How You Can Help Communities Affected by Hurricane Harvey

You’ve likely heard by now that Hurricane Harvey brought unrelenting rain to some of Texas’ most populous cities. By the time the storm wears off later this week, federal officials predict its effects will drive 30,000 people into shelters, spur nearly half a million victims to seek disaster assistance, and inundate some areas with more than 50 inches of rain.

What we know for sure is that, according to the National Weather Service, this event is unprecedented. And all of its impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.

In a response to these growing concerns, Texas Governor Greg Abbott activated the Texas National Guard — roughly 12,000 personnel — today to help with recovery relief efforts, alongside the Federal Management Agency (FEMA) and other officials.

But that doesn’t mean those watching on the sidelines can’t do their part.

If you’re in an area that’s been affected and are in need of assistance, please dial 911 or contact the U.S. Coast Guard immediately: (281) 464-4851, (281) 464–4852, (281) 464–4853, (281) 464–4854, (281) 464–4855.

And if you’re looking to help an affected community, we hope this post will inform you of the most effective ways to lend a hand. Before we dive in, we can’t stress these sentiments enough: be realistic about your goals and capabilities, do your research before giving, be safe and keep helping.

Donate Blood, Money, and Supplies

To help you determine where your valued donations should go — and dodge disaster relief scams such as the ones following Hurricane Sandy — we curated a list of organizations that are recognized, reputable, and prepared to respond.

These organizations have mobilized to include activities in their strategies specific to Hurricane Harvey, promising to assist victims and survivors with anticipated needs such as medicine, diapers, shelter, food, and rebuilding efforts. They include (but are not limited to):

American Red CrossCatholic Charities USA
Direct ReliefHurricane Harvey Relief Fund
Portlight StrategiesSalvation Army
Save the ChildrenSPCA of Texas
Texas Diaper Bank United Ways of Texas

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 can also donate blood to those in need through one of the American Red Cross’ blood donation centers across Texas.

Volunteer Your Time

In the wake of natural disasters, it’s important to realize the extent to which you can help. If you live on the west coast, for example, is it realistic to jump on a flight and head to Houston? Possibly. But you could end up doing more harm than helping.

So, what if you’re not trained in disaster relief but still want to help?

You have to be willing to ask yourself questions such as 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 Harvey’s affected communities, you can sign up to volunteer with organizations that are directly involved in emergency response operations. The American Red Cross of Texas Gulf Coast is one of the more recognizable ones. Trusted World — an organization based in Allen, TX that provides for the basic needs for under-resourced people — is another.

To get started, visit VolunteerMatch.org and filter volunteer opportunities by location and cause (e.g. disaster relief), to find a way to give back near you. If you have a volunteer opportunity to add, please share it with our readers in the comments section below and post your disaster relief volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch.

Keep On Giving

Recovering from disasters such as Hurricane Harvey takes time.

It’s essential to realize that disaster relief and recovery efforts don’t terminate following a storm, but can endure for months or years down the road. Your giving attitudes should mirror this fact.

If helping others in the wake of a natural disaster is your calling, do your part to ensure you’re trained to help relieve affected communities for the long-haul. Both the American Red Cross and FEMA offer disaster training opportunities, or you can opt for virtual trainings such as those offered by DisasterReady.org.

Finally, it’s great to want to help when disaster strikes. Before jumping into something that might not ultimately have the impact you intend, take a step back and review the above steps: be realistic about your goals and capabilities, do your research before giving, and keep helping.

For the latest updates on Hurricane Harvey, please visit the New York Time’s live coverage or the American Red Cross newsroom. For additional ways to help, read these helpful resources compiled by DoSomething.org and Texas Monthly.

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