When Disaster Strikes

“When Disaster Strikes,” Ensign, Aug. 1994, 71

When Disaster Strikes

When a tornado struck near our house and caused significant damage in our neighborhood, I soon learned a lot about what help is needed in a disaster.

Urgent needs. As my husband and I rushed to be of service, we found that some of the things people needed almost immediately were drinking water and cups, diapers, bottles of milk or formula, shoes, blankets, changes of clothes, sanitary napkins, pet carriers and leashes, telephones, and a place to stay. We found that food was not the main concern for these people; they were too busy dealing with the present crisis to be hungry for the first couple of hours.

Short-term needs. After immediate needs were taken care of, we had time to gather or arrange things that would be needed within hours: food, hygiene supplies, clothing, laundry facilities, dishes, pet food, baby-sitting, things to keep children busy and happy, transportation, packing materials, freezer space, and clean-up help. Whatever can be done to make people’s lives less complicated is of great benefit. Some homes that have not been noticeably damaged or directly affected may be without power or gas. An offer of a hot shower or a camp stove may be appreciated. One helpful thing is a constantly updated list of families and where they are currently staying, so they can be located quickly.

Long-term needs. Don’t assume that all of these needs will be met by insurance companies and community organizations. If you own empty rental property or storage space or can supply other long-term needs, your assistance may be invaluable.

Be aware that volunteers are needed in community organizations to work within their framework of experience and knowledge. A good way to serve is to go to a Red Cross emergency recovery center and ask how you can be of help.

Remember that service is rarely convenient and that doing only what you want to do may not fit with pressing needs. By serving without fanfare and by giving aid behind the scenes, we can accomplish much good in times of disaster. Quiet service can do a great deal to allow the gospel to touch the lives of those around us.—Becky E. Ludlow, Wichita, Kansas