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How Can We Help?

"How can we help?" A question asked during times of need. This is evident over the last few days as British Columbia has reached a provincial state of emergency resulting from numerous (at last check it was 171) catastrophic wildfires.

I am not a professional in wildfires or in states of emergency but I have scoured social media, and the internet at large, to determine common threads of assistance needed during environmental devastation and provincial or states of emergency. Here is what I have found:

1. Heed warnings

There are people whose sole job is to manage situations such as these. They are paid and trained to oversee the response of such events. Still others are responsible for the care of those impacted. It appears, therefore, that you should heed their warnings. When they tell you to avoid areas or evacuate others, you should. There are already people risking their lives to be of service to those fleeing devastation and the risk to everyone’s safety is drasticlaly increased when people try to go it alone or ignore the warnings. Events of this magnitude rarely occur with ample preparation so it’s understandable to be caught off guard. However, when warnings are sounded, we should take them seriously. The worst that can happen is a false alarm and we can return to life being inconvenienced. The alternative can be far more serious.

2. Be Patient and Thankful

When you live in a region acting to support those impacted, remember to be patient with emergency services, first responders and medical staff, especially if you are not one of the individuals requiring emergency assistance. Resources get spread thin, people are overworked, and requests are triaged. If you are someone who is calling to report suspicious activity in your neighbourhood, what normally may be addressed quickly could take a back seat. Be patient. Try to take the context into consideration and use it as the lens to view what’s occurring around you. Your problem may seem important but comparatively it might be less so. Although this can seem unfair, there is a system for making decisions so approaching the situation with patience and understanding will be to your benefit.

Thank those assisting you and treat others with kindness. We don’t know what people experience as they walk through life. During a state of emergency people will lose everything. Those same people may cross your path at the grocery store and be in a state of overwhelm. Frontline workers might spend days working tirelessly to a point of near exhaustion and then head out to grab a coffee. Keep this in mind as you carry out your errands. There are overwhelmed and exhausted individuals doing their best to get through the day.

It is quite incredible how far a thank you and a smile can go when dealing with those working to make the situation better. Appreciation is often the only gift we can give them.

3. Volunteer

In times like we are seeing in BC’s right now, one of the best ways to help is to volunteer. Emergency shelters pop up and there are calls to have them set-up, staffed, and taken down. If you have time available, lend a hand. If this were a flooding situation, sandbagging would be appropriate. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”

Something I notice in times of need are people’s ability to be generous. In many parts of BC, those fleeing their homes and property have animals and/or livestock. As you can imagine, they cannot go to a shelter. There has been an outpouring of support on social media of those opening up their land, farms and stables to those who need it. A quick search on Facebook or Twitter will bring up a list of options available to those who need it.

4. Donate

It is a natural reaction to donate. This is a kind gesture that can go a long way. There are a few things to remember when giving to others. The first of which is, give what is needed. It may seem logical to donate homemade meals, bedding and clothing but often times, support services get inundated with these things and it becomes overwhelming to sort through and pass along. Many times there will be a call for specific items needed. Here are a few things that, typically, go along way.

A. Money

For some disasters they have telephone numbers to call or text to donate money. The reason money is number one on the list is it can be used in areas where of most need. Unfortunately, a homemade lasagna, no matter how much love it was made with, doesn’t have the same impact.

The issue with money is that a lot of people don’t want to give it. They are fearful it will be misspent or won't go to the cause at all. To ensure this doesn’t happen, give to reputable charities and organizations.

B. Gift cards

For displaced families and those fleeing from disaster they may need gift cards for gas and groceries. This can be a great way to meet the most basic of needs. I remember when I was living my own personal tragedy, we received gift cards for gas and groceries and they were a Godsend.

C. Specific items

Sometimes a call for specific items will be put out such as animal food, bottled water or the like. Stay up-to-date with your local news for these types of requests. Church leaders and local charities try to stay informed on the immediate needs so you might ask them what you can provide. Plus, calls for specific requests are be made through social media where they need certain things and they remove the request as soon as it is reached.

D. Blood

Blood donations are always in demand but when catastrophic events occur, the need is magnified. If you are someone who is able to do so, donate to this worthy cause. It is the one thing you can donate that will literally save lives.

I would like to make one additional note: : Local issues can be scary and worrisome for children and youth because of it’s proximity to their lives. Take time to reassure them that there are people working around the clock to better the situation. Additionally, including them in your helping activities can bring them comfort in knowing they are part of the solution.

Living and working in beautiful British Columbia is a gift I often take for granted. When I see the outpouring of support and desire to help by it’s residents, it reaffirms why I am immensely thankful to call this province home.

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