A Few Words On Hurricane Harvey, and How You Can Help

Readers who have been with me for a while know that I generally refrain from providing commentary on active incidents.  There is already enough chatter out there, with a variety of experts (real and otherwise) providing their opinions.  As with any ongoing incident, there is plenty of information and assumptions, right and wrong.  This disaster is already generating a lot of discussion on the decision by Houston and other jurisdictions to not issue evacuation orders.  Once the flood waters recede and life safety matters are addressed, perhaps I’ll jump into that discussion.  For now, let’s stay focused on the lives that are at risk.

Several people have asked me how they can support the Hurricane Harvey response and relief efforts.  There are many reputable charities out there providing great assistance.  A few tips…

  • Most of these organizations want and need money, not things, so unless they are asking for donations of certain goods or commodities, don’t send them things. The management of unwanted donated goods is an absolute nightmare and a distraction when all resources need to be focused on the disaster at hand.
  • Find a charity/organization that aligns with your own interests and beliefs. If you are most concerned about animal welfare, the ASPCA is a great organization doing incredible work during this and other disasters.  The American Red Cross is a long-standing go-to humanitarian aid organization.  There are also a variety of faith-based organizations, such as the Salvation Army, Adventist Community Services, Catholic Charities, Islamic Relief, and others which are dedicated to supporting communities in need.
  • If you are sending a check (you can even drop off a check at your local offices of any of these organizations), be sure to write ‘Hurricane Harvey’ in the memo of the check. That should direct those funds to this disaster effort.
  • Keep records and request a receipt (if they don’t provide one) for tax purposes.
  • For those of you who want a specific recommendation, I suggest Team Rubicon.  Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams that provide direct life-safety response efforts as well as short-term recovery work, such as mucking out people’s homes.  They are an outstanding organization that not only provides disaster assistance, but also directly supports our veterans.

These organizations absolutely need your support.  The costs of deploying personnel, even volunteers, are high.  Every dollar makes a difference.


Taking Philanthropy (and more) Beyond the Days of Disaster

Timothy RieckerThe latest edition of Homeland Security Today has an article titled ‘Taking Philanthropy Beyond the Days of Disaster’ , which talks about the need that non-profit organizations who provide disaster services have before and well after a disaster.  Their programs help bring preparedness and other critical services into neighborhoods and to fragile and disadvantaged populations.  The article tells the story of someone who saw this need and formed the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, a foundation centered on helping organizations fund disaster-oriented projects throughout the year.  You also have the choice of giving directly to organizations in your community.  Organizations like the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and others – that are in every community – provide services year-round and could greatly benefit from your continued help.  Being a philanthropist doesn’t require you to be a millionaire – even contributing ten or twenty dollars during a fund-raiser or dropping a few dollars or some spare change into a kettle makes a huge difference.

Beyond philanthropy, you should also consider volunteering in your community.  Every organization needs more people – and not just during disasters – to meet the needs of those they help – and ANYONE can volunteer, it’s just a matter of finding the right organization and the right role for you.  Jobs can be as diverse as office assistance to disaster response.  Some positions require training, which the organization will provide.  Every organization will help find the position that is right for you.  Organizations are even happy to have entire families volunteer!  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – January 21st – has also been designated as National Volunteer Day.  Through their website you can find volunteer opportunities (also check volunteermatch.org) as well as volunteer fairs that will be held around the nation on January 21st.  If you have interest in a particular organization, just give them a call and let them know you would like to volunteer.

Whether of yourself or of your wallet, please consider giving – it makes a world of difference.

Didn’t I Say to Be Smart and Use Common Sense?

I’m pretty sure I said that in my last post…

Don’t let this be you.  Seriously.  Accountability is a four letter word to some, and it will come back at you if you don’t stay smart and use common sense.  With landfall of Hurricane Sandy imminent, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie issued a mandatory coastal evacuation order to get citizens out of harm’s way – a smart move given the dangers the storm posed including massive walls of water from storm surge.  For some reason, Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford established shelters in his city, wasting time, valuable resources, and giving citizens a false sense of security when they were very much in danger.  The result was Governor Christie having to send National Guard forces in to rescue these poor folks.  The very public verbal beating that Governor Christie gave Mayor Lorenzo was brutal to say the least.  Governor Christie is one man I would not want to make enemies with.

