The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued guidelines for individuals who want to contribute to relief efforts from Hurricane Harvey.

FEMA’s Missouri Task Force One unit from Columbia works with Houston responders in search and rescue operations from Hurricane Harvey – image courtesy of Boone County Fire Protection District

A release from FEMA says the most effective way to way to support disaster survivors is to donate money and time to reputable, non-profit groups.  Cash donations offer the organizations the most flexibility to address urgent needs that could change with evolving conditions.

Needed resources can be obtained more easily near disaster locations with cash, which will also pump money back into the local economy.  FEMA Missouri spokesperson John Mills says cash donations are a difference maker for the organizations.

“The need today may change tomorrow,” said Mills.  “That will give those organizations some flexibility to change what they’re providing, so they provide for what people need right now, and in the future.  With money in hand, they have that flexibility.”

FEMA advises against donating unsolicited goods such as used clothing.  The agency says those items divert attention away for providing direct services because they require sorting and packaging before they’re delivered to survivors who could be in greater need of something else.

Mills says the guidelines offer ways for busy people support relief efforts.  “They can’t go to Texas in most cases.  People in Missouri have jobs to go to.  But they see people in need and they want to help.  These are some ways that people can help.”

Those who do have the time and want to volunteer are being urged by the State of Texas not to self-deploy.  The state says doing so simply creates an additional burden for first responders.

Individuals can learn more about how to help on the National Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (NVOAD) website.  Also, the Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Texas VOAD) has a list of trusted disaster relief organizations.  Texas VOAD represents more than three dozen faith-based, community, nonprofit and non-governmental organizations.

According to the National VOAD, conditions may not be conducive to volunteers entering the impacted zone, and individuals may find themselves turned away by law enforcement.  Volunteer safety is also a concern.  Volunteers are advised to only enter disaster areas with a specific volunteer assignment, proper safety gear, and valid identification.

Kansas City is home to one of 10 regional FEMA offices.  It opened a call center last Friday to help disaster survivors in Texas register for the agency’s assistance.  75 of the office’s 250 employees are either working in the call center or have been deployed to Texas.  That number is expected to increase.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long has said more than 450,000 people were expected to seek disaster assistance.  FEMA Missouri’s Mills says the agency is concentrating on emergency needs now, but is preparing for long term recovery.

“FEMA is very focused right now on life safety, lifesaving activities, getting people to a safe place.  But as you can see, there’s going to be a lot of needs going forward because many people have lost everything.”

Hurricane Harvey has now broken all records.  With rain expected to stop late Tuesday afternoon, the storm has unloaded over 50 inches of rain east of Houston, the greatest amount ever recorded in the Lower 48 states from a single storm.

FEMA’s elite Task Force One from mid-Missouri’s Columbia continues its search and rescue efforts with local responders in Houston.  It was working in the northeast section of the city late Tuesday afternoon.  The Houston Fire Department was assisting the unit in locating homes in more difficult areas to access.