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Emergency Management

United Way’s 2-1-1 Information Service Stands Ready to Help Those Impacted by Hurricane Irma

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With Hurricane Irma on course to hit Florida, United Way stands ready to help storm victims with 2-1-1, an information and referral service that can provide local information about shelters, food and water, health resources, and other needs related to hurricane recovery or anything else. Anyone in need of assistance should call or text 2-1-1 to connect with a trained specialist for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

2-1-1 centers from to have stepped up to help people in Irma’s path. As a national network, 2-1-1s will continue to answer calls and texts from residents in the Southeast even if centers in the region close due to hurricane damage. If phone services are impacted, residents can text “Irma” to 898-211.

2-1-1 specialists can answer questions regarding the following:

  • Shelter locations
  • Where to get food
  • Where to get supplies
  • Help accessing disaster programs
  • Other non-life threatening emergencies

“In the wake of the devastation from Hurricane Harvey, we are once again preparing our 2-1-1 call centers to help people impacted by this dangerous storm,” said United Way Worldwide U.S. President Mary Sellers. “We urge anyone in crisis to reach out to us with question or concerns throughout the weekend.”

Further, in anticipation of the devastation expected to impact the region, United Way has created the United Way Irma Recovery Fund to support local communities in the and affected by Hurricane Irma. United Ways in the affected areas will continue to raise money locally and respond to emerging needs as appropriate. United Way’s Irma Recovery fund will complement those efforts, help smaller United Ways who may not have the capacity to create their own fund and provide a single clearinghouse for individual and corporate donors who want to help.

United Way’s focus will be on mid-and long-term recovery and 100 percent of individual donations given to the United Way Irma Recovery Fund will be used to meet storm-related needs in the affected areas. The money will be distributed to United Ways in the affected areas of the Southeast United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and trusted partners in other affected areas of the Caribbean.

United Way has a history of serving as the cornerstone for long-term recovery after natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina, as well as flooding in Tamil Nadu, India. United Way is laying the ground work for mid- and long-term recovery in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma, which is expected to take several years. The United Way Irma Recovery Fund is just one more way the organization will continue the fight for every person in every community.

To donate or volunteer, please go to www.unitedway.org.

Social Work Helper is a news, information, resources, and entertainment website related to social good, social work, and social justice. To submit news and press releases email [email protected]

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Emergency Management

Food For The Poor Rushes Emergency Supplies to Caribbean Islands Destroyed by Hurricane Irma

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COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Sept. 13, 2017) – Food For The Poor is rushing emergency relief to Barbuda, St. Maarten, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other areas in the Caribbean to meet the dire needs of those who survived Hurricane Irma, which slammed the islands as a Category 5 storm with 185 mph winds last week.

The first shipment of lifesaving aid was sent from Caritas Antilles Chancery Offices, the charity’s trusted partner in St. Lucia, and arrived in the Dutch territory of St. Maarten on Monday.

Two other longtime Food For the Poor partners, Matthew 25: Ministries and Feed My Starving Children, are assisting us in this endeavor.

Critical items supplied included beans, MannaPack fortified rice meals, blankets, rubber boots, personal hygiene items and agricultural tools.

“At times like this, it is important to reach out to our brothers and sisters with whatever we can supply, and let them know that someone cares for them,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “The poor do not have the means to take care of themselves after a storm, and it can be devastating. Our generous donors are working with us to meet their most basic needs. This is a life or death situation.”

CNN reported on Wednesday that at least 44 people died when Irma battered the Caribbean last week, destroying homes and leaving thousands of people homeless. And what little food or water that was left is running out, leaving residents vulnerable.

On Barbuda, most homes and businesses were destroyed, according to the Prime Minister’s office. On St. Maarten, which is split between Dutch and French Territory, an official said up to 90 percent of the island had been destroyed. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, many who had not evacuated before Irma were huddled together in buildings that had no roofs. With roads impassable, they had to walk for miles to pick up food and water dropped off by U.S. military helicopters.

Haiti appeared to escape the brunt of Irma, whose outer bands raked its northern coastline. The storm dumped several inches of rain, which can cripple deforested areas of this island nation that are prone to devastating mudslides capable of wiping out entire neighborhoods.

