In the wake of a disaster such as Hurricane Michael, it is only natural for people to want to help.
Since the nearly-category 5 storm made landfall last week, throngs of people have flocked to the disaster site with truckloads of supplies. But emergency officials say those good intentions could end up adding to the problem.
“We never, ever encourage people to ‘self-deploy’ to a disaster,” said Brandi Whitehurst, public information officer for Santa Rosa County via email.
Whitehurst has been in Washington County since last week assisting emergency management teams.
To assure that supplies are distributed correctly, Whitehurst said to donate supplies through an organized disaster relief team that is coordinating with local and state officials. And before collecting supplies, she suggests connecting with organizations to see what items are needed, how much is needed and when it is needed.
“(Before collecting) identify transportation to move the items from where they are to where they are needed and identify who will take possession of the items and how they will be used or distributed,” she said.
When it comes to donating supplies, stick to the list of needed items. Items such as used clothing, household items or perishable food can take volunteers away from high-priority tasks to sort or distribute items that don’t meet the needs of survivors, Whitehurst said.
If you want to donate time, make sure to register through VolunteerFlorida first to make sure there is no overlap in services.
Money, however, is the most effective way to help victims.
“Monetary donations allow voluntary organizations to fund response and recovery efforts, obtain goods and services locally, and provide direct financial assistance to disaster survivors to meet their own needs,” Whitehurst said.
Below is a list of ways you can support victims of Hurricane Michael:
- Donate to the Florida Disaster Fund or register to volunteer your time at volunteerflorida.org.
- You can find a list of local charities or affected organizations collecting funds through Charity Navigator.
- If you have a bulk amount of items, you can post the offer to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) website where members can connect with you if needed. nvoad.org
- Donate online or send a check to Florida Baptist Convention (be sure to note "Disaster Relief" in the memo). flbaptist.org/give
- Donate online or send a check, assemble cleaning or hygiene kits or register a volunteer team through the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church at awfumc.org/ourconference.
- Donate to Chapel at the Beach (and make sure to select "Disaster Relief" from the drop-down menu).
- Louisiana Cajun Navy is assisting with relief efforts. Register to volunteer or donate at louisianacn.com.
- Feeding the Gulf Coast is partnering with Feeding America, Feeding Florida, Bay County Emergency Management and VOAD to distribute food and water. You can donate or register to volunteer by visiting feedingthegulfcoast.org.