Officials urge careful choices in hurricane relief

Contributed

Marble Falls Fire Rescue and Horseshoe Bay Fire Rescue personnel are depoloyed to Kingwood near Houston Tuesday, Aug. 29. Officials warn well-meaning citizens to take care in rushing to aid storm victims. Coordinated efforts and training mean safety for responders and help where help is needed most.

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

While local residents work diligently to do what they can for victims of Hurricane Harvey, officials recommend caution and offer some sound advice.

That includes thinking down the road to arrival.

“After so many calls to offer help, official statements have been issued from Burnet County Judge James Oakley and Marble Falls Mayor John Packer about being effective,” said Burnet County Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Barho. “After Hurricane Katrina, two truckloads of donations had to be thrown away. They were not cleaned or sorted by size and for boys or girls, men or women and they didn't have a clear destination.”

“It is important that good intentions do not create the potential for a disaster within a disaster,” said Packer. “If donors plan to travel to the disaster area, they may find that lodging and other services are unavailable and could potentially contribute to the existing problems rather than provide help.”

“Individuals or organizations that want to provide assistance to the victims of Hurricane Harvey should first work through their local disaster relief organizations. They can tell potential donors what is needed and what is not needed and how to package and transport goods to the disaster area.”

“Donation items are wonderful but, please, make sure you are donating items only to designated sites. Do not take items to the local fire departments,” said Oakley. “They do not have the resources to go through all the items being brought.”

That same plea came from Inks Lake State Park.

“We just have no place to store donations,” said T.K. Laurendo, Inks Park host. “Local churches and food and clothing pantries are working to meet guests needs.”

“Burnet County is humbled by the outpouring of concern for the Hurricane Harvey and flooding victims in the southeast portions of Texas,” said Oakley. “If you would like to help, monetary donations can be specifically designated the need for items.”

Oakley and Packer offered these suggestions for donations:

  • The American Red Cross, www.redcross.org, or 1-800-RED-CROSS or texting the word “HARVEY” to 90999 to make a $10 donation

  • The Salvation Army Texas at www.salvationarmytexas.org, calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or or texting STORM TO 51555. Checks may be delivered to the Salvation Army office at St. Frederick Baptist Church, 301 Avenue N in Marble Falls from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Check memo lines should read “Hurricane Harvey.”

  • Texas Baptist Men Feeding Organization, www.texasbaptistmen.org.

  • Adventist Community Services, http://www.communityservices.org

  • Feeding Texas, www.feedingtexas.org

  • H-E-B is giving customers an opportunity to support victims through donations of $1, $3, or $5, added to their total grocery bills.

“Cash is the best contribution, since items can be purchased within the affected areas to meet the specific needs of victims,” repeated Barho. “Relief organizations know the immediate needs of those affected and can tell potential donors what is needed and what is not needed and how to package and transport those goods to the disaster area.

 

Immediate registration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the advice for evacuees from Jeff Sellers, a Marble Falls emergency management consultant who has organized an impromptu response called Hill Country Hurricane Relief.

“Evacuees should register with FEMA as soon as possible, if they have been impacted or displaced,” he said. “Register by calling 1-800-621-336 or on line at www.disasterassistance.gov.”

Storm Fraud

The National Center for Disaster Fraud, a division of the Department of Justice, issued a reminder Wednesday, Aug. 30, for the public to be aware and report any instances of alleged fraudulent activity related to relief operations and funding for victims.

“Unfortunately, criminals can exploit disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, for their own gain by sending fraudulent communications through email or social media and by creating phony websites designed to solicit contributions,” said the warning.

Tips should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721. The line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, e-mails can be sent to disaster@leo.gov, and information can be faxed to 1-225-334-4707.

“Already there of been reports of people stocking up at discount stores and charging $20 a bottle for water and hotels charging triple the regular price,” said Barho.

Aid where needed

“We have people on standby—paramedics and others, if needed,” said Jim Barho, Burnet County Emergency Management Coordinator. “Anyone who goes down with a boat (or expertise) should to go through the State Operations Center (SOC), to have their abilities and need evaluated.”

Barhoe said he could be contacted by email, jimbarho@gmail.com, to connect people with the proper authorities to be activated.

“So much help is headed to Houston, but we are focusing our efforts on the hardest hit counties right here in our 10-county region of the Capital Area Planning Council of Governments (CAPCOG)--Caldwell, Lee, Fayette, Bastrop and even Hays counties. They seriously need help.

“Our Burnet County Office of Emergency Management is working with area fire rescue chiefs, Russell Sander in Marble Falls, Mark Ingram in Burnet and others to coordinate.”

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