The best way Hoosiers can help victims of Hurricane Sandy that walloped the East Coast this week is by donating cash that would go directly to meet specific needs in flooded areas, a Purdue University disaster education specialist says.
"Cash is best," said Steve Cain, Purdue Extension Disaster Education Network homeland security project director. "It is better to donate cash instead of goods because local responders can more readily convert that into what's needed."
Cain, who also is president of the national disaster-aid relief group Indiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, of which Purdue Extension is a member, and serves on the board of the National VOAD, said people wanting to help can donate cash through the group's website at http://www.nvoad.org/donate. Donations will go toward specific needs in affected areas.
Donations such as clothing and household items can become difficult for disaster responders to handle and might not be needed in some areas. Cain suggested that individuals and organizations with goods they want to donate might be more effective if they sell those items at a garage sale and donate the money raised.
"It is best to know the need," he said. "For example, if you have a sister city or faith-based organization in the affected area, see what they need and confirm that need."
Cain also offered other advice to those wanting to help:
* Get involved by being an affiliated volunteer.
"Don't go to affected areas without aligning yourself with a recognized organization that has the means and the ability," he said. VOAD has a list of affiliated members and partners at http://www.nvoad.org/members and http://www.nvoad.org/partners.
"It may be too late for this disaster to get affiliated, but use this one to prepare for the next one," said Cain, who helped to coordinate hundreds of volunteers in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Henryville and other areas of southern Indiana in March. "I know from experience that managing a massive influx of volunteers can overload the local system."
Other volunteers who are professionally or more directly connected to disaster response should start with their state emergency management agency. In Indiana, that is the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
* Be Prepared.
"If you do volunteer, have a disaster supplies kit so that you aren't one of the victims you are trying to help," Cain said. "And, again, affiliate with an organization that has experience."