With Hurricane Harvey on our minds, Hurricane Irma already wreaking devastation and headed our way, and Hurricanes Katia and Jose not far behind, it’s can be a stressful, confusing, and overwhelming time for those of us looking to help. As we’ve mentioned, the most effective immediate response is to cash or gift card donations; as of September 5, 2017, the URJ and NFTY have already raised over $170,000, and is making its way into the hands of those who need it most.
In order to ensure the long term survival of our communities, we need to educate ourselves on the real challenges and nuances of the impact of natural disasters, so that we can be loud and effective advocates for support on a much larger scale. Our country has a long way to go before we’re adequately prepared to mitigate and respond to natural disasters, and it will require each and every one of us to educate ourselves, become versed in the challenges and potential solutions, and to push our elected officials to create and implement policies that work.
To get the ball rolling, we’ve compiled a list of articles that address a range of topics:
Offering Emotional Support
How to Support a Loved One After a Natural Disaster (Article)
It can be hard to know what to do or say to a friend or family member who has been directly affected by a disaster, but this Refinery29 article offers excellent, specific advice.
Who’s Who in Disaster Relief
When Disaster Strikes, Who’s In Charge? (Resource)
There are many players during disaster response, and this resource from Colorado Technical University maps out who is responsible for what.
Federal Response to Natural Disasters (Podcast)
The 8/31 episode of Pod Save America features an interview with Alyssa Mastromonaco (minutes 3:00-11:30), who oversaw President Obama’s disaster response plans, and she shares interesting insight. (Please note: (1) contains some explicit language; (2) we’re sharing not to endorse PSA’s political opinions, but because this particular segment offers important information regarding the current status in Houston, explanations of vulnerable populations, organizations to donate to, and federal government response.)
Volunteering, In-Kind Contributions, and Donating Money
Why You Shouldn’t Run Out to Volunteer for Disaster Relief (Article)
Our first instinct in a crisis is often to “be on the ground” to help. While in some instances volunteering is helpful, more often than not it’s a burden or even harmful, and this article explains why, and what you can do instead.
The “Second Disaster”: The Flood of Unwanted Donations (Article)
NPR explains why sending clothing and items aren’t helpful, and why gift cards or monetary donations are the way to go.
Where to Donate and How to Avoid Scams (Article)
Since monetary donations are among the most helpful thing that most of us can do, this New York Times article offers a good list of organizations to support, and tips for avoiding scams as you consider your options.
How to Make Your Donations as Helpful as Possible (Article)
TIME breaks down a set of questions to ask before making a financial contribution to ensure you’re using your funds as effectively as possible.
Social Inequality in Natural Disasters and the Social Justice of Disaster Relief
Connection Between Human Rights & Natural Disasters (Article)
Natural disasters tend to exacerbate existing social inequalities, and as this Brookings Institute article notes, “assistance is rarely neutral.”
A Catastrophe for Houston’s Most Vulnerable People (Article)
This short article from The Atlantic provides a good overview of the additional challenges faced by vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, people with disabilities, low income families, inmates, and undocumented immigrants, as well as links to learn more about each population.
The CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (Context)
The Centers for Disease Control uses U.S. Census data to determine the vulnerability level of populations based on a number of factors. This information can be used in preparation for natural disasters.
Flood Insurance & Homeowner Challenges
Most Homeowners Lack Flood Insurance (Article)
Fewer than 20% of affected homes in Houston had flood insurance, and grants from FEMA to help rebuild cap out at $30,000. This article explains the challenge, and what options these families have.
Vulnerability of Those With Mortgages (Article)
In addition to not having flood insurance, many families still have mortgages, which means that they are still in the process of paying the bank for homes they own. Mortgages are expensive, and this article explores what happens to those who may not be able to pay.
Texas’s Controversial New Insurance Law (Article)
Vox breaks down the new insurance law that went into effect during Hurricane Harvey, and what it means for the people who are affected.
What is the National Flood Insurance Program? (Article)
This Vox article explains the background on flood insurance, and what money is available to help.
Public Health Implications
Five Public Health Crises Facing Houston After Harvey (Article)
This article outlines the challenges that Houston will face with contaminated water, mosquitoes, lost medication, mold, and the spread of infectious diseases.
American Public Health Association’s Environmental Health Response (Report)
This 3-page document from the APHA outlines the long term health effects with regards to safe water, housing, vulnerable populations, and more, as well as suggestions for ways communities can better prepare in the future.