Emergency preparedness is crucial, now more than ever. With heightened terrorism alerts and the recent frequency of natural disasters, everyone should be taking the initiative to stock emergency food storage and set up a survival kit. First and foremost, keep yourself and your family safe.You may be asking yourself how you can help others during a disaster. The single most important thing you can do to help is to make sure that you and your family are prepared for emergency situations. The less you have to rely on outside help, the more it frees up those resources to help others. Form a concise evacuation plan and communicate it clearly with your family members. Have survival gear ready to go, and become well-versed in disaster scenarios. Practice your plan and practice the skills you will need to survive without assistance.Help from officials is useful, but it is the personal ties among neighbors that provide rapid relief and determine survival and recovery. Many of us are eager to run to the aid of our fellow community members, but this can do more harm than good if you do not have the skills or training that are needed to be helpful. An untrained volunteer may just become another person in need of rescue, further draining the available resources.Here are some specific ways that you can help in the aftermath of a disaster:
•Remain calm. The more people that have their wits about them, the easier it will be to coordinate efforts.•Local knowledge is key. Be involved in your community, and know how to find the people in your area that have special skills that may be helpful to others. •Coordinate a plan with your neighbors. Choose different areas in which to hone your skills so that you can help each other out and have a balanced approach to survival.•Take first aid classes. Learn how to dress wounds, relieve pain, stop bleeding, and provide CPR.•Donate money to a trusted organization. To find a reliable charity, visit
. You will be able to choose a charity and designate where you would like your donation to go.•Hold a community yard sale at a public area like a church or a prominent business. Advertize that all of the proceeds will go to the relief effort.•Get disaster specific training through an organization such as the Red Cross. Check with your local chapter for learning opportunities. Be prepared to be helpful if needed.•Register your skills at
to become part of a broad database of volunteers that are trained to help in disasters.•Volunteer at a local food bank. Food will be arriving from around the world, and it will need to be sorted, stored and distributed. Many hands make light work.•Become involved in your local 2-1-1 program. This is a service that connects the needy with community services. Check your local municipality’s web site to see how you can help.•Become a relay for communication, which is essential in any relief effort. Maintain a radio that links to the NOAA channel for key weather and atmospheric information. Get a HAM radio license so that you can help provide two-way communication.
Even if you are trained in survival skills, it is best to work with an established organization. Remember that it is unwise to enter a disaster zone until you are connected with an organization, as they will help ensure that you have food, water, and housing while you provide assistance. Look into your community’s emergency preparedness, and fill a need if you see an area of opportunity. Above all else, make sure that you and your family are ready in the event of a disaster.—Gary Jenkins—Gary Jenkins is a father and husband living in Oregon who is a wildlife rehabilitation and outdoor adventure enthusiast.