“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” – Abraham Lincoln

Imagine, sitting at home, relaxing after a long day at the office, when all of a sudden, your whole home starts to shake uncontrollably. Or, you are woken up in the middle of the night, to smoke and a shrieking fire-alarm, your home engulfed in flames. Imagine, knowing that a tropical storm is making its way towards land, and you live right in its path. You’ve done all you can to brace your home and prepare for it, but nothing you do will guarantee your home will make it without significant damage.

Disasters can strike at anytime, anywhere and come in any number of forms—fires, earthquakes, floods, and so much more, often with little to no warning. Since moving to a location where natural disasters are more common than I am used to, I have had to think about how to be prepared for the unexpected and what resources are available to me when a disaster does strike. Many resources are available on both a local and a national level, depending on the severity of the disaster and the number of people affected.

Being prepared for a disaster goes beyond having an evacuation plan in place, ensuring all family members know where to meet in the event of evacuation, and having food and water on hand. Sometimes, no matter how much you prepare for a disaster, you might need help from an outside source. Whether that help comes in the form of food and water, financial donations for repairs or starting over, clothing or shelter until you are able to return home, relief can come in many different forms.

Knowledge is power, therefore, knowing what to expect and knowing that you are prepared can go a long way in helping to keep you calm and thinking clearly when in the thick of things. Although, no one can prevent a disaster from happening, being ready can help to protect yourself and your family. At the same time, having the knowledge that there is going to be help and resources with disaster relief, can be comforting and reassuring knowing that you won’t be left alone to pick-up and start rebuilding your life.

While I believe in being prepared, and doing all I can to be self-sustaining in the event of a disaster, chances are there will be times when I’ll need help from outside resources to get back on my feet no matter how prepared I am or not. This point really hit home when my home felt the shocks of two large earthquakes within a few days of each other, something that I had never experienced before. Therefore, I believe it is important to know how to be prepared, how to help others be prepared and know what resources will be available to help following a disaster.

Different organizations, such as, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Delivering Good and Goodwill Industries are in place to help with disaster relief. Not only do they have the resources in place to help following a disaster, they also offer education on preparing for a disaster—kids and adults. Before you find yourself in the middle of a natural disaster, take precautionary steps now to prepare yourself, your family and your home.

While I’ve talked a lot about being prepared for a natural disaster, disasters can and often do occur in many other forms. This can include financial disasters, relationship disasters, family disasters, medical disasters and many other types of disasters. Often, when people experience a financial or life-altering disaster, they don’t know where to start to turn things around and get their lives back on track. The loss of a job, mounting medical bills, divorce, loss of a spouse or child an all have devastating effects on a person’s life.

Unlike a natural disaster where you may have some forewarning that it a disaster is coming; life disasters can be equally as unpredictable as a natural disaster. While many advise that you have a savings account for just such instances, savings might not cover all expenses or happen before you’ve been able to build up your savings. When these instances occur, it is important to know that there are resources available to help you through the hard times, and get back on your feet.

How to Prepare for a Disaster

Because disasters are nearly as unpredictable as the weather, it isn’t possible to be completely prepared for every type of disaster that may, or may not happen to you. It will be in your best interest to educate yourself on the types of disasters that are most common to your area, thereby, giving you a starting point for where you can begin to prepare.

Some general ways in which you can prepare for any type of emergency is to establish an evacuation plan for your entire family. Part of an evacuation plan includes designating a meeting place once everyone is outside of the home. This can be instrumental in helping to ensure that everyone is safe. In addition to having an evacuation plan, when possible have a storage of food supply, drinking water, first-aid supplies, and other essential items. Depending on the severity of the disaster, help can be days away from reaching you; which means that it will be up to you to survive.

