Hurricanes Harvey & Irma: How to Help

The 2017 hurricane season has only just begun, but already two storms of historic proportions have struck the U.S. Many residents in the affected areas have lost everything and been forced to evacuate. Recovery is likely to take months, even years, and a lot of money. Despite our faults, Americans have a tradition of helping those in need, but it is important to ensure you are helping in the right way and via credible organizations.

General Assistance

Even before the storms had subsided thousands were taking to social media to ask where they could donate and how they could help. Businesses and well-meaning individuals from coast to coast set up funding sites and organized collection points. But is this really helpful?

According to emergency management experts, it depends. Unless specifically requested donations of food, clothing or household goods are generally NOT able to be used. In past recovery efforts, there were often concerns regarding the condition of such items and they were discarded without ever being used. In other cases, there was not viable distribution system in place when donations were received so items were placed in storage and often damaged or spoiled before they could be distributed- again they were discarded.

Monetary donations are what is most needed and easiest to put to use immediately. But you need to ensure your donation will actually reach those in need. The American Red Cross has a long history of assisting with disaster recovery, including the distribution of donations. Plus, the Red Cross is an established part of each state’s emergency management system so they have the contact in place and people on the ground to get things done. Other options would be a church or fraternal organization charities as they also have experience in responding to wide-scale needs.

What you want to avoid is blindly donating to a website, can drive or door to door solicitation. As we all know Americans have a history of coming together when threatened, but unfortunately there are also those waiting in the shadows looking for an opportunity to take advantage of your well-meaning attitude. Every time a disaster strikes there are reports of scam artists setting up fake funds, taking donations at public events or even hosting charity fundraisers only to pocket the cash without helping anyone in actual need.

Military and first responders

Anyone who has watched the recovery efforts for Harvey or Irma know the extraordinary job our military and first responders have done. Service members, police officers, firemen and others have traveled from all across America to help. But there were also thousands of local service members and first responders standing watch and responding to citizens in need all while their own possessions were lost. Once the water recedes and others are rebuilding they too will face the possibility of having lost everything.

If you want to contribute to the recovery efforts AND ensure the funds are used by service members there are more direct routes that can be taken. Each military branch is supported by a relief or mutual assistance fund established specifically to assist members of that service who are in need. Although not officially operated by the military each is service approved and works closely with leadership to ensure the assistance is directed to the correct recipients without too much delay.

U.S Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Fund

https://www.cgmahq.org/

Navy & Marine Corps Relief Fund

http://www.nmcrs.org/press/entry/responding-to-aftermath-of-hurricane-harvey

Army Emergency Relief

https://www.aerhq.org/

Air Force Relief Society

https://www.afas.org/

When it comes to assisting the law enforcement officers in the affected areas I would normally suggest contacting the department directly. Unfortunately, whole departments find themselves underwater- literally, with no one ability to make contact except in emergencies. Therefore, I am suggesting you contact the Fraternal Order of Police- if the local Lodge is not available you may also contact the statewide Lodge, either will be happy to help.

Texas State Lodge FOP

http://texasfop.org/

Harris County Lodge FOP

http://www.hcfop39.org/

Florida State FOP Lodge

http://www.floridastatefop.org/Home.asp

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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