How to Be Ready for the Next Big Disaster

Posted on February 6, 2012. Filed under: Volunteering is Hot! |

On Thursday, January 19th HandsOn received a call from the Volunteer Coordinator at the City of Salem Parks Department.  She said the city was about to send crews out to fill sand bags at several locations threatened by flood waters.  She said she would need volunteers at a variety of locations all day.  HandsOn sent the call out to the volunteers of the Salem area and you answered loud and clear!  Over the next week volunteers braved the rain and wind to fill sand bags and help area organizations move their belongings out of basements and away from water damage.  Those who couldn’t help in traditional ways brought cookies, coffee and even Kentucky Fried Chicken to volunteers as they worked.

HandsOn estimates over 1,000 volunteers assisted with these efforts.  That is truly amazing!  Thank you all so much for being there when your community needed you most!  Now that the waters have receded, there are still plenty of needs you can participate in.  Check out for a list of clean up options.

Looking ahead, are you ready for the next disaster?  All too often, well intentioned individuals show up at the site of a disaster without signing up ahead of time or even knowing what they are getting into.  This is very dangerous for both the volunteer and the response crews already on site.  Never self-deploy in the event of a disaster.  First make sure your family, home and belongings are secure.  Then contact HandsOn to see where the need is and how to get involved.

Ideally, all individuals interested in volunteering during a disaster, should be affiliated with a disaster response organization before a disaster.  Contact the Red Cross Willamette Chapter or your local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) to learn more and become affiliated with them.  These 2 options are the first responders in a disaster and they will activate their own volunteers before requesting help from the general public.

Remember, the most important thing to do in a disaster is to:

  • Ensure your needs are covered before assisting others.
  • Never self-deploy.  Log onto to see where the need is and always sign up before going to the site.
  • Affiliate with a disaster response organization before a disaster strikes.

Thank you again to all of the volunteers who assisted in the recent efforts.  All of you are super heroes of the community!

Melissa Gibler is the program manager for HandsOn Mid-Willamette Valley—a program of Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency. She can be reached at (877) 372-4141, or


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