The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a bulletin with guidelines for those wishing to donate either their time or money to disaster relief efforts in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Harvey.
Among the guidelines issued by DHS are requests from the state of Texas for volunteers not to “self-deploy” to the disaster zone, as this may create an unsafe situation for those volunteers, or they may be turned away by local law enforcement.
Doug Morris, OOIDA security operations director, said more flooding in the coming days and more road closures mean individuals who show up looking to help may find themselves turned away.
“A lot of times people just show up and in some cases, it’s not helping out,” he said. “If you just show up, you could be adding more problems to the situation.”
Donating to relief efforts
DHS says the most effective way to support disaster survivors in their recovery is to donate money and time to trusted, reputable, voluntary or charitable organizations.
“Cash donations offer voluntary agencies and faith-based organizations the most flexibility to address urgently developing needs. With cash in hand, these organizations can obtain needed resources nearer to the disaster location. This inflow of cash also pumps money back into the local economy and helps local businesses recover faster,” the agency said in a news bulletin issued Tuesday.
DHS asks that you not donate unsolicited goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, medicine, or perishable foodstuffs at this time. When used personal items are donated, the helping agencies must redirect their staff away from providing direct services to survivors in order to sort, package, transport, warehouse and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
The bulletin also includes links to trusted voluntary-, faith-, and community-based organizations that are active in disaster recovery, via the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster website. In addition to national members, the Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster has a list of vetted disaster relief organizations providing services to survivors. The Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster represents more than three dozen faith-based, community, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations.
Volunteering in disaster areas
The state of Texas is asking volunteers to not self-deploy, as unexpectedly showing up to any of the communities that have been affected by Hurricane Harvey will create an additional burden for first responders.
The National VOAD also has noted the situation may not be conducive to volunteers entering the affected zone and individuals may find themselves turned away by law enforcement. To ensure volunteer safety, as well as the safety of disaster survivors, volunteers should only go into affected areas with a specific volunteer assignment, proper safety gear, and valid identification.
At this time, potential volunteers are asked to register with a voluntary or charitable organization of their choice, many of which are already in Texas and supporting survivors on the ground.
The National and Texas VOAD websites are offering links to those who wish to register to volunteer with community- and faith-based organizations working in the field.
OOIDA’s Morris said emergency personnel are still in the response and rescue stages. He said it may be 36 hours before the situation transitions to a recovery phase where volunteers will be needed to truck in supplies like generators, fuel and other relief items.
“If you’re not invited down there and (emergency management) don’t know that you’re coming, they’re going to turn you around,” he said. “You need to be hooked up with one of these dedicated loads through FEMA or one of these aid corporations.”
Though downgraded to a Tropical Storm, Harvey is still dangerous, with the potential to affect more areas of Texas and Louisiana. As the situation changes, needs may also change in these areas.
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