Hurricane Season and Volunteering: How You Can Help Others

New Orleans and South Florida just passed their 10th and 23rd anniversaries of hurricanes that devastated the two states and their residents. In South Florida, we’ve been lucky enough to dodge any hurricane activity for the past handful of years, knock on wood. Although summer is almost over, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t still at risk for a hurricane between now and November, when season ends. Those most at risk in our community are not those who live near the water who can afford to board up their homes and relocate elsewhere, but are those who do not have a home or do not have the resources to properly secure their home. Another surprising group at risk? DYI (do-it-yourself) volunteers, who attempt to go into areas after natural disaster to help sans professional training. Consider this: in many post-disaster situations, there is no food, shelter, services or gas to spare for volunteers. Social situations are also more difficult after a natural disaster. As Coyote Communications puts it, “What will you do when you are accused of stealing from someone? Of harming someone? Of making a situation worse? What do you know about local customs and cultural taboos that, if you violate them, could taint all outside volunteer efforts? Aid workers have been arrested, even killed, because of cultural missteps.”
If you want to help in your community after a natural disaster, take the following steps, per Coyote Communications:
  • Start with The American Red Cross. They offer emergency response training to volunteers, whose services they use to help with families who have lost their homes to fire, to help at their warming centers during freezing weather, and to help with a variety of natural disasters.
  • Check out your nearest community college for CPR and basic first aid training as well as advanced courses. Often times they offer these classes at various times to accommodate busy schedules.
  • Consider joining a local volunteer firefighting unit, or volunteer auxiliary supporting the police -- if you are accepted, you will receive training and experience that can help in disaster relief close to home.
  • Contact the member organizations of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), which coordinates planning efforts by many voluntary organizations responding to disaster, and see what training you need to be involved in the future.
  • Contact the United Way or your nearest Volunteer Center for more information on how to receive training for disaster relief and crisis response.
  • Contact your local animal shelters and volunteer with them as well.
Can you think of other ways volunteers can help the community? Comment below.