100 Year Storms: Hurricanes Irma and Harvey
A How-to-Help Disaster Relief Guide by a Crisis Communication Pro
Hurricane Irma terrifies me.
Xenophon Strategies is one of the top crisis communications firms in the U.S. During my tenure, I’ve worked on 14 major hurricanes, every major commercial aviation accident for the past 20 years , the Haiti earthquake, horrific tornados and numerous other catastrophic events for a variety of clients. I was in New Orleans for Katrina when the water was still flowing into the city and spent 12 days in the hardest hit areas doing communications for The Salvation Army.
Irma is a Category 5 hurricane that is so powerful it can turn brick buildings to rubble and level entire neighborhoods. Irma’s storm surge (the water that a hurricane pushes before it) could be 30 feet or more, enough to completely destroy everything in its path. I saw firsthand that Katrina’s storm surge completely destroyed Gulfport when the eye went ashore in Mississippi — it even took the huge floating casinos in Gulfport, MS and deposited them well inland.
The latest National Hurricane Center projections show Irma making landfall at the tip of Florida and traveling up the middle of the state and into Georgia. If this happens the devastation will be so horrific that Florida will be years, if not decades, recovering. A recent Washington Post article reported that metropolitan Tampa is the most vulnerable city in the U.S. for catastrophic damage and flooding from a direct hurricane hit and it might never recover. The risk assessment company CoreLogic recently released a report that estimated 2.9 million Florida homes are at risk and that losses could exceed a staggering $200 billion. The loss in human life will be severe, perhaps even surpassing the 1,800 people killed by Katrina.
If your attention is focused on Florida and Texas, there are things you can do to help. The first rule is don’t donate goods; it takes resources to get them to the disaster area. Give money and give it directly to relief organizations on their website so that it can be used immediately. With money, charities can buy what they need and get relief supplies to people who need it as quickly as possible.
From my experience, here are some charities that are efficient, trustworthy and dependable and to which I have personally donated:
- The Salvation Army. The Army uses 100% of your donation for disaster relief. I’ve worked for them and they are the best organization in the U.S. at feeding people – after Katrina, I witnessed an operation that fed 250,000 people a day 72 hours after the storm hit. Donate here.
- Airlink. You may not have heard of Airlink, but they are a great charity that brokers donated air transport for a variety of charities, helping get desperately needed goods and staff into the disaster area. By donating to Airlink, you are helping a whole group of charities that aren’t the size of The Salvation Army or The Red Cross. I’m not easy to impress with disaster relief, but Airlink’s dedication and results are astounding. Donate here.
- Catholic Relief Services. I’ve seen them in action and they are fantastic at providing shelter and feeding operations. You don’t have to be a Catholic to support their work (I’m a Presbyterian). 100% of donations go to disaster relief. Donate here.
If you want to find your own charity, go to Charity Navigator which rates charities for their work, financial efficiency, accountability and transparency.
Both Harvey and Irma are once-in-a-lifetime storms and the people of Florida and Texas will be suffering terribly. Donate and please share this blog post to reach as many people as possible.
– By: David Fuscus – President & CEO | DFuscus@xenophonstrategies.com
David Fuscus is president of Xenophon Strategies, an agency at the top of Washington DC PR firms. For further information on crisis public relations, read David’s recent blog posts on Crisis Communication and Hurricanes and the Key Fundamentals of a Crisis Communication Plan.