As our thoughts, prayers, and concerns focus toward the heartbreaking stories emerging from Hurricane Harvey, it can be difficult to watch from the comfort of our own homes.Mary Hughes Gaudreau, OCC's Director of Disaster Spiritual Care and an experienced disaster responder, offers advice about appropriate ways to respond.
1) PRAY for those who have been directly impacted by these storms and for the responders. If you know someone who is directly affected or persons who are responding on site, consider offering support by praying for them.
2) STAY Remember that "all disasters are local" and affected communities decide when to request specific support so that additional burden isn't added to local incident commanders. Affiliate with existing disaster response organizations to know if and when to go into disaster areas.
3) DONATE RESPONSIBLY Don't donate used clothing or household items, old computers, or other items not specifically requested by established disaster response organizations. These become a major burden to disaster-affected communities.
Cash donations are always best. Donate money to and through trusted organizations.
4) PLAN TO VOLUNTEER LATER Be patient. Recovery lasts much longer than media attention. Remember that long-term disaster recovery needs will continue for years to come and many faith-based organizations will be offering volunteer opportunities.
5) CONSIDER VOLUNTEERING RIGHT NOW IN OKLAHOMA While you wait for the opportunity to assist with long-term recovery efforts in Texas, consider that more than 200 families right here in Oklahoma need volunteers to repair their homes damaged in our 2015 floods.
6) MONITOR, your own reactions, triggers, and stress level. The stories and pictures are disturbing. Be particularly aware of short-term "disaster adrenaline" and "disaster guilt" that may trigger stress reactions that can drift into "fight-flight" (I must do something right now!) and "freeze" (I feel completely helpless--there's nothing I can do). Disaster survivors will need the sustained energy and compassion of caring faith communities for years to come. Be particularly careful about social media posting. Re-posting incorrect or exaggerated stories can amplify anxiety in already stressful situations.
7) PREPARE Check your own disaster preparedness plans. Given Oklahoma's frequent disasters, you can lessen the potential burden upon your family and community by strengthening your own individual and family preparedness. For more information go to www.ready.gov.