Support the 3 Stages of Disaster Relief

Photo by Parisa Fatehi-Weeks @PFatehiWeeks
Photo by Parisa Fatehi-Weeks @PFatehiWeeks
Photo by Parisa Fatehi-Weeks @PFatehiWeeks
Photo by Parisa Fatehi-Weeks @PFatehiWeeks

Nobody thinks it will happen to them. I’ve interviewed a couple dozen people affected by disasters – fires and floods – and none of them thought they would ever be affected — and most of them thought they were prepared.

Not to get all doomsday on you, but it is worth considering what you would do in case of a natural disaster. Our best bet as a community is to build a strong network of relief organizations, and that takes investment.

The recent flooding in South Austin and Onion Creek (where more than 1,100 homes were lost) may seem to be as relevant to your life as the typhoon in the Philippines. The reality is that both disasters affect you. Because you can actually do something to help.

We’ll stay focused on our immediate area with a list of organizations that are first responders and social services for recovery.

No matter how easy you think it is to get help to people in need, just remember that it takes PEOPLE to get help to people in need. Not enough people, not enough help. That’s why giving and volunteering with American Red Cross of Central Texas is so important. For a first-hand account of the disaster that is Onion Creek, read Stacy Armijo’s blog post:

“So far, the Red Cross has served more than 40,000 meals and handed out more than 500 supply kits, with requests for support increasing every day. The total cost of this relief effort has quickly reached that of the Bastrop wildfire. However, in terms of donations, we haven’t seen near the outpouring of support.”

You can give to your local Red Cross chapter here.

Another non-governmental, totally nonprofit organization to support is the Austin Disaster Relief Network. After seeing the work they did (and continue to do) in Bastrop and meeting many of their leaders and volunteers, I know this organization is working tirelessly to help our neighbors in Onion Creek. See this quote from an ADRN volunteer:

“We went out to the disaster site (William Cannon and Pleasant Valley), and believe me when I say, this is a SERIOUS disaster. MANY, MANY people are hurting…Some people have not eaten in two days because they couldn’t drive in or out of the valley -some wounded; no free medical units there… Some people saw neighbors fall from their roofs and float away. They saw whole houses and cars come toward them (as they sat on the roof inches from water), most times barely missing direct impact with their perch. People waited 5 or 6 hours to be rescued, and many never got rescued; they just waited for the waters to recede.”

ADRN offers lots of training opportunities for volunteers and, of course, it accepts and appreciates your donations.

First- and immediate responders are great at saving lives, feeding people, helping them find shelter and more. long-term recovery is just as important. When all the rescuers have stabilized the community, long-term recovery specialists (like social workers and volunteers who clear debris and rebuild) step in to help people put their lives back together. Long-term recovery is the most overlooked because it happens after the “newsworthiness” of the disaster has worn off. But this is where the hard-work, knowledge of FEMA, insurance, negotiating hotel rates, gathering and distributing donations of clothing, furniture, vehicles, etc…. this takes a network of experts.

United Way for Greater Austin has been funneling funds to long-term recovery charities for decades. They do this by collecting your donations, then reviewing applications from other nonprofits engaged in the recovery efforts and deciding how best to spread your donations to do the most good.

Again, I walked along side UWGA staff and volunteers after the Bastrop wildfires, and I could see the impact they were having on families. Their services and grantee organizations can be a lifesaver to families who wonder how they’re going to get their lives back together. Your donation to UWGA goes to fund these efforts.

Most of us in Austin got a lot of rain. But for many of our neighbors, the storm was devastating. Imagine your home in this (See Video of flooding in Barton Springs Pool, below). All the home insurance in the world won’t help in the face of water like this.

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