National Preparedness Month: Many Need Help When Disaster Strikes
September 24, 2004
AUGUSTA, MAINE – September is “National Preparedness Month”. The Maine Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross chapters in Maine, and the Maine Citizen Corps Council remind Mainers that disaster can strike anywhere. We all feel the urge to help when we see or hear stories or see images of those who have lost everything, as after the recent hurricanes. Here’s how you can help disaster survivors “weather the storm.”
- Support the disaster relief fund of an organization that’s working to help victims. Cash donations are almost always the best way to help. Needs at a disaster site change by the hour. Cash allows the relief organizations to purchase exactly what is needed, as it is needed. They also purchase from companies in and around the disaster area, which helps the local economy. Giving money doesn’t always feel like you are giving immediate help, but you are. Satisfy the urge to “do something” by having a community yard sale, or bake sale, or benefit concert, and donate the proceeds to a relief organization.
- Supporting relief organizations regularly helps them be ready to respond quickly. Visit http://www.mainevoad.org to learn about all the volunteer agencies active in disasters. Think of them as you make your annual decisions about charitable giving.
- If you are in a position to volunteer your services, affiliate with a relief organization so that you can be ready to serve when needed. When you sign on as a volunteer it is understood that you can’t go everywhere, every time. But when the time is right, your training and credentials are in place and you can be sent immediately where help is needed. Check out http://www.volunteermaine.org for information about becoming a volunteer. Emergency responders and officials may be deployed to other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an interstate mutual aid agreement that allows resources and people to be easily assigned to other states. You should be credentialed and experienced in your response specialty, and notify your County Emergency Management Director that you would be available to be deployed. EMAC teams are sent only as requested by the affected state.
- Remember local organizations – food kitchens and local volunteer groups help people every day through emergencies large and small. If you regularly give used clothing and household items to a charity, those items help here, but may also become part of the resources that help disaster victims. Many of Maine’s food pantries are also part of a national network that moves resources to affected states during a disaster. If you are a volunteer with a local agency that has a national relief counterpart, you can help here at home, and your training and experience might qualify you to respond to other states as well.
- Get involved: Participate in emergency response in your community by joining – or starting – a Community Emergency Response Team. If you would not be able to be active in a response role, perhaps you could help out a group that is working on an emergency plan for your town, your workplace, or your children’s school.
- When there’s an emergency going on here at home, helping others can be as simple as making sure your neighbor is okay. Neighbors can work together to make things better for each other and the entire community. If you have to go to a shelter, perhaps you can help look after children, or sit and talk with someone who is especially nervous about the situation. Helping others during an emergency is a great way to feel better yourself.
- The hurricane survivors throughout the southeast still have many needs, and hurricane season continues through November 1st. Visit http://www.maine.gov/mema to find out how to help.
As Mainers, we all remember the help received from other states during the ice storm in 1998. We also know what it feels like to want to help others in need. Using these simple guidelines we can help our neighbors near and far to weather the storm.
For more information on family and community preparedness, safety and volunteer opportunities, visit:
The Maine Emergency Management Agency: http://www.maine.gov/mema
The American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org
Maine Commission for Community Service/Citizen Corps: http://www.maineservicecommission.gov
The Maine Community Policing Institute Safety Center: http://www.be-safe.org/me/mcpi/