Disaster Relief Tips

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What is disaster relief?

Disaster Prevention and Relief

In the United States, most cities have an "emergency operations center" that coordinates the city's efforts in the case of emergency (such as a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake or a terrorist attack). Preparations for such efforts have improved in recent years, but even the most prepared towns, cities, states and countries are not always well-equipped to deal with them.

The ramifications of natural and man-made disasters can be devastating! Huge disaster relief efforts are usually required to address the material damage, and to meet the basic physical and emotional needs of people affected by disaster.

Who participates in disaster relief and recovery efforts?


AmeriCares provides immediate response to emergency medical needs and supports long-term humanitarian assistance programs for people around the world. AmeriCares solicits donations of medicines, medical supplies, and other relief materials from the United States and international manufacturers. Then, it delivers them quickly and efficiently to indigenous healthcare and welfare professionals around the world.

In areas affected by disaster, AmeriCares works with international and local NGOs, hospitals, health networks, and government ministries to identify the most urgent needs and deliver supplies quickly and safely.

*To find out more about the AmeriCares model and its success, and to find out how you might support its work, visit www.americares.org.

Who participates in disaster relief and recovery efforts?

Red Cross Disaster Relief

The American Red Cross is required by Congressional charter to undertake disaster relief activities to ease the suffering caused by a disaster. The Red Cross works both at the local level, responding even to house fires, at the national level, responding to larger-scale emergencies such as hurricanes and floods, and in the international arena, providing ongoing humanitarian aid to victims of natural disaster and war. Emergency assistance includes:

• Feeding stations
• Shelter
• Cleaning supplies
• Comfort kits, first aid
• Blood and blood products
• Food, clothing
• Emergency transportation
• Assistance with rent
• Home repairs and household items
• Medical supplies

The American Red Cross may also provide additional assistance for long-term recovery when other relief assistance and/or personal resources are not adequate to meet disaster-caused needs, and the American Red Cross will also provide referrals to the government and other agencies providing disaster assistance.

What is disaster relief?

Emergency and Disaster Operations

Emergency operations and emergency preparedness is a set of doctrines intended to prepare societies to cope with natural or man-made disasters. Disaster relief is the subset of these doctrines that is concerned with recovery efforts.

Often a government policy adapted from civil defense operations and disaster relief efforts in the United States and around the world is initiated or supplemented by nonprofit organizations to attend to the humanitarian needs of disaster victims.

Who participates in disaster relief and recovery efforts?

In Nonprofitorganizations are the Backbone of Disaster Relief Efforts

Less-developed countries often seem to be hit disproportionately by disasters such as earthquakes, drought, et cetera. Whether this is statistically true or not, the fact that these nations possess fewer resources in general means that they are truly strapped in times of crisis.

Less-developed countries need more external financial and physical relief than wealthier victims of disaster might. Thus, there exist many emergency relief organizations that operate on an ongoing basis and are prepared to deal with such crises when they occur, regardless of where in the world the disaster strikes.

What are the phases of disaster relief and recovery?

Disaster Relief Services

After the initial rescue and mitigation activities, many areas of the world affected by disaster also require the delivery of food, clean drinking water, and interim shelter. Disaster relief charities are able to deliver such supplies—often in situations where civil turmoil has erupted due to the deprivations that come with disruption and disaster.

In addition to attending to the basic needs of displaced people, disaster recovery services also work to rebuild damaged infrastructure (such as fixing roads and bridges, restoring electricity and sanitation services, and reestablishing communications). These recovery efforts start immediately and can go on for months or even years.

One of the challenges faced by nonprofit organizations that provide disaster relief is the tapering off of support. When a disaster first strikes, everyone wants to help, however, as the shock wears off and media coverage declines, so do donations. The need persists and disaster relief and recovery activities continue but the response typically diminishes.

One way you can help is to keep disaster relief charities in the back of your mind; if you cannot send a donation when a disaster strikes, rest assured that it will be well-used even if you send it weeks or months later. If you can afford to, consider donating to such organizations a few times a year.

What are the phases of disaster relief and recovery?

Focusing on Rescue and Mitigating Damage

Whether a disaster takes place in New York City or in Bangladesh, a common challenge is a lack of enough trained responders. Many professional emergency services support about only ten trucks per 100,000 people, and take at least a half hour per rescue. Unfortunately, this means that up to 75% of salvageable victims can die in the time it takes the rescuers to reach them.

By having more trained first-line responders, the work can be done more efficiently and effectively, and more lives can be saved. Energy in the hours immediately following disaster must be focused on rescuing people and also on preventing any further damage or industry. Disaster relief organizations can help by being nearby, by having enough trained people who can lend a hand and by having diversified services so that rescue and mitigation can happen simultaneously.