Hurricane Sandy strikes Atlantic City.

One of my favorite Star Wars quotes is from Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, where Liam Neeson’s character, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn stated ‘There’s always a bigger fish’.  Remember this.  Everyone has to answer to someone else.  Even chief elected officials have to answer to someone – city councils, tax payers, etc.  I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a call for accountability in this case.  We also can’t lose sight of what’s right.  In emergency management, saving lives is always the #1 priority… always!

My heart goes out to victims of Hurricane Sandy.  For those of you who experienced little or no impact, please consider volunteering or donating to relief efforts.  I’d like to suggest The Salvation Army.   Donations may be made to the Salvation Army through www.salvationarmyusa.org or through 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Donors may contribute $10 via their phone bill by text messaging the word STORM to 80888 and confirming the donation with the word “yes.”

Hurricane Sandy – Be Prepared and Stay Safe!

I’m finishing my preparations for a quick trip to California to help evaluate an earthquake exercise.  All the while, I’m watching Hurricane Sandy come up the coast after creating some havoc in the Caribbean.  According to the latest National Hurricane Center advisory, Sandy will make landfall in southern New Jersey, and progress inland to central Pennsylvania before turning north and heading through New York State, the track taking it through the Finger Lakes area.  From there, the current advisory predicts that the storm will turn to the northeast, saturating New England.  It’s going to be a very wet, rainy week as Sandy slows soon after making landfall.  Of particular concern here in New York is the western portion of the state which has received a fair amount of rainfall over the last couple of days from the cold front that has progressed here from the mid west.


Thus far, there seems to be an appropriate amount of concern over this storm.  While I’ve heard some folks say that people are overly concerned, I don’t think officials are crying wolf with this.  First, as I’m sure you’ve read in the media, many factors of this storm are unprecedented or rarely seen, particularly the collision with the cold front – resulting in many of the hurricane advisories including snow in their forecast – SNOW for a HURRICANE!  Who would have ever thought that would happen?  Second, the storm is maintaining hurricane strength right up to landfall, bringing significant winds and storm surge with it.  New York City is taking actions which to my recollection are fully in compliance with their hurricane plans, such as low elevation evacuations, closing of mass transit and tunnels ahead of the storm, and other protective actions.  States of emergency have been declared all along the northeast states, with the President declaring an emergency in Maryland, which will be the first to feel the full effects of the category 1 storm with sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.  I expect the President will make similar declarations ahead of the storm reaching subsequent states.  States along the projected impact path all have activated their emergency operations centers (EOCs), pulling together local, state, and federal agencies, as well as some not for profits such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, to coordinate efforts and situational information.

I’ve received storm preparedness information from several sources already, including Ready.gov, the Small Business Administration, Time Warner Cable, and National Grid.  I’m certain utility companies in other area are doing the same outreach to their customers.  Locally, the Erie Canal is being closed and water levels dropped to help mitigate against flooding, which has devastated communities along the waterway in the past.  Local governments are putting out preparedness public service announcements to citizens to help ensure they are prepared.  You’ve heard me comment before about the complacency of much of our population when it comes to emergency preparedness.  Please pay heed to what is being suggested and spread the word that preparedness for this storm is serious.  Be sure to have a few days of water, food, medications, and batteries for flashlights.  Keep your cell phone charged and pay attention to weather information and emergency alerts.  If you are a New Yorker, now is a great time to subscribe to NY-ALERT to be certain to receive emergency information.  If you are outside of New York, many states now have similar alerting systems.  Even clearing away leaves and debris, which is plentiful this time of year, from storm sewers and culverts will be a big help.  If you manage or own a business, be sure to pull out your emergency and continuity plans (you have these, right?) and be sure to keep your employees and other stakeholders informed of what’s going on.

I’m sure that when I return I’ll be helping with some disaster response and recovery activities in the area.  The better you prepare and the smarter you are, the less responders have to risk their lives and valuable resources, so be smart, be prepared, and stay safe!