How to help in a time of environmental crisis and destruction

Hurricane Florence (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Hurricanes. Floods. Forest fires. When tragedy strikes and impacts millions of animals and people, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, full of mixed emotions from wanting to help to feeling helpless. I personally wear my heart on my sleeve. When I hear of another hurricane hitting the east coast, a fire lighting up the west coast or tornadoes flattening out the Midwest, I am instantly hit with a lump in my throat and filled with an intense desire to physically go and help stranded and abandoned animals, help with rescue efforts, or do anything I can to help spare any suffering or loss of life. While I’m not an emergency relief professional, being prepared and knowing how to assist for the next inevitable crisis could help save lives and alleviate suffering.

When in doubt, donate!

If you can’t physically help a crisis situation, you can monetarily help. First, figure out your goals to direct your funds in the right direction. From there, you need to research which non-for-profit or charity to donate towards (there is a difference between the two!). Use resources like GuideStar, Charity Watch, Wise Giving Alliance to ensure your money is being used for the best for relief efforts (aka: not ending up in the pockets of CEO’s).

Another way to directly help is to donate to shelters, hospitals, and emergency relief groups who are local to the crisis. These groups are in the thick of the situation and need it the most. Money isn’t the only way to donate. Think dry goods, packaged food, towels, blankets, sheets – an assortment of everyday products that can help immensely.

Donate your time. Start in your local community and get involved – even is this means not actually going to the source of destruction. Connect with your local animal shelter and advocate for them to take in displaced animals from the crisis. Offer to foster displaced animals from the disaster. Get involved and start doing.

Prepare for the next disaster

There is no better time to help future efforts than by becoming trained now! FEMA, The National Center for Disaster Preparedness, The Salvation Army  and Center for Disease Control all offer free (either onsite on online courses) to prepare you for the next natural disaster. Most offer general preparedness courses, while others also offer more specific concentrations. Do your research and take your pick! When you are trained in something you truly feel passionate about, you’ll feel more inclined to give up some weekend and evening hours in your busy life to focus on studying and learning.

Stay up to date!

Rescue efforts and protocols change. Stay up-to-date on any training you receive so you’re ready to help when disaster strikes. Educate family members and friends, and try to get others involved to maximize relief efforts. Contribute and do your part - even after the tragedy has passed. It takes communities months to years to rebuild and recuperate after such devastation. It’s easy to forget about the catastrophe if you are not directly affected or living in the area of destruction. Stay involved in your own local community and when possible stretch your efforts to other communities or countries that may not be as effective in relief and rescue. Although thoughts and prayers are a kind thought, they unfortunately do not solve or ultimately change any situation. Whatever effort you are able to physically put forth actually makes a difference. For every time you can’t physically help, then donating is greatly appreciated. And if you’re unable donate money or goods, then time donated is just as happily accepted!

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