Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Practical Ways to Help after a Natural Disaster

We've all watched the latest natural disasters with horror. The devastation and destruction left by tornadoes and earthquakes is unimaginable. It seems like every time we turn around, another disaster occurs.

I felt helpless as I saw people in my own county lose everything they owned. What could be done to help them? FEMA and local authorities can only do so much. And even then, the "big" things like shelter and food are considered while other comforts are not.

When helping out our friends and hearing from others who had pitched in with clean-up efforts, I compiled a list of things to do to help. Some of these things aren't necessarily for survival, but they do make things a bit easier on people affected by natural disasters. You might not be able to rebuild a house, but these little things can bring comfort to people who are in need.

1. Offer to babysit. Children are naturally curious and digging around in a pile of debris is very alluring. Alluring and dangerous. While a family is struggling to find any remainders of their life in a heap of rubble, they don't need to worry about their children getting hurt.

2. Donate storage containers. When they do find something salvageable, where can they put it? Volunteer to store their things until they can get a more permanent location.

3. Wash their clothes. Often disaster areas are without power or water so there's no way to clean salvaged clothes. They can mildew very quickly. If nothing is salvageable, take them shopping for basic necessities.

4. Buy a disposable camera and give it to the affected family. Often insurance companies require photographic proof of damage. But if the family's camera has been destroyed by the disaster, taking pictures is impossible. Get the pictures developed, too.

5. Keep bottled water handy. Cleaning up debris is hard work and takes a lot out of a person. Help yourself and the people you're assisting stay hydrated.

6. Bring along extra work gloves and sunscreen. No one wants to dig through debris without gloves and chances are, if they've lost everything else they won't find a pair of gloves lying around. Under a hot sun with little shade (cause the trees are gone), it doesn't take long to get sunburned, so the sunscreen will come in handy.

7. Fill a can of gas to supply generators or gas-powered equipment. With no electricity, this is very helpful. Our friends were able to save a freezer full of food by running a generator off and on until power was restored.

8. Buy several boxes of garbage bags. Believe me, there are never enough garbage bags when you're cleaning up the mess a tornado leaves behind. Other cleaning supplies are helpful, too - bleach, Clorox wipes, a wet-dry vac if you have one.

9. Put together a personal hygiene kit for the whole family. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, nail clippers, shampoo, soap, wash clothes - anything that will help them feel human again. Don't forget feminine products, too.

10. Home cooked meals and snack items are a huge blessing. It's stressful having to worry about what you're going to eat when everything's gone or the power is off for who knows how long. Having someone care enough to prepare a nutritious meal is a great encouragement.

No kindness is too small in situations like this. Don't let fear of doing the wrong thing keep you from doing anything.

For more tips and hints, visit We are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday.

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