Columbia, S.C. - Seeing images of disaster may compel you to head to the impacted area. Working in a disaster area is complex with plans and procedures already in place. Until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support, volunteers should not enter without being asked to do so. The South Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters have an organized, planned system in place to bring in contributions should they be needed. Before coming to an impacted area, consider the following:
- Help your neighbors and local community first.
- First responders are trained in life-safety disaster operations and typically cannot support unknown, spontaneous volunteers.
- Be sure to connect with an existing voluntary organization before coming to the disaster area, and check to see if that organization has been asked to respond.
- Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites and opportunities have been identified.
- Once assigned a position, make sure you have been given an assignment and are wearing proper safety gear for the task.
- Be sure to check with your current employer to make sure you can take leave from your job to help your chosen volunteer organization.
- Your help is needed. Make sure your contributions get to where they need to go most by reviewing all the ways to volunteer and donate on the S.C. Emergency Management Division’s website here: https://www.scemd.org/recover/volunteer-and-donate/
Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster – especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.