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Do's and Don'ts of Helping During a Disaster

Help Out in Emergencies but in the Right Way

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Do's and Don'ts of Helping During a Disaster

Photo by Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

Whether it is an earthquake or tsunami halfway around the world or a tornado and flood in our own country, we often are called upon to help in a crisis.

But in many cases, we do just the things that don't help at all, but rather make the emergency even harder on those people and organizations working at the scene.

Keep some do's and don'ts of crisis help in mind at all times and make sure that your help is the kind that really does makes a difference.

  • Send money not things. Things pile up and take up time and space. Relief agencies can provide the stuff if you provide the money.

  • Do not self-deploy as a volunteer. You could just gum up the works and get in the way. Contact agencies that are working in the disaster area to see if there is a need for your services.

  • Donate to charities that are legitimate. Check out Charity Navigator, for instance, to see how charities stack up to its rating system. Do not respond to phone or house-to-house solicitations.

  • Don't restrict your donations. Don't insist that donations given to a relief agency be restricted to only a particular disaster or a given time frame. Disaster relief is long-term, and your money may be used later or even for a different disaster. Relief organizations need flexibility to do their jobs well.

  • Continue giving after the media go away. Disasters require rebuilding and needs last a long time. Don't forget about the victims once the news turns to other pressing issues. Keep giving to the charities you started with.
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