How To | September 7, 2017

How to Lend Your Support after a Natural Disaster

The age of global warming is an age of increasingly severe storms—whether flood or fire. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as wildfires along the West Coast, have been making headlines in recent weeks.

But those aren’t the only pressing natural disasters right now.

For instance, following torrential downpours and catastrophic flooding in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, an estimated 16 million children need life-saving support. More than a thousand people have died, and 41 million individuals have been affected.

Whether they’re your neighbours, or people on the other side of the world, people everywhere depend upon charities for support in the wake of natural disasters.

So, as someone who cares, what can you do to make the biggest impact, and help as many people as possible?

According to Charity Intelligence, your best bet is to spread out your donations. They recommend, in response to a disaster, making a one-time cash donation to 2 or 3 charities, not just one.

Why? Because charities differ in the type of work they do.

Disaster management is broken into a four-section cycle. Think of it as a wheel divided into quarters.

The Disaster Management Cycle

  • Mitigation

Mitigation reduces the likelihood of a future disaster occurring—or, if it’s inevitable, lowers its impact.

This is a large, far-reaching effort that crosses into areas of public policy and infrastructure planning.

For instance, following the Fort McMurray Wildfires, there was a public push to make sure buildings being rebuilt would be fireproofed, to avoid a similar disaster happening again.

  • Preparation

The preparation phase helps individuals and communities respond to natural disasters.

Establishing volunteer response organizations, early warning systems, and evacuation plans, for example, can prepare people in advance of a wildfire.

  • Response

The purpose of the response phase is to save lives and property.

Firefighters, to use the Fort McMurray example, are at the front line of the response cycle.

Then, there are doctors and nurses, facilities providing temporary shelter, organizers overseeing evacuations, therapists providing mental and emotional support—the list goes on.

During and after the Fort McMurray disaster, a number of charities were on the ground helping residents. Yes, the Red Cross was there—but so was the Kamloops Food Bank and Outreach Society. Volunteers drove all night to deliver more than four tons of food to Fort McMurray.

  • Recovery

Recovery is the long, slow process of rebuilding what a disaster has destroyed. Following the movement of the cycle, recovery efforts may cross over into the Mitigation phase.

For example, efforts to build fireproof structures after a wildfire both help restore a community to a semblance of what it was before the event, while making efforts to mitigate future disasters.

As part of the recovery phase, the Samaritan’s Purse Canada came in with shovels and wheelbarrows to clear debris and help with salvaging efforts.  

No single phase of the cycle is more important than all the others. When you support a variety of different charities working at the mitigation, preparation, response, and recovery phases of the Disaster Management Cycle, you’re putting your resources to their best possible use.

Even if you focus your support primarily on the response phase, identifying charities that do different work—one that rescues pets and another that gives humans emergency shelter, for instance—will increase your impact.

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