How to Respond When You Learn That Someone is Ill or Injured is one of the most read posts on this blog, and it’s regularly updated. It’s recommended that you read this for general ideas of how you can help. Because there are some important differences with a disaster-e.g. house fire, flood- occurs, the purpose of this post is to focus on addressing the differences.
Keep in mind while the person(s) maybe physically fine everything around them is not. Expect them to exhibit what may appear to be very odd and strange behavior. They are having a very normal reaction to very abnormal circumstance. The first thing you can do for someone in this situation is
make sure they are safe, have factual information and basic needs of food, shelter, clothing etc. are met. Hugs help and reassurances that things will get better and you're there to help see them through makes a big difference.
If the person is suicidal, please take this threat seriously and get them help.
• Do not leave them alone.
• Seek immediate professional help
• Take the person to an emergency room to the nearest hospital.
• If the above options are not available, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text HOPELINE at 741741 with the word “start” to get the assistance that you need.
While you may want to be helpful, keep in mind what you can realistically do and don’t over extend yourself. Dropping off a gift card, coffee and baked goods, a meal or even cleaning supplies, speaks volumes and offers much needed support. Consider gas cards and restaurants as well as places like Home Depot, Walmart and stores where they will need to shop to replace and repair. How to Respond When You Learn That Someone is Ill or Injured provides various ways you can provide assistance.
Organizing a response needs to happen as quickly as possible. You have about a week-10 days to get the best response. This is the same amount of time it takes to adjust to the “new normal.” After that, people move on to their own issues and concerns. The “let’s wait and see” isn’t the best approach for obtaining funds and help. If this is a family that is extremely private, you may only want to respond in low-keyed ways.
If you wish to organize a community response, get together with several people who can each take specific tasks, such as setting up appropriate websites (crowd-funding, Facebook, Lotsa Helping Hands) or organizing a fundraiser. Make sure you can work with these individuals and there is agreement to communicate daily to avoid duplication, miscommunication etc. One person needs to be working with the family to ensure that the help being provided is what they need and want.
Below are specific ways to organize community:
Crowd-Funding: If there is financial need, setting up a crowd-funding site e.g. Go Fund Me should happen as soon as possible. Provide pictures of the incident, along with factual information about how much money is needed to help with the recovery and how these funds will be used. There are many options to “Go Fund Me,” but keep in mine they all take a percentage of the funds raised. This sole purpose of the site is to raise money.
Lotsa Helping Hands: To organize help from family, friends and neighbors and to keep them informed, and solicit donations of items, set up a Lotsa Helping Hands (LHH) free website. This is an invitation only site, while crowd-funding is open to the public. LHH is an easy way to send one e-mail, which lets lots of people know what’s needed and when, work party schedules and much more. The website will do the reminding of who has agreed to do what. This is a very useful tool that can make effective responding much easier.
Facebook: A Facebook page can also be a good way to share information and solicit donations. If you want the public to be able to read the site, even if they aren’t Facebook subscribers, you need to set it up as a community site. Make sure there are multiple administrators as it needs to be checked frequently throughout the day as some users leave inappropriate comments and that can derail your efforts.
Social /News Media: Once the on-line resources are operational, use social media to spread the word. However, because the news outlets show up for disasters, capitalize on that by giving them the URL for the crowd-funding site and Facebook page. News articles can be a very helpful way to solicit donations and raise awareness.
Accounts at Stores: Set up accounts at stores they will need to use to replace items, rebuild etc.
Fundraiser: If you decide to organize a fundraiser, make sure the URLs for on-line sites and the location of stores where accounts have been set up in the person’s name, are included in all print materials as well as social media. Also note, this is not the time to do a fundraiser where other groups-e.g. Red Cross, local fire departments-are co recipients. It’s a confusing message and it’s best to do a separate fundraiser for these groups.
Donation Jars: Consider asking local stores to set up a donation jar. A unique design for the jar will significantly increase contributions, e.g. a replica of the house damaged. The store owner doesn’t have time to clean out the jars so make sure someone is assigned this task.
Community Organizations: Depending on where you live, community based organizations can often help in times of major disasters. Places to contact for help and support include: churches and places of worship; community action agencies; food pantries; thrift shops and used furniture stores; grocery stores; civic organizations; schools (high schools and colleges will often have organized student work groups that can help); area businesses.
Remember the “thank you.” Be sure to let people know how much their contributions are helping.