Other items that aren’t necessarily required for survival, but can be nice to have include a change of clothes, flashlights or candles, a heat source, radio, toilet paper, and many other such items. In addition to having supplies that will become vital for survival, there are a few other things that you need to prepare ahead of time. According to ready.gov these things should include:

1.      Have a Plan

Things to consider when making a disaster relief plan, include knowing how you, your family members and household will receive and be alerted to emergency alerts and warnings. Are you going to rely on emergency alerts via your cell phone, local news stations, or neighbors? Establish a shelter plan that establishes a safe location for everyone to find a safe place to go or stay for extra protection.  Depending on the disaster, the safest location will vary. Be sure that you have a plan in place for the most common disasters for your area.

Don’t forget in situations where you are unaware of outside conditions, it may be best to simply shelter in place. In situations where you are unable to shelter in place and will need to evacuate as quickly as quickly as possible; be sure that you have an evacuation plan/route in place and that all members of your family are aware of the plan and know where to meet. Because there is an increased chance of evacuating and becoming separated from family members, establish a communication plan that everyone knows, to enable you to find and communicate with each other once you have safely evacuated your home.  

During an emergency, or quickly following one, it is going to be imperative that you know where and how to contact family members and who to call for help. This also includes having important numbers, such as gas and electrical companies, where they can be accessed and notified in the event of an emergency or a disaster.

For families that have small children, be sure that you include in your disaster plan where children can be found. This may be the name or their school or child care provider. For families, where both parents work outside of the home, include all contact information for both parents—cell phone and work contact information.

When establishing your emergency plan, be sure that no single person of your household feels as though they should be responsible for carrying out the plan. Assign different responsibilities to different members of your household, and develop a strategy of how you will all work together as a team to ensure everyone’s safety.

2.      Consider Your Specific Household Needs

No two households are the same, which means that no two-disaster relief, emergency preparedness plans are going to be the same. When creating a plan, take into consideration what supplies you’ll need to meet your daily responsibilities. Discuss what those needs and responsibilities are and how others can provide assistance during a disaster to ensure that all the needs and responsibilities are met.

Specific needs to consider include, dietary needs, medical needs—prescriptions and equipment, disabilities, language barriers, cultural and religious considerations, pets or service animals, school-aged children outside of the home. Because no one else will know your household’s unique needs better than you, it is going to be critical that you have a plan and are prepared to meet those needs until help arrives.

3.      Practice Your Plan

Having a well thought out plan is a good start but it isn’t enough. Once you have developed a customized, emergency/disaster relief plan, that will accommodate your family’s unique needs it is time to put it to practice. You’ll want to have a couple of practice runs with your plan to ensure that it is effective and covers everything you need. Don’t run the risk of being caught in an emergency situation only to then discover that your plan was lacking somewhere, or members of your family didn’t know what to do, who to call, where to meet, or how to contact each other. Although you won’t be able to practice every component of an emergency plan, it is advised that you practice as much as you can. Review it often and practice annually to ensure that any changes made to the plan are rehearsed and everyone is aware of their responsibilities.

Disaster Relief

Preparing for a natural disaster is only half the battle, relief and recovery following is when most will say the real work begins. Picking up the pieces, and working to put life back together following a natural disaster can be emotionally draining, financially crippling and even terrifying. Knowing where to find help to begin rebuilding your home and life, cleaning up and starting over, can make the daunting task a little lighter and easier to face.

Despite all of your best efforts, and your preparedness, there can come natural disasters that you are not prepared for. When this happens, there are organizations and resources in place that can help you get back on your feet and start rebuilding your life. These organizations include the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and many local and religious organizations that are ready and willing to lend a hand.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has many missions that they provide resources and aid to, one of the biggest is that of disaster relief. According to redcross.org, they respond to an emergency every eight-minutes! In addition to responding to emergencies quickly, on average they respond to more than 62,000 disasters every year. Out of those 62,000 disasters, approximately ninety percent were home fires. 

Regardless of the type of disaster, the American Red Cross helps to provide those affected with clean drinking water, safe shelter, and hot meals. When multiple disasters occur at the same time, the Red Cross has the resources and personnel needed to go where they are needed, when they are needed. Part of the reason that the Red Cross is able to provide relief and aid to everyone when needed is because the Red Cross disaster relief workers are comprised of ninety-five percent volunteers.

