Disaster & Emergency Help

Ways to Help in the Aftermath of Tragedy

  • 3 Minute Read
  • Shares

After a tragedy like natural disasters or a mass shooting, many of us want to do something but we aren’t quite sure the best way to help. Whether you’re in the disaster zone or across the country, here are a few things you can do.

Donate Money Wisely

If you decide to give monetary support, be sure you donate to an organization that you know and trust. In the wake of a tragedy, scammers often play on people’s heightened emotions with fake charities.

To confirm a charity isn’t a scam, you can use websites such as Charity Navigator, guidestar.org and the Better Business Bureau to confirm it’s a registered nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status.

When researching where to donate, don’t click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts, emails or social media. It’s not always safe to assume these organizations have been vetted or the links are taking you to a legitimate nonprofit. One way to avoid scams is to visit a nonprofit’s site directly.

Make your donation through a secure website to keep your information safe from hackers and identity thieves. If the website address begins with “https”—the “s” indicates that it’s secure — your credit card numbers and other personal information will be encrypted for safety.

Know how your donation will be used. Different charities respond to tragedies in different ways. Determine how you want your donation to be used, whether for medical assistance, funeral expenses, longer-term advocacy efforts or another purpose. Then find the charities doing that type of work.

If a person sets up their own assistance fund (or someone is raising funds on a another’s behalf), keep in mind that the fund may not be set up as a charity and your gift may not be tax deductible. You may also want to check if donations will be administered by a third party such as a bank or lawyer to help ensure that donations are used appropriately.

Don’t send supplies. Although your instinct may be to send needed supplies after a tragedy, your financial donation to a trusted organization is more likely to get quickly and efficiently to those in need. Charities aren’t set up to process your package of donated goods, and they are often able to partner with companies to get needed goods for a significant discount.

Donate Blood

If you live in the area and are able to give blood, contact the American Red Cross for blood drive information. If you don’t live locally, you can still donate blood. Sudden, immediate needs can tax already limited supplies and your donation – from any part of the country – can help where it’s needed most.

Support Your Loved Ones

Recovering emotionally takes time. You can get free 24/7 counseling through the American Red Cross Disaster Distress Helpline by calling 800-985-5990. You can also reach the hotline by texting “TalkWithUs” to 66746.

Kids who have heard reports about disturbing events may be scared to go back to school or to other public places. Parents may feel anxious for their kids as well. These feelings are normal and are very common. It may help to remind yourself and your kids that these events — as much as we may hear about them in the news — are still isolated incidents that are statistically very rare.

Help your kids to focus on the positive when you can. Here are a few more ways you can support your kids:

Take a break from the news for a few days. According to the American Psychological Association, frequent exposure to these events can heighten children’s anxiety and fear.

Answer kids’ questions but don’t give unnecessary details.

Maintain your regular schedule. Routine is comforting to children and can help them get past their distress.

Spend extra time with your kids to contribute to their sense of closeness and security.

Model a sense of confidence and assurance to help your children know they don’t need to feel scared. Of course, be sure to get help if you need it, which will in turn make you better able to support your kids.

Consult a psychologist or pediatrician if you notice signs of more than normal stress in the coming days and weeks.

Protect Your Rights

If you were directly affected by the tragedy, consider finding an attorney to help protect your rights throughout the recovery process. An attorney can help track and access government assistance programs, set up funds or other vehicles to accept donations you may receive for personal assistance and can explain any tax implications of setting up or contributing to a relief fund.

This publication is provided as educational material only. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended as legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Resources

All Learning Center Topics

View all Learning Center topics.

Legal Glossary

Find definitions of legal terms.