Our purpose at the Health Innovation Blog is to spread awareness of innovations that advance personal and population health and discuss new approaches to old problems for getting and keeping people healthy and productive. But perhaps nothing is more vital to personal and population health than the physical safety of ourselves, our families, and our communities, and our emotional well-being in the face of a disaster. Right now, millions of people are facing serious challenges – directly or indirectly – as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Millions of others are wondering what they can do to help. So we tapped the experiences of a RedBrick Health employee and Health Innovation Blog contributor, Dave Glad, who also serves in a leadership capacity in Red Cross Disaster Response and has helped respond to hundreds of disasters.
HIB: What can you tell us about the effects of disasters like Sandy?
DG: Without a doubt, there are two things that people are thinking right now no matter how prepared they are for these situations.
“I know these things happen, but I never thought it would happen to me,” and “I want to help, but I don’t know how.” I probably hear the first statement every single time I’m at a disaster response.
HIB: So what do you recommend to those people?
DG: The first thing I like to let people know is that help is available and the Red Cross is a great starting point. Ideally, you can locate your local Red Cross chapter phone number and start there. But anyone, at any time, can contact 1-800-RED-CROSS and get started. If they can, they should log onto redcross.org where they can enter their specific Zip code and receive localized instructions.
Emotional well-being is also key. I always tell people, “This is a tremendous challenge, but you don’t need to solve everything immediately.” You can comfort your friends and family by reminding them that recovery is a long-term process.
HIB: People who weren’t in the path of the storm are also feeling sort of helpless.
DG: Exactly! That’s how I got started with my Red Cross volunteering, when a local apartment building burned to the ground on Christmas Eve. I wanted so badly to help but didn’t know how.
The easy answer is volunteer for the next one. We need people, but I know that volunteering is a huge commitment.
Realistically, although it may not “feel as satisfying”, the biggest way to help is to log onto www.redcross.org and make a monetary donation. Everything Red Cross does is made possible through the generosity of the public.
If you can’t contribute financially, consider donating blood which continues to be desperately needed. The Red Cross Blood Services can direct you to a local donation resource, or there are several other organizations in every local area.
HIB: What if neither is possible?
DG: It’s easy. Go to http://www.redcross.org and click on “Prepare”
Spend 10 minutes reading how to prepare for a disaster. Think about what you would do if a fast-moving fire, tornado, or flood was about to claim your home. Think about what you need to have every day – prescriptions, glasses, ID, extra cash, cell phone charger, a copy of your car keys…and of course food, water, and extra clothes. If you have kids, talk to them about how to react.
Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world. I spend more time than I care to standing in the rain or snow, in the middle of the night, with a family that suddenly has nothing but the clothes they happened to be wearing at the time, and whatever they were able to grab on the way out of their burning home. Mentally put yourself in that position and go from there.
Having the knowledge that you’re prepared, or that you can help your neighbors is powerful and can help take the edge off what many of us are feeling – that we wish we could be lending a hand to the people affected by Sandy.
HIB: Thank you for this!
DG: My pleasure and I hope the people on the East Coast know we support them and are hoping they can get past this as quickly and smoothly as possible.