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How to help others during and after disasters

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

The aftermath of a disaster can overwhelm and even devastate people for a very long time. Whether or not you know someone personally who is impacted by a natural or man-made disaster, there are a number of things you can do to alleviate human suffering in general.

How can I help my neighbors after a disaster?

Suppose someone in your community has suffered from a fire, flood, tornado, hurricane, or other disastrous situation. In that case, approach them and offer shelter, food, clothing, and other necessities that will hold them over until more help arrives.

Check on neighbors, especially the elderly.

If someone is hurt, check the person to identify their injuries. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they or you are in immediate danger. Administer first aid and seek medical attention for an injured person following a disaster. If a person is unconscious, stabilize their neck and back and then call for help.

Whenever helping after a disaster, be aware that your safety is also important. Walk around carefully and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. Do not enter a home if you smell gas or find downed electric wires, particularly near water.

How can I help others affected by a disaster?

Large-scale disasters often warrant government support, but it takes time to organize first responders, disaster response teams, and volunteers. After verifying that you and your families are safe and health, plan to seek out others who were not as fortunate, until additional help arrives. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Monetary support (donate to organizations that help disaster victims)

  • First Aid and supplies (drinking water, food, and sleeping gear)

  • Volunteer to help the elderly and those requiring special assistance

  • Counseling support (help children understand what is going on)

  • Volunteer to clean up or join a reconstruction project

  • Join a search and rescue team

  • In-kind donations (clothing, bulk donations, etc.)

  • Provide transportation and a source of communication (radio, cell phone, etc.)

How can I donate to disaster relief organizations?

If you are in a financial situation where you can help, there are several accredited disaster relief organizations. If money is a problem, you can contact an accredited organization to find out about volunteer disaster relief.

Here are some organizations that welcome your contributions, whether it be monetary or disaster relief supplies:

  • American Red Cross (800) HELP-NOW


  • Disaster Center Relief Agencies

  • Giving Children Hope

  • International Relief Teams


  • Save the Children (1800-728-3843)

  • United Way

If possible, donate supplies and equipment. However, it is best practice to ask agencies what is needed before sending unsolicited supplies. Donating before asking may do more harm than good.

There are many ways to raise funds for those suffering from a disaster:

  • Give blood

  • Plan a Fundraiser (GoFundMe)

  • Create Challenges or community event dedicated to helping others

Help others file for Federal Disaster Relief if they are not able to do so for themselves:

  • Be sure the President has issued a disaster declaration for the area (check FEMA’s Disaster Declarations page).

  • Begin the process by registering online or calling FEMA’s toll-free number: 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

  • Gather immediate emergency needs list to be directed to appropriate agencies/services suggests that if the victim of a disaster has insurance, you can help them call their insurance agency and file a claim.

Additional, personal disasters that may affect others and cause emotional and financial suffering:

  • Terminal Illness

  • Homelessness

  • Loneliness (people in assisted living centers)

  • Divorce

  • Theft

  • Funerals

  • Hospitalizations

Be responsible and seek acts of kindness during and after a disaster to give others relief and comfort during a tough time.

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”
― Victor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

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