Because communications are extremely difficult in the string of Caribbean islands after Irma’s wrath, it wasn’t immediately clear how many people simply weren’t able to contact others to let them know if they survived.

The most critical items needed are food, water, shelter, and medicines, said Marcia Haywood, regional coordinator for Caritas Antilles Chancery Offices in St. Lucia.

“It’s all of us working together to help those who really need it,” Haywood said.  “It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to do that.”

To support Hurricane Irma relief efforts, cash donations are best. Checks can be mailed to Food For The Poor at 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073. Please make checks payable to Food For The Poor and include the source code SC#104162 to accurately route your donation to the relief effort.

Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

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Emergency Management

How to Volunteer for Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief

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As Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies, along with non-profit, faith- and community-based organizations, and volunteers will be working together to provide services and assistance to help those affected by the destructive storm.

“Right now where we need citizens, neighbors helping neighbors, is in the life safety mission,” said Brock Long, FEMA Administrator. “The objectives are clear: restore power, ensure lifesaving and life sustaining supplies, provide emergency medication, and maintain security. This response and recovery will take the whole community…”

FEMA expects thousands of volunteers to be needed to support mass care activities for evacuation shelters in Florida, and potentially other southeastern states in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Individuals seeking to volunteer in Hurricane Irma’s aftermath should not self-deploy, but rather, coordinate with local and state organizations to ensure appropriate volunteer safety, training, and housing. Volunteers acting alone and attempting to enter impacted zones may find themselves turned away by local authorities.

In Florida, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FEDM) is coordinating with volunteer organizations across the state and partnering with the American Red Cross (ARC) to provide shelter operations training to volunteers and AmeriCorps grantees.

Those interested in volunteering to assist in Florida are encouraged to learn about opportunities at www.volunteerflorida.org, the website of Volunteer Florida, the state’s lead agency for volunteerism and national service that administers federal, state, and local funding for service programs.   Individuals looking to volunteer at shelters, should complete shelter operations training online and submit a registration form. Since the damages are unknown as of now, potential volunteers are asked to seek opportunities with charitable organizations that are currently stocking supplies.  The website is frequently updated, so please check back for new information.

If you are a nurse and available to volunteer, please email [email protected] to volunteer.

Individuals who register online and have completed the training, should note that if not contacted, please do not unexpectedly travel to disaster areas to volunteer, as it will create a burden on organizations and first responders. Volunteers should only go into affected areas with a specific volunteer assignment, proper safety gear, and valid identification.

VOLUNTEERING IN THE SOUTHEAST IN RESPONSE TO HURRICANE IRMA

As the storm is anticipated to affect other areas in the Southeast, the need for volunteers is expected to extend beyond Florida.  Anyone looking to get involved after Hurricane Irma has passed, is encouraged to volunteer with local and nationally known organizations. A list of volunteer websites are available at www.nvoad.org.

Volunteer generosity helps impacted communities heal from the tragic consequences of disasters, but recovery will last much longer. There will be several volunteer needs in the coming months and years, so please continue to sign up after the disaster.

Hurricane Irma is still considered extremely dangerous, with the potential to impact additional areas than Florida. As the situation changes, needs may also change in these areas, so please continue to monitor traditional and social media channels to learn more.

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Emergency Management

Hurricane & Flood Handbook: After the Storm

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Take it from someone who has seen 27 inches of water lap against the living room walls: plan ahead. No photo album should live lower than three feet in a cabinet. Children’s cheerleader pom-poms and refrigerator art are no longer stashed on the closet floor. And, never throw away old phone books — they can raise Grandma’s heirloom drop-leaf just high enough to save it. (Remember, phone books swell and get even higher when wet!)

There’s a lot you can save. But you’ve got to plan, while the sun is shining.

If house flooding occurs

Should a sustained storm bring record rainfall to your area, your home may take in water. Even if you are not near a river or bayou, your neighborhood may be so saturated that water simply has no place to go but in and up.

