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How to Help in A Disaster

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Tornado Damage – Hattiesburg, MS

With all the recent disasters we see and hear about, it’s human nature to want to help our neighbors both near and far in need.  But it’s often not clear what is the best way to really be of assistance. This is why I am reprinting a post on this subject from a federal disaster worker at  AllExperts.com.

Question:
What would you say are the best things to do after a major disaster? To help someone else, not yourself.

John Doe

Answer:
John, thanks for asking.

If you are not in a disaster but want to assist people who have been affected by one, there are several things you can do.  There are also certain things you should not do.

First, support organizations which are responding to the disaster.  Non-profit organizations which respond to disasters are not funded by the government and need financial support.  Choose your favorite, the one you think does the most good and donate money to them.  You can find a list of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) here: http://www.nvoad.org/  These are recognized organizations and will not scam you.

Unless specifically requested, do not donate clothing, food or other items.  During Hurricane Andrew, tons of donated items had to be disposed of in Florida (fur coats, kitchen utensils, old shoes) because they were not needed and/or there were not enough people available to sort through them.  There was no place to store much of the donations and they became wet, moldy and a health hazard.  

There are agencies in the NVOAD (above) who do take donations of clothing, food, water and other in-kind donations, so check with them and ask what they need.

Seeing the suffering caused by a disaster makes most people want to help in some way.  If you would like to volunteer, go ahead and find an organization which can give you the proper training and credentials so that you can really help.  Many NVOAD groups have free classes in disaster response and relief and you can sign up and take them.  Other agencies have need for people with special skills (counseling, social work, massage therapy, cooking, building, etc,) and are happy to find new volunteers.

Please don’t just go to a disaster area to volunteer.  There are several reasons for this,  First, disaster areas are usually dangerous with debris and  limited emergency services.  Police and sheriff’s departments are stretched thin, as are fire departments, paramedics and hospitals.  Trying to find a place for unattached volunteers to work is just not a priority when disaster survivors need their attention.

During Hurricane Katrina, fire departments from all over the country just took it upon themselves to travel to Louisiana.  I was there at the firefighters’ staging area.  Although their hearts were in the right place, it was sometimes a strain on local responders trying to find them a place to stay and assign them to work teams.  You don’t really think about it, but when people’s homes are destroyed, they are staying in motels and eating at restaurants.  If too many workers come into the area, they take up those rooms that the disaster stricken families need.  When I first got to Katrina, there was no power and no food shipments coming in.  I went to a Burger King drive in one night and the sign said, “We have burgers, no buns.”  The next night I went through and it said, “We have buns, no burgers.”  

I know this is a lot, but finally, let me say: be prepared.

-Get your home ready for a disaster, have a disaster go bag, water, medications, a disaster plan, a place to shelter inside the house.
-Designate a family meeting place and someone outside the area to contact in case you and your family get separated. (Sometimes phones don’t work locally but connect to other cities and states)
-Make sure you have appropriate insurance (Home owners insurance does not normally cover flood damage).
-Keep your important papers (deeds, car registration copies, insurance papers, utility bills) somewhere that is safe and waterproof
-Take them with you if you have to evacuate.
-Learn first aid and CPR, find out what your community’s emergency plans are.
-Vote.  Pay attention to which of your representatives supports government disaster response.  The money that goes to disaster victims is the money they (and you) have been paying in as taxes.  It is your disaster savings account.  And if it is ever your turn, you will need the same aid.

That about covers it.  I hope you decide to become a disaster volunteer or get a job with a disaster agency or company.  There’s no better feeling than helping someone who has lost everything.  I know, I’ve been there.

Allexperts.com

Tax Cut Voodoo

Magical thinking is the belief that facts can be changed by repeating words or phrases that are not based in reality.  In this case it’s that cutting taxes will cure our financial problems.  Ask any Tea Partier, tax cuts will solve the financial problems of the United States.  Big businesses will use that money to expand and hire more American workers, money will be spread around and everyone will share in the wealth.  All this if we just cut taxes.

Unfortunately, the reality is that big businesses have had tax cuts and still do have them and none of these outcomes are happening.  Unemployment is still high, businesses are still shipping jobs overseas and citizens are losing their homes in record numbers.  This is the actual result of tax cuts. Still, there are a lot of folks in Congress are sprinkling dried toad powder into bowls of stumpwater, chanting their magical spell: Tax cuts will save the nation.

In the past I have asked senators and congressmen who’ve contacted me for my support to explain the tax cut magic to me.  None of them have answered me.  And I’m not surprised because when you really start looking at the system, it makes no sense.

  1. The biggest employer in the United States IS the United States.  If the Federal Government stops spending, jobs are lost.
  2. When jobs are lost, those who lose them are no receiving incomes.
  3. People without incomes are not getting tax cuts.
  4. If folks aren’t getting tax cuts (or incomes, for that matter) how are they going to spend?
And in an economy where no one is spending, no one is making money.
Then, when you have tax cuts, state and local governments have to let employees go.  These people live in communities where grocers, auto repair shops, plumbers, electricians, contractors, lawyers, doctors, farmers, teachers, shopkeepers, funeral home directors and other businessmen and woman live by making money providing goods and services to the people in their community.  With their customers out of work, these people stop making money.  And under these circumstances, who is going to expand, even if they are getting tax cuts?
Meanwhile huge corporations who built their wealth on the backs of hardworking Americans are treating their employees like first wives who got them through college then leave them behind for a more attractive, cheaper workforce.  Except these corporations aren’t paying their child support. Tax cuts won’t be spent in the United States.  Tax cuts these companies receive go to India and Thailand and China.
So my question is, when based in reality and not wishful thinking, how do tax cuts actually help our country at this time?  In a recession or depression, spending money is the only thing that helps.  And the only folks with the where with all to do that is the federal government.  The Roosevelt Administration put into place programs to employ workers such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps.  He also put regulations on banks that maintained integrity in our financial systems until the Reagan Administration.  When Reagan started dismantling our carefully crafted safeguards, the result was the great Savings and Loan failure beginning with the Penn Square bank in Oklahoma City.  Further dismantling has been done until the thin line between corporate banking and personal banking disappeared.  The loss of limits created an environment in which speculators and unscrupulous investors made mortgage loans into snatch and grab schemes and defrauded Americans out of billions of dollars.  This loss of regulation, the “gud fer bidness” attitude of the Bush administration left Americans out in the cold.
So now we’re being held hostage, being fed a thin gruel of “tax breaks” as the ultimate nutrition for the country.  Look around.  Tax breaks won’t help the citizenry.  They won’t have an effect on those of us in the most need.  They will only help those who are already draining this country dry. And where will they put their money in off-shore accounts and investments.
Spending in the United States is bad mojo.  But if you really believe in magic, maybe tax breaks will help.  And maybe Santa and the Easter Bunny will will bring us gold from the end of the rainbow.
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