OLYMPIA – In a community struggling to respond to and recover from a disaster, an influx of unexpected or unneeded volunteers and donations can make the process even more difficult. Before traveling to the disaster area to help, learn where and when your skills will be needed. Discuss with volunteer organizations how your needs for food, water and shelter will be met while you are volunteering. When volunteering, don’t become part of the disaster. Follow these guidelines:
1. GET TRAINED Most disaster organizations require a level of training to be sure their volunteers are qualified to supply the services the clients need. Though it is sometimes possible to train you in the moment, it is not the most effective way. Signing up with a disaster-based organization before a disaster is the BEST way to be a great volunteer later.
Several important preparedness trainings are already scheduled in the community.
2. GET REGISTERED Visit the Center’s Web site at www.volunteer.ws and register your skills and interests so you can be matched immediately with organizations in need. The Center will be updateding disaster-related volunteer opportunities as they become available and you will be automatically notified if any of those opportunities match your skills or interests. If you are unable to sign up online contact your local office of the Volunteer Center. In Lewis County call 360-748-2500 in Mason County call 360-426-3405 and in Thurston County call 360-741-2622.
3. GIVE CASH Financial gifts get help to people fast. Financial contributions are best, because they allow relief organizations to address specific needs most quickly. Make sure the organization you are giving to is legit by visiting guidestar.com. If you plan on collecting items, ASK as many items may not be needed and may be difficult for organizations to store.
4. BE PREPARED Disasters strike with or without warning. Do you and your family know how to respond? It is important to have an emergency supply kit and a communication plan. Visit www.Ready.gov for more resources.