4 Ways to Support Disaster Prevention & Recovery 

by Dominic James Fusco

When disaster strikes somewhere far away in the world it is difficult to conceptualize the destruction, displacement, and chaos that often ensues. Many will never form an image of the wreckage beyond a newspaper headline or harrowing photograph that pops up in their social media feed. If you aren’t amidst the destruction, it is easy to simply take note of the event and location, and then move on with your daily life.

But for those living in the regions plagued with natural disasters, located all over the world from Nepal to the Philippines to the United States, blissful ignorance is hardly ever an option. Fortunately, many international organizations exist for the sole purpose of both responding to and alleviating the challenges faced by disaster survivors through relief and reconstruction. But, even more importantly, there are a host of organizations around the world that take things one step further, by instead focusing on disaster risk reduction, and thereby contributing to the prevention of future disasters.

October 13th, 2015 marks the 25th annual  International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. In honor of #IDDR2015, we would like to bring to light the ways in which every individual can contribute to disaster risk reduction, since even those who are far-removed from disasters have the power to make a real difference in disaster prevention, management, and response.

If you have ever sat at home watching CNN or BBC as the images of a natural disaster begin to stream in and felt a tug on your heart that you can’t seem to ignore, but never known what to do to help, read on to learn what some of the most effective ways to support post-disaster zones are.

Giving        

Charitable giving is by far the most feasible option for most. Donating any amount that you can spare to relief efforts after a major national disaster can make an actual impact, as long as it is given to a reputable, legitimate organization.

There is often a significant amount of red-tape involved when it comes to the way in which governments accrue and distribute monetary disaster relief, so international nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations, and intergovernmental bodies that are focused specifically on disaster relief are usually the most dependable place to give financial contributions. A large number of disaster response organizations financially sustain themselves solely on donations from everyday individuals who want to make a difference immediately after a disaster. By contributing to these organizations, you will be making a difference for disaster survivors ASAP.

Fundraising

The next logical step, if making a monetary contribution still doesn’t make you feel like you’ve done enough, is utilizing your resources and network to help raise awareness about the disaster and its aftermath. Initiating fundraising amongst your friends and family, on your university campus, or in your local community will definitely take your relief efforts to the next level. You might be surprised at how much more people are willing to give if they become well-informed about the real nature of a disaster and the challenges that survivors are facing.

In many ways, natural disasters transcend political, ethnic, and religious affiliations to illustrate the powerful humanitarian nature that has the ability to unite us all.

Promoting a larger fundraising campaign or even launching your own individual campaign are good ways to get start collecting more monetary support for disaster relief. There are many ways to go about facilitating a successful fundraiser, so get creative to make your fundraising efforts even more impactful! 

Typhoon Haiyan survivors lining up to receive relief goods

Volunteering 

For those who are really serious about contributing to relief efforts on the ground after a natural disaster, there are numerous opportunities to volunteer in disaster relief around the world. You do not necessarily need to be a first-responder to make a difference through disaster relief volunteering abroad, as disaster recovery is a long and tedious process. Although natural disasters unfortunately fade from the public consciousness within a matter of weeks or months (or sometimes days depending on the level of media attention or the location of the disaster), it often takes nations, communities, and families many, many years to rebuild fully. Volunteering abroad in a location that experienced a disaster two years ago, like the Philippines, or even 10 years ago, like New Orleans, can still significantly contribute to recovery efforts. 

Reconstruction is an important area of disaster relief that requires a large number of volunteers to successfully complete. Natural disasters almost always leave local infrastructure in disarray, especially in smaller cities and towns, and significant manpower is needed in order to clear debris, repair damages, and construct new buildings.

One final note about disaster volunteering, you don’t actually have to become a construction volunteer to work in a disaster zone, although this is an incredibly rewarding way to help; there are a variety of other areas you can volunteer in too, ranging from youth development to public health. 

Awareness Raising & Prevention 

Lastly, because today is in fact International Disaster Risk Reduction Day, we must emphasize that there is a large hole to be filled in disaster prevention efforts around the world. Oftentimes disaster strikes without any warning, while at other times it is possible to formulate a general prediction of how a disaster will affect a specific community or region. Either way, ensuring the people are effectively prepared for disaster to strike at any time, through education, practice, and infrastructural security, is a vital key to reducing the damage and destruction of any type of disaster. 

UNHCR tents for typhoon survivors in the Philippines

Join a campaign aimed at raising global awareness about disaster risk reduction.

Too many people live in areas that are prone to natural disasters with very little protection from the elements or access to tools and resources to help them prevent some of the devastating effects of natural disasters. While we cannot control mother nature, we can help each other by using our resources and knowledge to build and prepare for disasters effectively.

To get involved in International Disaster Risk Reduction Day and raise awareness about the need for greater educational resources and programs for those living in disaster zones, start tweeting and posting to social media (and don’t forget to use the hashtag #IDDR2015).