DHS: How to Help Disaster Survivors in Texas (Know Before You Go, Video)

(Image courtesy of Getty via National VOAD & Twitter)
The most effective way to support disaster survivors in their recovery is to donate money and time to trusted, reputable, voluntary or charitable organizations. (Image courtesy of Getty via National VOAD & Twitter)

The compassion and generosity of the American people is never more evident than during and after a disaster.

It is individuals, non-profits, faith- and community-based organizations, private sector partners, and governmental agencies working together that will most effectively and efficiently help survivors cope with the impacts of Tropical Storm Harvey.

Please follow a few important guidelines below to ensure your support can be the most helpful for Tropical Storm Harvey disaster survivors.

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(Image courtesy of FEMA)

To Donate to Relief Efforts

The most effective way to support disaster survivors in their recovery is to donate money and time to trusted, reputable, voluntary or charitable organizations.

Cash donations offer voluntary agencies and faith-based organizations the most flexibility to address urgently developing needs.

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(Image courtesy of FEMA)

With cash in hand, these organizations can obtain needed resources nearer to the disaster location.

This inflow of cash also pumps money back into the local economy and helps local businesses recover faster.

Please do not donate unsolicited goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, medicine, or perishable foodstuffs at this time.

When used personal items are donated, the helping agencies must redirect their staff away from providing direct services to survivors in order to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.

Donate Through a Trusted Organization.

At the national level, many voluntary-, faith- and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors.

Individuals, corporations, and volunteers, can learn more about how to help on the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) website.

(Learn More, courtesy of the Donate Responsibly Campaign and YouTube)

In addition to the national members, The Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Texas VOAD) has a list of vetted disaster relief organizations providing services to survivors.

Texas VOAD represents more than three dozen faith-based, community, nonprofit and non-governmental organizations.

(PLEASE SEE IMPORTANT NOTICE ON DISASTER FRAUD SCHEMES BELOW)

To Personally Volunteer in the Disaster Areas

The State of Texas is asking volunteers to not self-deploy, as unexpectedly showing up to any of the communities that have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey will create an additional burden for first responders.

The National VOAD has also noted the situation may not be conducive to volunteers entering the impacted zone and individuals may find themselves turned away by law enforcement.

(Image courtesy of FEMA)

To ensure volunteer safety, as well as the safety of disaster survivors, volunteers should only go into affected areas with a specific volunteer assignment, proper safety gear, and valid identification.

At this time, potential volunteers are asked to register with a voluntary or charitable organization of their choice, many of which are already in Texas and supporting survivors on the ground.

The National and Texas VOAD websites are offering links to those who wish to register to volunteer with community- and faith-based organizations working in the field.

Most Importantly, Please Be Patient.

Although the need is great, and desire to help strong, it is important to avoid donating material goods or self-deploying to help until communities are safe and public officials and disaster relief organizations have had an opportunity to assess the damage and identify what the specific unmet needs are.

Volunteer generosity helps impacted communities heal from the tragic consequences of disasters, but recovery lasts much longer than today.

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(Image courtesy of FEMA)

There will be volunteer needs for many months, and years, after the disaster, so sign up now.

Tropical Storm Harvey is still dangerous, with the potential to impact additional areas of Texas and Louisiana. As the situation changes, needs may also change in these areas.

Continue monitoring traditional and social media channels to learn more.

Learn More…

Tips on Avoiding Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Schemes

The National Center for Disaster Fraud reminds the public to be aware of and report any instances of alleged fraudulent activity related to relief operations and funding for victims.

Unfortunately, criminals can exploit disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, for their own gain by sending fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions.

Tips should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721.

The line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, e-mails can be sent to disaster@leo.gov, and information can be faxed to (225) 334-4707.

The U.S. Department of Justice established the National Center for Disaster Fraud to investigate, prosecute, and deter fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when billions of dollars in federal disaster relief poured into the Gulf Coast region.

Its mission has expanded to include suspected fraud from any natural or manmade disaster.

More than 30 federal, state, and local agencies participate in the National Center for Disaster Fraud, which allows the center to act as a centralized clearinghouse of information related to disaster relief fraud.

The public should remember to perform due diligence before giving contributions to anyone soliciting donations or individuals offering to provide assistance to those affected by the hurricane and tornadoes.

Solicitations can originate from social media, e-mails, websites, door-to-door collections, flyers, mailings, telephone calls, and other similar methods.

(Learn More, courtesy of AG Jeff Landry and YouTube)

Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as members of charitable organizations or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.
  • Beware of organizations with copy-cat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
  • Rather than follow a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group’s existence and its nonprofit status.
  • Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
  • Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use such tactics.
  • Be aware of whom you are dealing with when providing your personal and financial information. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
  • Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services. Most legitimate charities’ websites end in .org rather than .com.

To Learn More, please visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-oilspill/national-center-disaster-fraud-ncdf