*You can support disaster relief organizations by donating to them, or you can look into becoming part of your local emergency response volunteer team, as well.

Who participates in disaster relief and recovery efforts?

Local religious organizations are at the forefront of disaster relief.

Disasters tend to be a time when people within a community pull together; churches and other places of worship provide a center for such community activities, and even serve as shelters in times of emergencies. Also, because religious organizations tend to hold charitable virtue as a primary tenet of their faiths and missions, they tend to be at the forefront of mobilizing and providing community-based assistance in times of emergency or disaster.

In the United States, these organizations include (but are not limited to):

• Adventist Community Services (ACS)
• Catholic Charities USA Disaster Response
• The Christian Disaster Response (CDR)
• The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC)
• The Church of the Brethren Disaster Response
• Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response
• The Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief
• The Friends Disaster Service (FDS)
• The International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF)
• The International Association of Jewish Vocational Services (IAJVS)
• The Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR)
• Mennonite Disaster Services
• The Salvation Army
• The Society of St. Vincent De Paul
• The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
• The UJA Federations of North America
• The United Methodist Committee on Relief

If you are affiliated with a place of worship or a particular faith, chances are that you will find out more about disaster relief efforts, when you are needed, and how you can help. If you are not already affiliated with such a group, you can still work with or through local churches, temples, meeting houses and mosques to join the community response to disasters.

Who participates in disaster relief and recovery efforts?

Th Government Isn't Behind Everything!

While the government is often responsible for basic emergency planning and some emergency relief funding, there are myriad disaster relief agencies and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are involved in disaster relief.

These organizations provide humanitarian response, disaster service, and assistance as their primary mission, or part of their overall mission of service. Disaster Relief International, the Family Care Foundation, the American Red Cross, AmeriCares and local religious organizations are all involved in disaster relief. You can find more informations on these organizations and how to lend a hand by doing a simple search online.

Who participates in disaster relief and recovery efforts?

The Volunteers of America

The Volunteers of America is involved in initial response services aimed at meeting the critical needs of disaster victims in the United States, such as making trucks available for transporting victims and supplies to designated shelters. VOA also collects and distributes donated goods and provides mental health care services for survivors of disaster.

In addition to disaster relief and recovery, Volunteers of America also offers a wide range of services to youths at risk, frail elderly, abused and neglected children, people with disabilities, homeless individuals and many others. Though their mission is primarily domestic, VOA also has some international services. Visit www.voa.org for more information.

Who participates in disaster relief and recovery efforts?

Direct Relief International

Direct Relief International works to improve the health and lives of people living in developing countries and people victimized by disaster or war. DRI supports locally-run facilities, hospitals, and programs that provide health services. DRI provides these facilities with medicines, vitamins, supplies and equipment that DRI receives through donations.

Direct Relief International ensures that materials are delivered in the most secure, most efficient manner possible by coordinating with local organizations and other international relief organizations. Direct Relief provides materials based on the specific requests of partner organizations, all of which demonstrate the capacity, commitment, and credibility to provide the health services required by victims of disaster in their area.

*For more information on Direct Relief's work or how you can help, visit www.directrelief.org.

What kind of disasters need relief?

Disasters and Emergencies Occur Everywhere!

Natural disasters know no boundaries: every nation on every continent is subject to the forces of nature. Individuals affected by such disasters will always need both physical and emotional support.

Unfortunately, much of the world is also affected by man-made disasters, including war, terrorism, and gross human rights abuses. Also unfortunately, the reverberations of both natural and man-made disasters is often more severe in poor regions because of political instability and their lack of resources with which to address the disaster. To provide a rough idea of the different kind of emergencies and disasters are ongoing in 2005, consider this:

• Africa: Recent and current emergencies include both drought and floods, outbreaks of plague and cholera, general storm damage, and complex emergencies such as ongoing war and civil unrest, creating internal displacement, large numbers of refugees, abandoned or orphaned children, and human rights violations.

• Asia: countries affected by the tsunami continue to try to recover and face ongoing earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and storms. Ongoing political turmoil in many countries, including Afghanistan, creates displacement and movement of populations that both undermine stability and create humanitarian strains.

• South America: earthquakes and storms are natural disasters that have huge impacts on large populations. While political stability in the region has improved, people still struggle, and disasters and emergencies can undo much of the progress that has been made by putting people in dire straits.

• Eastern and Central Europe: emerging economies continue to deal with nationalist conflicts and the after-effects of war. In the Americas, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, mudslides, wildfires and severe winter weather kill and leave homeless thousands of people each year.

• The United States: also continues to grapple with the implications of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the potential for other man-made disasters.

As you can see, emergencies and disasters can hit anywhere, anytime. If for no other reason than that, it makes sense to think about how you can contribute to disaster relief and recovery efforts.

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Heidi Splete