As Hurricane Irene, potentially the worst storm the Northeast has seen in over 25 years, bears down on the east coast, citizens are hurriedly making emergency preparations. FEMA provides plenty of checklists and tips for being prepared, and most people will have their emergency kits, spare batteries, and non-perishable food supplies stocked up.
But in addition to making preparations to ride the storm out, we should also be thinking ahead to the aftermath. It was only six years ago, in the wake of Hurrican Katrina, that we saw how devastating a natural disaster can be, not only to the communities immediately in the disaster zone, but to our entire country. We don’t have to have our homes flooded or our personal belongings blown away to be affected by the calamaties that happen to our neighbors.
So what are some ways that we can lend a hand after Irene, or any other natural disaster, has touched our country? Here are a few ideas to consider as you wait out the storm.
Provide housekeeping services. Roll up your sleeves and dig in! Help clean debris out of your neighbor’s yard, offer to wash clothes, help repair broken windows or doors. The feelings of loss after a disaster are overwhelming, and stepping in to take some of the grunt work off another person’s shoulders can be a tremendous help.
Offer to babysit or pet sit. Parents, especially those with small children, and pet lovers may have a lot to deal with in the aftermath of a severe storm. Volunteer to babysit or pet sit for them, and relieve their minds of that extra worry.
Give a ride. People will need rides—to the store, to the doctor’s, to the shelter, etc. Their own vehicles may not be available after a disaster. Offer to provide transportation. If you have a commercial driver’s license, volunteer to drive buses or trucks with supplies.
Donate. Clothes, storage containers, money, supplies—anything is welcome! But especially, consider donating blood, particularly if you have a rare type.
Organize a charity drive. Identify a particular need for the affected community and advertise for donations. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, there was a need for baby items for the numbers of children staying in shelters. Backpacks filled with school supplies might be appropriate for a community whose school was destroyed (such as the case of the Joplin tornado). You can also organize volunteers to create “kits”–meal kits, emergency/first aid kits, baby kits, supply kits for first responders, etc. For ideas on organizing a group volunteer project, check out our previous blog post.
Get the word out. With social media, word spreads faster than wildfire. Just look at how tweets about the DC earthquake outran the earthquake itself! Use your Twitter and Facebook feed to publicize requests for assistance or pass on important news. You can also use your social media connections, such as those on Google+, to find volunteers or seek out existing social good projects to take part in.
Natural disasters aren’t just localized events. They affect all of us. It’s our duty to reach out and help wherever and however we can. That’s how we have a successful social good revolution—one community at a time.
So how are you going to help a community today?