and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures around the world.
As more hurricanes are likely to affect the Caribbean and the southeastern United States in the weeks ahead, you can do your part in ensuring you’re trained to help relieve communities affected by disaster. The American Red Cross and FEMA both offer disaster training opportunities, or you can opt for a virtual training like those offered by DisasterReady.org.
Ultimately, not all relief efforts end in the months following a disaster. It can take years. And organizations helping these communities will likely continue needing your help as their fruitful efforts endure.
In conclusion, it’s great to want to help when disaster strikes. However, before jumping into something that might not ultimately have the impact you intended, take a step back and recap the above steps: be realistic about your goals and capabilities, do your research before giving, and keep helping.
For the latest updates on Hurricane Matthew, please visit CNN’s live coverage or the American Red Cross newsroom.