Volunteering in Disaster
Thank you for your interest in helping our community prepare for or recover from a disaster or weather event. The best way you can help is to be part of an organized effort that is working in coordination with local emergency response officials. Please DO NOT self-deploy to the area or donate unsolicited goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, medicine, or food.
Before heading to a disaster area, consider the complexities of the situation. To make the most of your efforts and assist impacted communities best, consider these tips for donating and volunteering responsibly:
1. Cash is the fastest way to assist disaster survivors. Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources.
- Many organizations specialize in providing relief in disaster areas, yet they face significant financial barriers to getting their staff, equipment, and supplies into impacted areas.
- Donations help put experienced disaster responders on the ground and gives them the tools they need to help survivors recover.
- Organizations typically prefer cash donations because they allow them to:
- Purchase food, water, medicine, and equipment from secure and familiar supply chains
- Buy materials locally — which can help rebuild the local economy
- Conserve resources — money is cheap to send, but the cost to ship material supplies can be expensive
- Remember, material supplies such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and food require the helping agencies to redirect volunteer labor away from providing direct one-on-one assistance to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
2. 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 in order to help disaster survivors.
- National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) has a list of vetted disaster relief organizations who provide help to disaster survivors. National VOAD is the recognized non-governmental leader of the disaster preparedness, response, and recovery sector.
3. Affiliate with existing non-profit organizations before coming to the disaster area. Immediately following a disaster, a community can become easily overwhelmed by the amount of generous people who want to help. Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained and supported to respond in the most effective way.
4. Do not self deploy. Seeing images of disaster may compel you to head to the impacted area. Don’t underestimate the complexity of working in a disaster area. Until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support, volunteers should not enter.
- Be sure to affiliate with existing voluntary organization before coming to the disaster area.
- Wait until it is safe to travel to sites and opportunities have been identified.
5. Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention.
- There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster--especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.
HandsOn Greater Richmond is a member of the Virginia Capital Area Region VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Time of Disaster).
- Download the Virginia Hurricane Preparedness Guide
- Worksheets to make a plan
- Prepare your school or business with Ready Rating
- Emergency Supplies Lists
- Community Disaster Preparedness Manual
- Prepare for winter weather
On the Move
- Sign up for CPR, First Aid and AED Training
- Take the citizen CERT training: Henrico. Chesterfield. City of Richmond.
- Social Media can be a fast and effective communication tool: Connect with us or any of the resources below for immediate updates @HandsOnRVA
View HandsOn's Emergency and Disaster pin board