The mission of the American Red Cross is to meet the immediate needs as a result of a disaster for individuals, families and communities. Whether the disaster is big or small, the American Red Cross is there to provide immediate disaster relief that can make a difficult situation easier to get through.

All of the resources and aid that the Red Cross is able to provide is only available as a result of the generous financial donations that they receive throughout the year. Whether it is a devastating wildfire, hurricane or a home fire, the Red Cross is there. Taking care of those who are hit hardest first, but providing relief to all who need it.

In 2017 alone, the Red Cross was able to respond to 242 large disasters across the world, opened 1,100 emergency shelters, served 13.6 million meals and snacks, along with distributing seven-million relief items. All of this was just in response to the large disasters that occurred. None of this, nor the hot meals, clean water and shelter would have been available to those in need without generous donors. Which is why it is so important that the Red Cross continues to receive monetary donations, where ninety cents out of every dollar goes to humanitarian services and aid. When you donate to the Red Cross through https://agoodcause.com/campaigns/disaster-relief/ you are part of a movement of providing help, relief and aid to those in need.

Habitat for Humanity

The vision of Habitat for Humanity is to see a world where every inhabitant has a decent place to live and call home. As a global, non-profit housing organization, they work in all fifty states across the United States and in approximately seventy different countries across the globe. In order to achieve their vision, they work to build strength, stability and self-reliance among those families and individuals who are in need of decent and affordable housing. Those who qualify for housing through Habitat for Humanity, work alongside volunteers to build their home, therefore, establishing an affordable mortgage that they can then afford to pay upon completion of their home.

When applying for housing through Habitat for Humanity, there is an application process that each family must go through. Each local Habitat for Humanity’s family selection committee, convenes and selects candidates based on three different criteria. These criteria are:

·         The level of need for the applicant and their family.

·         Their willingness to partner and work with Habitat for Humanity to build their home.

·         Their ability to pay their mortgage, through an affordable payment plan.

These three criteria are taken into consideration, because every candidate that is selected, contributes and invests hundreds of their own hours towards labor and sweat equity into their home alongside Habitat for Humanity volunteers. This is a requirement in addition to being financially able to pay an affordable mortgage and receiving financial education. Habitat for Humanity follows a nondiscriminatory policy when determining the family’s eligibility. Race and religion are not a factor when selecting homeowners for Habitat for Humanity homes.

Not only does Habitat for Humanity provide families with new homes, they also work in different ways to ensure that the needs of families are being met in different areas. This is achieved through renovating existing home, which is common in many urban areas. Following a natural disaster, Habitat’s Disaster Response teams work with local communities to address and meet housing needs. In addition, Habitat’s advocacy works tirelessly to raise awareness and support for decent and affordable housing around the world. Outside of North America, Habitat for Humanity works with partner organizations, so that they can serve and help even more families through innovative financing methods.

As a non-profit organization, all homes that are built are done on a not-for-profit basis; as a result, Habitat for Humanity depends on generous monetary donations to continue their work and bring their vision to life. With financial donations, families are able to build personal strength, stability and create independence by having a safe and secure place that they can call home.

While, Habitat for Humanity does rely on financial donations, they accept donations of reusable or surplus building materials, furniture and appliances to assist with building and renovating homes. In addition, Habitat for Humanity has local home improvement stores, called Habitat ReStores where they sell such items as, reusable and surplus building materials, furniture and appliances at a fraction of the retail price to the general public. All proceeds are then used to build strength, stability and self-reliance both locally and around the world.

When making a financial contribution to any organization, many might wonder where the funds go or how they are used. According to the Habitat for Humanity website, when donations are made the giver may designate their contribution to go in support of the U.S. affiliate, national organization or another program of their choosing. Others elect to have their donation be undesignated, which are then invested through the Global Impact Fund, where they are dispersed to areas where they will have the greatest impact.

