Home Community How You Can Help Disaster Victims Right Now
Naomi Coto carries Simba on her shoulders as they evacuate their home after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

How You Can Help Disaster Victims Right Now

by Esther Lee

As Hurricane Florence barreled toward the eastern coast of the U.S. in the summer of 2018, over 1 million people  evacuated their homes, fleeing to surrounding states.

According to NPR, the director of the National Hurricane Center Ken Graham made this sobering remark about Hurricane Florence’s potential impact, “Let me tell you, this one really scares me.”

Hurricane Florence By Google Crisis Response.


I’m reminded of this time last year when my husband, Michael, and I had made a trip down to Indiantown, Florida. We were beyond excited since we were going to prepare the 35′ sailboat (named “Hope”) that would soon become our next home.

But what was supposed to be a fun-filled trip to prepare the boat for shipping turned into a frantic emergency as we learned that Hurricane Irma—considered “one of the strongest and costliest hurricanes on record in the Atlantic basin” with maximum sustained winds of 185 MPH—was slated (at the time) for a direct hit in the area, sending everyone into a frenzied panic.

I remember us making the difficult choice to evacuate the area and leaving behind our lovely, new home. As we drove north, however, we found solace thinking about the kindness and incredible generosity of people we met as we rushed to fortify our boat.

Marina employees and fellow boat owners offered advice, tools, words of solidarity, and pitched in to help ensure everyone would fare as best as possible under difficult circumstances.

Perhaps you live relatively close to the area predicted to bear the most impact by a natural disaster, or perhaps you’re several states (or countries) away.


We’ve listed different ways you can contribute to relief efforts below.

Volunteer or donate to programs, such as those by The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), a coalition of 50+ national organizations that help communities impacted by disasters. To find a local program, check out their list of state/territory members.

  • Americares provides emergency medicine, supplies and other humanitarian aid for people affected by poverty or disaster.
  • Wings of Rescue, a volunteer-run organization, provides air transport for thousands of pets from overcrowded high intake shelters and also evacuates animals before a disaster hits.
Rick Browde of Wings of Rescue checks the dogs and cats on his flight

Ric Browde, president and CEO of Wings of Rescue, unloads dogs and cats after his flight from Florida to California. (Photo: Ric Browde/Wings of Rescue)


If you live near impacted areas, consider volunteering at an emergency shelter or donating needed supplies or services, such as helping with childcare or fostering displaced pets. Check your local news sources about additional volunteer needs too and consider reaching out to other communities, such as nursing homes, that could use extra help.


Mandatory Credit: Photo by CAITLIN PENNA/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock (9879582p) People evacuate ahead of the forecasted landfall of Hurricane Florence as they seek shelter at Emma B. Trask Middle School in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA, 11 September 2018. The category four storm could be the strongest to strike the Carolina coast since Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Preparations for Hurricane Florence, Wilmington, USA - 11 Sep 2018

Airbnb launched a portal so hosts can open their homes for free to relief workers and those displaced by natural disaster.


Volunteer your skills to raise awareness about communities impacted by natural disasters,  whether it’s through social media or contacting community leaders to support relief efforts.

Additionally, you can coordinate or volunteer for a fundraising event that supports relief efforts.


Before donating to a charity, however, make sure to do your own research beforehand and check out the organizations below, which offer reports and ratings about how charitable organizations spend donations and how they conduct business:

A good rule of thumb, according to the personal finance news and advice publication Money, is to give to charities that spend no more than 20% of their revenue on overhead costs. They also advise,

That said, it is completely appropriate to ask the charities and nonprofits you donate to how the funds will be used. In some cases, you can also earmark your funds for specific causes (i.e. disaster relief) so you know they won’t go to the charity director’s half-million-dollar salary.

While most people and charities are genuinely trying to help, be careful to avoid possible scammers who prey on people’s good intentions. Check out The Federal Trade Commission‘s tips for verifying disaster relief charities.


In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Matthew Marchetti created CrowdSource Rescue, a platform designed to connect disaster victims with volunteers who are ready and able to help. Read the inspiring story behind the creation of CrowdSource Rescue and check their site about rescue needs.

If someone you know affected by a disaster should need medical treatment for a common health condition, Doctor on Demand is a tele-medicine service offering free visits (via video chat) to anyone affected by hurricanes and other disasters. 

We wantt to send gratitude to relief workers and everyday citizens who step up to help their communities, especially during disasters.

Naomi Coto carries Simba on her shoulders as they evacuate their home after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Naomi Coto carries Simba on her shoulders as they evacuate their home after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 27, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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