October 14, 2018

How Can I Help Hurricane Recovery Efforts?

Hurricane Michael left a path of destruction from the Florida panhandle to the East Coast.  The devastation is real, and the recovery will take time.  With all of our properties in the Panama City Beach area, we’ve had an outpouring of requests to help – but most people don’t know where to begin.

First Responders Only

In the early phases of disaster relief, non-essential personnel are a hinder to the recovery efforts.  Please allow emergency responders to be the first to return to a disaster site.  Let them ensure the safety of the area, and get medical attention to those in need. If you were not already in the disaster zone, please do not enter the area to help until authorized to do so.  Additional uninvited people create logistical and safety nightmares for the responders that are already faced with a monumental task.

Each county will have an Emergency Management Team and Plan – research the plan for the area to know who is permitted into the area at each phase of recovery.


Donate $$$

Financial donations are the best ways to help those in need, but beware of scams and sites that use disasters as a money-making opportunity for themselves.  When in doubt, stick to primary disaster relief funds to ensure that your money goes where it is most needed.  You can verify these charities through the Charity Navigator, or the Better Business Bureau.  Consider an ongoing donation, such as a monthly contribution.  Many catastrophic events take a year or longer to clean up.

Beware of sending “stuff” (clothing, food, water, etc.) UNLESS they are specific items that have been requested by on on-site relief organization or a community organization that is local to the disaster.  Receiving unneeded or unsorted donations, especially at the wrong time, creates a logistical nightmare at the disaster site.  Many items that are donated, while with the best of intentions, end up in the local landfills.

Your cash donations can be used to purchase exactly what is needed in bulk with less cost for shipping and easier distribution.  You may be able to ship water bottles for $1.00 each, but $1.00 in cash might buy 5-6 of them in bulk when coordinated through a relief agency.  In addition, your cash will help to make those purchases through local businesses, which will help the local economy when they need it the most.  If you circumvent local businesses, you will further injure their ability to recover.

Volunteer Your Time

If you want to donate your time, volunteer in an effective way.  These groups are a great place to start:

If you have an interest in donating time, the best things to do is be involved with an organization before the disaster occurs so that you are properly trained and ready when the need arises.

Support the Local Economy

The saddest devastation is not just the material loss at the time of a disaster.  It’s the blow to the local economy that occurs and continues well after the clean up has begun.  Local residents find themselves with large bills to pay, and often after their income source has been cut off due to the devastation.  Insurance coverage often doesn’t begin to cover the loss of business that local residents face.  These residents are working to rebuild their lives and the best way to help them is to support their local businesses.  When the area is safe for guests and visitors, one of the best ways you can help is to make purchases from local businesses, and be patient when their capacity is challenged.  Hurricanes often ravage coastal areas that depend upon tourism for their income, so when they tell you they are ready for guests, plan to book your vacation, and support the local economy.  That’s a win-win for everyone!

When disaster strikes, everyone wants to help.  The important thing is to help in the right way at the right time, and hopefully this post will help point you in the right direction.

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