Friday, July 22, 2011


As we look toward the rest of the year, the record number of disasters in the United States is a bit frightening. Our thoughts here at Chasing4Life include, “How will we respond again?” Organizations and response teams are tapped out. The year has been exhausting. Our C4LDRT is looking at re-deploying to Joplin, but fundraising is at an all time low, and after talking to a number of other response agencies, organizations and non-profits, I find this is the case all over.
America is breathing a sigh of relief right now, glad to not be seeing coverage of mass casualties on the news for a change, but you know it is only temporary…

Disasters lurk in the shadows even today…

It is time to give, to support, and to volunteer. Here’s a short list of do’s and don’ts for you. The most important are these:

DO make sure you support something
DON’T think it can’t happen in your community.

Here’s a few more…

Make sure you know what the needs are.
I remember after Katrina, we got a phone call from a woman who was so excited. She had collected blankets for hurricane victims. Now, don’t get me wrong, blankets are needed all over the world and nobody should be without one, but it was over 100 degrees outside in Louisiana the day I got the call!
Make sure you know what the needs are. The safest thing to do with your money is to give it to an organization that is on the ground in the disaster zone that KNOWS what the needs REALLY are. Do not give based on the last news story you saw.
When you watch television and see the destruction, it is hard to imagine that a city or town would NOT want assistance, but sometimes this is the case. There are many communities with plans and sometimes, there is not the help needed you are perceiving.
If you are going to collect items or goods, make sure you have a means of transporting them yourself, and that you have someone to receive them at the other end. Make sure you have a church or organization of SOMEONE that has COMMITTED to taking delivery!
Shortly after the Joplin tornado, we watched a truck loaded with goods roll into town. It was unloaded, then loaded back up, and then sent to a mission in another state because there was such a overload of goods in the town.

Look at a variety of organizations before giving
There are hundreds of organizations that respond to most disasters, take the time to evaluate a few before giving. Also, just because they have name recognition does not mean they’re best able to respond to the disaster. Look at the capability of the organization to get the work done. Many times, an organization may be formed BECAUSE of the disaster. This is not always a bad thing, but just because the organization is named “REVIVE JOPLIN” does not mean it is the organization to give to or to assist. Watch the FaceBook page, look at the website, ask questions. Are they involved or TRYING to get involved? Are they working through a recognized channel? Social media is a GREAT way to monitor an organization. Since the San Diego fires in 2007, social media has created a means by which you can watch the daily operations of an organization.

Look for organizations with experience and expertise
There is a great deal of money after well publicized disasters. The ease of raising money makes it tempting to respond even if the organization does not have prior experience in that area. This past 6 months, we have seen MANY organizations and church groups respond to disaster zones in flip-flops and and shorts ready to work, but not trained for the work. These groups were well-financed by folks back home that gave to their passion but not to their experience. Make sure you are financing a group or organization that can get the job done in the conditions that exist.

Don’t get sucked into excitement and popularity.
Many response and recovery opportunities are big news, so it makes them “popular” to give to. This is true of the recent surge in breast cancer awareness as well. Americans think nothing of giving massive amounts toward a pink ribbon campaign, but what color is the ribbon for prostate cancer? I don’t know either.
My point is this…Tuscaloosa was not the only city hit, but it will forever be referred to as the Tuscaloosa tornado. Is there a smaller community where your gift could make a bigger impact? Educate yourself as to where the needs are. While the nation’s focus was on Tuscaloosa this past Spring, the town of Mapleton, Iowa was recovering alone.

Don’t earmark funds
When we are on the ground in a disaster zone, what we thought the needs were may change. Don’t earmark funds. If you write a check that says “For tools” and we arrive in the zone to find out we have the right tools but no diesel, we’re in trouble. Don’t force organizations to spend money needlessly. We recently had a woman that brought money to a zone that was “earmarked” for food, but when we arrived, a gracious church offered to feed the team. As the deployment progressed and we struggled for other needs to be met, all I could think about was that untouchable money in that woman’s pocket…

Don’t expect the funds to be spent immediately
The initial relief phase encompasses search and rescue, immediate medical care, food, water and shelter. After that the much longer recovery and reconstruction phase begins. Organizations that feel pressure from donors to complete their work quickly may try to speed their work by cutting corners, leaving aid recipients out of the decision making process, avoiding coordinating with other organizations, or ending projects before they’re able to survive on their own. Allow the organizations adequate time to ensure they are providing help in the best way possible.
Don’t give based on news coverage.
It isn’t over because it isn’t in the news, and just because nothing has happened in the last three weeks doesn’t mean there won’t be a need tomorrow. Our biggest struggle at present is that we cannot deploy to another major disaster without continued support. If you wait to give until you see it on the news, you could be limiting an organization and preventing them to respond immediately.

Connect and Train
If you want to volunteer, connect. There are many organizations that will train you in advance to respond safely, efficiently and with the right credentials. Chasing4Life is just one of those organizations. Make your passion and energy count by deploying with a team.
Support disaster preparedness programs
Programs that help communities prepare for and respond to disasters save more lives and are more cost effective than large rescue operations after the disaster. Our slogan is “With more education, we will need less response”. With over 800 programs per year, Chasing4Life is actively trying to reduce the impact disaster can have on communities. Can your company help? Can you? Do you know a potential sponsor?

Be educated