If your street water is climbing into your yard and/or if your neighborhood is prone to flood:

  • Put on rubber soled shoes or rubber boots. Do NOT go barefoot in your home.
  • If possible, move your car off the street into the garage.
  • Remove gasoline cans and flammables from the garage or put them high into the rafters of your garage.
  • Grab your pre-prioritized list of items that must be moved higher (onto a tabletop or countertop), such as documents, photos and computers.
  • Unplug all electric cords from wall sockets in anticipation of water rising over the socket.
  • Turn off electricity at the breaker if you believe that water will approach sockets.
  • Remove lower drawers from dressers and place higher — they swell shut if wet.
  • If you have a one-story home, go into your attic while the water is still low and check for a roof exit if necessary. Bring with you any necessary tools you would need to create an attic opening to your roof.
  • Keep exterior doors closed. Unless you are near a river or creek, most rising water does NOT enter through doorways, but through ground saturation. So chances are, it will come from everywhere at once. Doors need to remain closed to keep out animals and insects that are groping for places to land.
  • Keep battery-operated communication devices on for updates on weather and evacuation boats that may be coming through your area.
  • Do not drink water from the tap until you have been advised that the water system was not contaminated.
  • If your house is flooding, your toilets won’t flush. Have a temporary “chamber pot” designated. Camping toilets are good to have on hand.

When it’s over

  • First, call family members to let them know where and how you are.
  • Then, call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance in your area.
  • If you have flood insurance, call your agent.
  • Pull out your camera and take pictures of the damage. Visual aids assist agents, if you have flood insurance.

The aftermath of a mess

Depending on the amount of water, the type of home and your geographic area, these tips may help you save belongings:

  • Hardwood Floors: (sitting on screeds, not pre-fabricated) every 3-4 feet, remove a plank and save it. Wood is porous and swells when wet, making the planks “pop” out and appear unsalvageable. But wood dries out and returns to its normal position. Wait several weeks and then replace the missing plank. Removing planks immediately after a flood allows the foundation and wood to dry out faster.
  • Remove carpet AND carpet padding immediately.
  • Remove the molding around the floors that are against the wall and save. This speeds up drying.
  • Rent or purchase at least two dehumidifiers if possible, and run them 24 hours for several days. They truly do pull out tremendous moisture.
  • Borrow fans and turn the air conditioner colder for several days.
  • Sheetrock must be cut out at least three feet above the water line AND insulation removed as well. Insulation is highly absorbent.
  • Swab down the gutted exposed boards with a mix of one quarter cup bleach to a gallon of water to prevent mold.
  • Clean-up equipment: When using sprayers, wet vacs, vacuum cleaners and other cleaning equipment, use an extension cord with a ground fault circuit interrupter or install a GFCI in the electrical circuits in damp environments.

To save wet documents

  • If valuable papers have gotten wet, chances are you won’t have time to pull them apart and find a large enough area to let them dry. If they are partially drying, they will stick together and rip.
  • So, take the entire file or stack of papers and resubmerge them briefly in water. Then wrap them in plastic and put them in freezer bags and freeze them until you have time to deal with them. They stay preserved and, for some reason, thaw without sticking together or ripping.
  • Saving photos: resubmerge and gently pull apart. Lay them on a flat surface to dry. Remember, photos are developed in liquid in the first place.

Cleaning up mold

After a storm or flooding is over, mold can be a serious problem. Act fast to prevent or clean it up:

  • Protect yourself from injuries during cleanup by wearing
    • Hard hats,
    • Goggles,
    • Heavy work gloves,
    • Waterproof boots with steel toes, and
    • Earplugs or headphones (if you’re working with noisy equipment).
  • Clean up and dry out your home quickly after the storm ends — within 24 to 48 hours if you can.
  • Air out your house by opening doors and windows.
  • Use fans to dry wet areas.
  • Clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water.
  • Fix any leaks in roofs, walls or plumbing as soon as you can.
  • Throw away anything that you can’t clean or dry quickly. For example, you might need to get rid of carpeting and some furniture.

If you notice mold, clean it up with a mix of bleach and water:

  • Never use bleach in a closed space. Open windows and doors first.
  • Put on rubber gloves.
  • To make your cleaner, mix 1 cup of household bleach with 1 gallon of water.
  • Clean everything with mold on it.

Disinfect Toys

Remember that anything that’s had contact with floodwater could carry germs. To keep your kids safe, make sure their toys are clean:

  • Make a cleaning fluid by mixing 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water.
  • Wash off toys carefully with your cleaner.
  • Let the toys air dry.

