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Reference for Article Below: University of Richmond, University Communications. Retrieved January 12, 2009, from http://oncampus.richmond.edu/news/aug05/Green.html

"Don't Go,"
Disaster Expert Warns Well-Intentioned People Who Want to Help Hurricane Victims

August 30, 2005

If you’re thinking about traveling to Louisiana or Mississippi to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, perhaps you should think again.

“Don’t go,” says Walter G. Green III, associate professor of emergency services at the University of Richmond. Unless you’re a part of an organized group that is part of the disaster response system that has been requested to help, you should stay at home, Green says.

“If you’re a Red Cross volunteer and your group has been requested, by all means, go. Make sure you have the supplies the organization tells you to bring, but go,” Green says. “But if you’re Billy Bob and seven neighbors, don’t.”

“A lot of well meaning people actually become a burden to the area they want to help,” Green says. They come without their own food and water and have to be taken care of along with local population. Some come without equipment or training or authority and have to be shepherded around by local authorities, as the New York Fire Department had to do in the World Trade Center disaster.

What about sending supplies? Again, don’t unless you do it the right way, says Green. “Don’t send ‘stuff,’ like one can of beans or three old T-shirts. Don’t empty out your closet of stuff no one will use.” Instead, donate money through established disaster response organizations. Check out the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster at www.NVOAD.org, Green says, for lists of disaster organizations.

Businesses or corporations who want to help should contact authorities in the affected states, according to Green. Check out states’ Web sites to locate their emergency management agency for advice on how to send such items as pallets of water or cleaning supplies.

Finally, you should be prepared at home, Green says. “Any intelligent person watching what is happening in Louisiana and on the Gulf Coast should realize that disasters happen everywhere.” Get prepared now, he says. “Preparation does make a difference in costs after a bad event.”

Green teaches emergency services management and disaster science to undergraduates and graduates in the university’s School of Continuing Studies. His Disaster Database Project, a global database of disasters from hurricanes in Florida to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, can be found online at http://cygnet.richmond.edu/is/esm/disaster/.