Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Give money to Red Cross, and some information

(I am placing this post in both of my blogs)

I have steered away from posting about the hurricane since so many places have been doing it. Also, reading the news only angers me as I see a lot of incompetence at high levels of government and things that should have been done that were not done. My thoughts go to the victims. One of the things I thought about doing was putting together a little list of information resources, after all, being a librarian, information is something I know a thing or two about. However, finding this information is not as easy as it sounds. After doing some searching, here are some things I have learned, and if in some measure, they help others, so much the better:

  • For people who are not there or anywhere near it, probably the best thing they can do is donate money to the relief organizations. I personally recommend the American Red Cross, but there are other organizations as well that are looking for donations.
  • Often people wonder why it is that organizations ask for money and often turn away goods and volunteers. The Red Cross has an excellent explanation here. Basically, it has to do with logistics and cost. Often, transporting goods to far away places costs too much to be effective. The money helps in various ways, including giving people cash vouchers, buying stuff locally, and other needs.
  • Another resource is FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They have various information items, including the list of places to donate money listed above as well as some information on avoiding donation scams. Yes, it sounds terrible, but there are actually vultures out there (actually, I could put in some choice expletives for those low life forms, but I won't) who prey on the victims and what little they may have left. They also prey on the goodwill of those of us who want to help. In terms of donating money, do so to reputable charities and agencies such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. They also have some tips on how to locate relatives. This is also another thing to be careful about as some people will use this as a scam.
  • Locally, states often have state emergency management agencies. Here are the links for the ones in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. These are places that will list items such as shelter locations. Sometimes they have a list; other times they will give a phone number to call. Also, the Red Cross site I have linked above, if you enter a zip code, you can get local information. However, the Houston Chapter of the Red Cross where I am at does not seem to have as much yet. Either that, or not as easy to find.
  • Which leads me to the next place to find information: the local news. I jumped at some of the local television stations and the newspaper, and I found listings of local shelters available, where to make donations, who is taking supplies, and who may be asking for volunteers. By the way, I just picked one of the local stations as an example. The other local affiliates of the big networks will have similar information as well. I have found that these are a lot quicker to get information out on community information.
  • My bet is that down the road, as people get somewhat settled (if anyone can get "settled" after such a horrible disaster), people will be looking for other information sources. Down the road, many of the victims may not be able to go back home. Some may well realize they have to make a new home someplace else. This is where libraries, especially public libraries, come in. We should probably be preparing lists of local information and resources to help refer people to shelters, agencies, jobs, places to live.
Update note (at 5:30p): American Libraries (online edition) has a report collecting short articles and pieces on libraries affected by the hurricane. The site promises to keep adding updates.

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