You may not be able to kill germs on some toys — like stuffed animals and baby toys. Throw out toys you can’t clean.

Surviving a summer night without power

Trying to sleep in Houston without air conditioning when “low” temps are in the 90s could be used as a medieval torture device. Try misting your sheets with water to stay cool. Combined with a battery-powered fan, this technique won’t exactly mimic A/C, but it may allow you to sleep for a few uninterrupted hours.

The dangers of standing water

Flood waters and standing waters pose various risks, including the risk of drowning (even in shallow water), infectious diseases, contact with sewage and chemical and electrical hazards, and the potential for injuries. Flood waters can displace animals, insects, and reptiles. To protect yourself and your family, be alert and avoid contact. In addition, flood waters may contain sharp objects, such as glass or metal, that can cause injury and lead to infection. Avoid standing or moving about in flood waters as much as possible.

DEET: Your anti-mosquito protection 

Along with your other first aid preparations, have on hand good bug spray containing DEET — the one ingredient proven to thwart disease-carrying mosquitos.

Patrol the perimeter

Not only will wind damage a fence, heavy rains can waterlog fence posts, causing the fence to lean or collapse long after the storm passes. Check the entire perimeter of your fence for damage as well as potential damage and shore up any weak spots. Before letting pets roam freely in the yard, also inspect the perimeter for low-lying spots and areas that might have washed out during heavy rains, leaving easy-to-dig escape routes for adventurous animals. Also, inspect the yard for any broken glass or other sharp debris before leaving pets unattended.

Looters

Looters are unfortunately a very real threat after almost any disaster. Some of them are armed; all of them are nasty. Unpleasant as conditions are, you may need to decide whether leaving the area is better than losing everything of value you have left.

Dangers with generators: carbon monoxide poisoning

If you are using a combustion engine generator to provide electricity and AC while your power is out, think twice, and certainly do not put it inside your home. Generators can cause death through carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill or seriously and permanently injure people who inadvertently breathe in the noxious fumes emitted from generators in an enclosed space.

During hurricane season, emergency rooms see a rise in cases of CO poisoning from people bringing generators into their homes to provide power, often for air conditioning.

Food safety after a hurricane

Keep food fresh

  • If your power is out, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep in the cool air.
  • Put a block of ice in your refrigerator if you expect the power will be out for more than 4 hours. It will keep food cool longer. Wear heavy gloves when handling the ice.
  • Even if it’s partially thawed, you can still cook or refreeze frozen food as long as you can see ice crystals or if it’s still 40°F (degrees Fahrenheit) or lower.

Throw out spoiled food

Get rid of food if it:

  • Is in a can that’s open, damaged or bulging.
  • Has a strange smell, color or texture.
  • Needs to be refrigerated but has been warmer than 40°F (degrees Fahrenheit) for 2 hours or longer. Foods that need to be kept cold include meat, eggs, fish, poultry, and leftovers.

Clean off canned food

If you have cans of food that came in contact with floodwater or storm water, you need to clean them off to make sure they’re safe to use. To get germs off the outside of the cans:

  • Remove the labels.
  • Dip the cans in a mix of 5 gallons of water and 1 cup of household bleach.
  • Label the cans with a permanent marker so you know what’s inside.

Water safety after a hurricane

Ask local officials or listen to the news to find out whether you can drink tap water or use it for washing. If it’s not safe, use bottled water if you can. If you don’t have bottled water, there are some things you can do to kill germs in dirty water and make it safe to drink. For example:

  • Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
  • Use household bleach. Add 1/8 teaspoon of new, unscented liquid bleach to 1 gallon of water. Stir well. Let the water sit for 30 minutes before you drink it.
  • Use water-purifying tablets. Adding these to water make it safe to drink. Follow the product’s directions.

Feeding your baby

If you have a baby, protect her from germs in unsafe water. You can:

  • Keep breastfeeding if that’s what you normally do.
  • Use canned or premixed liquid formula.
  • Use bottled water to make formula from a powder or concentrate.

If you don’t have bottled water, use boiled water to make formula. Make sure the water has cooled before mixing it with formula and giving it to your baby.

Only use treated (disinfected or purified) water to make formula if you don’t have access to bottled or boiled water.

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