Reflecting on the Role of Different Responders (and donations) During Disaster Response

CCUSA Disaster ResponseIf you are like me, you have been glued to the TV watching the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma.  It takes my mind quickly back to my experience in helping with the response to the tornado that hit Greensburg, Kansas in 2005.  The people of Moore need your help and you will be asked to do that in a lot of different ways.  Let me share with you what I learned about the different responders.


The American Red Cross is the group that we all know as first responders.  They will be on the ground faster than anyone else.  They will be setting up and manning the shelters for those whose homes have been destroyed.  They will be providing meals to those in the area including the residents and volunteers as well as the medical and emergency responders.  In Greensburg the Red Cross served hundreds and hundreds of meals as family and friends cleaned their homes, as work crews dealt with electrical wires and gas lines, and as volunteers came from around the country to help.


A gift to the American Red Cross helps them in their efforts as first responders to this emergency, and helps to build their reserves so that they are ready for the next natural disaster as soon as it hits.  The Red Cross does a great job but at some time fairly quickly they will have to move the majority of their volunteers out of the area. Click here to donate to the American Red Cross disaster relief efforts.


The Lutheran Church and the Methodist Church both have disaster response organizations that are active in disaster response.  The Lutheran Church is involved in both immediate response and long term recovery.  Both were active in the Greensburg response, in the beginning and throughout the recovery process.


Catholic Charities is another responder to natural disasters.  The local Catholic Charities agency participates in the immediate response but the primary response is long term.  Catholic Charities USA assists the local agency in organizing counseling, case management, and long term recovery efforts.  They are able to mobilize additional staff from the Catholic Charities agencies from around the country.  They also participate in the local efforts to distribute financial resources they receive. Click here to donate to the Catholic Charities disaster relief efforts on behalf of the tornado victims.


I would recommend any of these organizations as an option for donations.  They all do excellent work and are careful stewards of the donations they receive. I also suggest that you do your homework on the different groups and find the one that most share your values.  You can visit their websites and if you want to look further you can review their tax returns at Guidestar.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an important part of a natural disaster.  FEMA employees are deployed as soon as the federal emergency declaration is made.  There are federal funds that help with the response and recovery operations.  Many, many people could not have rebuilt in Greensburg if there had been no FEMA funds.  FEMA also has the ability to bring in additional responders, e.g. AmeriCorps Members, who often camp onsite and help with the recovery process. Click here to visit the FEMA webpage for information about supporting the recovery effort, locating loved ones, healing emotionally, and more.


During the Greensburg recovery I found one of the most important functions of FEMA was to help the local community organize their recovery team and process.  In Greensburg, no one had ever experienced anything like the tornado that went through their community.  I had always been aware of the disaster responsibility of our Catholic Charities organization but had never been asked to act.  Their advice was invaluable as they helped us to organize to assist those who needed and wanted to rebuild.  This local team was able to accept and distribute resources as they came into the community.  We were able to develop a single point of request for everyone in need of assistance.


The community of Moore, Oklahoma has been through this before.  They understand what it takes to rebuild.  I had no idea until my experience in Greensburg but I certainly learned why people say the best thing you can give is blood and money.  The need for blood will diminish sooner than the need for money.

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