Ways to help disaster victims

Hearing news about communities struck by disaster be heart-wrenching, and whether a catastrophe is in your local area, or on the other side of the Earth, you may find yourself asking how you can help. The somewhat harsh truth is, there is little use rushing to the site of a disaster unless you have specialist training which will allow you to provide specific aid. Unqualified volunteers are unfortunately more likely to be a hindrance than a help, but there are still a number of ways you can support victims of disaster.

If you are far away from the stricken area, donation is your main recourse to helping the relief effort. While donations of non-perishable food, blankets, or medical supplies may be welcomed in certain situations, you should not send items unless they are specifically requested.
Donating money, while it has a less hands-on feel, is genuinely your best option. Sending a donation online or over the phone to a reputable charity will allow them to pay for logistical costs, such as transportation, as well as items needed by disaster victims. This also means charities and aid workers can access funds and begin their work as soon as possible. A package, no matter how valuable its contents, still has to travel, sometimes over huge areas, and may not even make it to the disaster area if mail or delivery services are unavailable.
Raising money within your community, through local businesses, churches, or schools not only creates valuable funds for charity, but also raises awareness of the disaster, and may prompt individual donations. Posting links on your social media pages which tell people how to go about giving a financial donation can also be a huge help.

There are also ways to help disaster victims if you are closer to the scene of the incident. If there are injuries, then donating blood can have a huge impact, literally saving lives. Do not turn up at a hospital, as there are unlikely to be free staff available, but instead look online or phone a medical charity, such as the Red Cross, and enquire about giving blood. There is probably a drive being set up in the area.
Phone lines and mobile networks can be overwhelmed or damaged during disasters, and in you find yourself with WiFi or mobile data think about using your phone as a hot-spot, or allowing victims and relief workers to use your internet access to contact loved ones, or even coordinate relief efforts.

All of these contributions can be invaluable, and make an enormous difference to victims in the aftermath of a disaster, but if you really want to get your boots on the ground and help during a serious catastrophe, then you need to get some training. Maybe you already know a little about communication, first aid, or another skill which might be useful in a crisis. Take advice from your local disaster relief charities, and spend time training to make sure that when the call goes out for qualified volunteers you are ready to answer. Wanting to help is admirable, but by following this advice you can ensure that your provide the most practical help possible to victims of disaster, giving them what they really need to pull their communities, and their lives, back together.