If you would like to donate to Habitat for Humanity, you can do so through A Good Cause’s on-going disaster relief campaign, which can be found at: https://agoodcause.com/campaigns/disaster-relief/

Delivering Good

In recent years, more and more natural disasters have wreaked havoc across the globe, leaving a path of destruction and devastation behind. When a disaster strikes, relief is needed in every aspect in the lives of those affected. The idea of disaster relief, is to provide necessary items to help those affected by a disaster to rebuild their lives and bring hope for the future.

Delivering Good, is a non-profit organization that is committed to providing assistance and support to communities that are affected by a natural disaster in the days, weeks, months and even years following the initial disaster. Some of the products that they have been able to distribute include apparel, accessories, shoes, home furnishings, toys, books and other useful items that can help those suffering to achieve a sense of normalcy as they work to rebuild their lives.

One thing that makes Delivering Good different than most other disaster relief organizations, is that they unite retailers, manufacturers, foundations and individuals to provide relief to those who suffer from the effects of a natural disaster or poverty. This is achieved by the generous new product donations that they receive from companies in the fashion, home and children’s industries.

Since 1985, Delivering Good has been able to donate over $1.9 billion dollars’ worth of donated products, providing relief to individuals and families across the globe. With all the donations that Delivering Good receives, a whopping ninety-eight percent is distributed to those in need. This makes Delivering Good an extremely efficient charity.

In addition to the product donations that Delivering Good receives, they also accept financial donations that aid them in their efforts. If you would like to donate to Delivering Good’s mission, you can make a monetary donation through A Good Cause’s disaster relief campaign found on their website at: https://agoodcause.com/campaigns/disaster-relief/

Goodwill Industries 

Goodwill Industries is a little bit different than the other organizations, in the fact that they provide training programs, assistance with job placement, and other community-based programs to help enhance people’s dignity and quality of life. This organization is geared towards those who have experienced a life disaster of some sorts and are struggling to make ends meet. Goodwill Industries was founded by Reverend Edgar J. Helms of Boston. He is credited with Goodwill’s philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out”, when he began to collect used household goods and clothing from wealthier communities in the Boston area. He then hired individuals who were poor to mend and repair the items, so that they could then be resold, or given to those who worked on them.

The work and mission of Goodwill Industries has grown beyond the Boston area, with a global reach. Regardless of the location, the mission remains the same—providing employment, education, and skill-building opportunities. In 2018 alone, Goodwill Industries was able to help more than 35.5 million people, according to the Goodwill Industries website. Being able to provide on-the-job training, gives those who have experienced a financial, job, or family disaster the ability to apply for jobs that they otherwise might not have been qualified for. Education often leads to a better job, which then leads to better opportunities, ultimately leading to an improved quality of life. Goodwill Industries is able to help turn a disaster into a blessing in disguise through education and training.

If you would like to donate to the mission of Goodwill Industries and help them to continue to help others, you can make a donation online through A Good Cause at: https://agoodcause.com/campaigns/disaster-relief/

How You Can Help

Whether you’ve experienced a disaster yourself and have been blessed by the generosity and kindness of others through disaster relief; if you feel inclined to help others, donating to disaster relief to be very rewarding. Each of these non-profit organizations and many others are committed to helping communities and families rebuild following a disaster.

Some disasters come with some warning, that gives you time to prepare and get out of the way, others come very unexpectedly. Whether you have time to prepare or not, chances are you will need some outside help to rebuild, get back on your feet and keep moving forward. This help can come in the form of a hot meal to keep your energy up, safe shelter to stay until you can return home, or the resources necessary to start over.

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If you would like to donate to disaster relief, you can make a one-time or regularly scheduled financial donation to A Good Cause’s disaster relief campaign found at: https://agoodcause.com/campaigns/disaster-relief/ .

Author:  Ashley Christensen

Sources:

https://www.ready.gov/

https://www.redcross.org/

https://www.habitat.org/about

https://www.delivering-good.org/

https://www.goodwill.org/

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