Question of the Week
September 13, 2004


During the past several weeks, many have tracked the events in Florida.

"Monday, September 13, 2004: Punta Gorda, Florida. Along a 45-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 17 in southwest Florida, every other house is draped in a bright blue tarp, as mangled rooftops and curbsides lined with piles of twisted debris offer vivid reminders of the wrath of recent hurricanes. Now, with monstrous Hurricane Ivan swirling into the Gulf, storm-weary Floridians scramble to prepare again, though many homes and businesses were never unboarded after hurricanes Charley and Frances roared through the state only weeks ago, leaving more than 50 dead and countless homes and lives in disarray. Yet Florida residents are far from alone in their plight - in just the past month, almost 16,000 American Red Cross volunteers have stepped up to both lend a hand and a shoulder of support to residents in the hard-hit Sunshine State. And even as Ivan approaches, their work continues, supplying hot meals, water, shelter, cleaning supplies and emotional and financial support to hurricane victims.",1072,0_312_3267,00.html

Three years ago in New York:

"'Volunteers responded to the scene almost immediately, 'Fothergill says. Most were New Yorkers, but many volunteers, such as firefighters and rescue workers, came from other states and even other countries to help. People who never had volunteered for anything in their lives suddenly found themselves at Ground Zero. According to the Red Cross, the outpouring of volunteer effort after the terrorist attacks was the largest response ever to a disaster.... Some who came to help and didn‚t have specialized skills were frustrated they couldn‚t do more. Fothergill wants to correct the common misconception that people panic during disasters. 'People remain orderly and help each other,' she says, noting that the media 'overplays incidences of panic and looting.'"

If you live in an area that has been affected by a disaster, "You may be able to help out. Children of all ages can help in the shelter by babysitting other children or cleaning up or serving food. You can even help with sandbagging or cleaning up your house after a tornado or hurricane or earthquake."

If you don't live in an area that has been affected, but you still want to help, here are some things to consider:
"STATE EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER, TALLAHASSEE - As residents across Florida start rebuilding from Hurricane Charley, the State of Florida encourages everyone to contribute wisely towards recovery efforts. Consider the following before you donate goods, money, or your time: Financial contributions are preferred.... Donate through an experienced organization.... Confirm the need before collecting.... Volunteer wisely to help others..."

You don't want to send money (you don't have it, or you would rather help in another way), but you don't know what else you can do. Maybe you are too far away from Florida, and you are thinking, "What if something like that happened where I live? Then what would I do?"

The best thing to do before a disaster strikes is to be prepared.

"Talk with your family about disasters that can happen where you live. Talk with your family about why you need to prepare for these events. Calmly explain the potential dangers, and plan to share responsibilities and work together as a team. Make sure every family member knows their particular responsibilities. Designate an alternate in case a person is not there at the time."

What could your responsibilities be? Is there more you would like to do--if only you knew how?

The Red Cross offers first aid, CPR, swimming, lifeguarding, HIV/AIDS education, Babysitter's Training, and more. To see what is available in your area, you can find the chapter nearest you at:

The more you know before a disaster strikes, the better prepared you will be to deal with the situation. How can you help yourself and your family to be ready in the event of a disaster?

"Every family needs to plan for what might happen. You should sit down with your family and talk about: * What types of disasters might happen * What you should do to prepare (like creating your family disaster kit) * What to do if you are asked to evacuate (which means to leave your home)... You can also talk with your whole neighborhood about disaster plans. Find out if someone in your neighborhood has a special skill -- like being a doctor."

And if you can't stay in your neighborhood...

"You may have to leave your house during a disaster and may sleep somewhere else for a while. It‚s smart to put together your own Kid‚s Activity Survival Kit so you will have things to do and share with other kids. These can all be stored in a backpack or duffel bag. Just make sure you can carry it easily. Some suggested items for your Activity Survival Kit..."

Knowing what to do, and being able to offer a helping hand, can often make it easier to cope in a disaster situation.

Questions of the Week:
Who is responsible for disaster preparedness in your area? What do you need to know to be ready and able to help your family and your community before, during, and after a disaster strikes? What skills do you have that you could share? How might being able to help others help you to better deal with a crisis situation?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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