How to Help the Victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria

Damage in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria

The consequences of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which caused unprecedented rains and flooding in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico respectively, have been listed as some of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the East Coast in the last one hundred years. When Harvey came ashore, it was the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years. At least 50 people have been killed in Texas. More than one million people have been displaced and over 200,000 houses have been destroyed. The destruction stretches more than three hundred miles.

According to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the damage done by Hurricane Harvey stands between $150 billion to $180 billion. This cost of damage is more than notorious Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, that caused devastation in New Orleans in 2005 and New York in 2012, respectively.

Hurricane Irma was just as damaging, leaving over 60% of the state of Florida without electricity and has resulted in multiple deaths, many due to the unwavering heat.

And Maria, a Category 4 hurricane has left Puerto Rico in shambles, resulting in 54 people who lost their lives, including two that died from a falling tree and one who committed suicide after he learned that he lost his job. 230,000 homes were devastated, and the entire island was without electricity.

More damage by Hurricane Harvey
Damage from Hurricane Harvey, Texas. US Dept. of Defense Photo
Boats damaged by Hurricane Harvey,Texas
Boats damaged by Hurricane Harvey, Texas. Dept. of Defense photo.


The Health Danger

As with any natural (or unnatural) disaster, the potential danger of resultant diseases can increase exponentially. Waterborne diseases containing bacterial pathogens (e.g., Salmonella, Salmonella typhi, Shigella, Campylobacter, Vibrio cholerae and Pseudomonas to name a few) pose serious dangers to residents. Infections can occur after skin contact, inhalation and of course drinking infected water. In some areas, no clean water was available, so people had no alternative but to use the existing water that no doubt contained these pathogen contaminants.

This is why thousands of medical professionals tend to the calling when disasters like this occur. We owe a great debt to our doctors and nurses who are ready at a moment’s notice to help out in an emergency anywhere around the world. If you are a professional in the medical field, is one way to volunteer your services. US physicians can also contact their local medical society for information on how to help.

Importance of Continuing to Help the Hurricane Victims

One example of initial civilian relief efforts were the many truck drivers, especially those who owned monster trucks, took it on their own to come down to these ravaged areas and drive through the knee-level high waters to help the stranded victims. They became quite a valuable resource, but now, as the waters have seceded, money and tangible items to private organizations or to the government would be the most helpful.

In Houston, the city most affected by the Hurricane Harvey is now completely dry. Authorities are not in need of private boats and vehicles that can steer through the high waters anymore, but the need to assist the authorities in relief work will be ongoing as it is exceedingly difficult for state and federal authorities to do all the recovery work on their own.

Since the resultant damage caused by the hurricanes is so large-scale, the millions of people that have been affected by these calamities of mother nature, will require help and support for many months to come. This is why your contributions can assist in alleviating the sufferings of victims and expediting the ongoing process of recovery and reconstruction.

Many organizations have already come out to provide recovery and rehabilitation tasks, as many people are still in need of food and water, and many are still without electricity. Indeed, the recent tragedy at the Rehabilitation Center nursing home in Hollywood Hills, Florida demonstrates just how dangerous the consequences of a hurricane can be.

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma Over Bermuda
Hurricane Irma Over Bermuda

Hurricane Irma, known as a Cape Verde type hurricane, has caused immense devastation in the state of Florida. The hurricane has resulted in 134 deaths in the US and has left more than six million people in five states without power.

In the Florida Keys alone, much of the landfall had winds reaching 130 mph, but it didn’t stop there. The hurricane and its category 4 winds headed up much of Florida’s west coast, bringing with it torrential downpours, tornadoes and heavy flooding.

 Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria destruction
People trying to salvage what they can after the worst hurricane in Puerto Rican history

Maria, with its 175 mph winds devasted Purto Rico. It was also recorded to be the worst natural disaster to hit the island of Dominica in its history. 94 fatalities have been recorded in Puerto Rico and many homes were without electricity for weeks.

There was also some political fallout between President Trump and the mayor of Puerto Rico regarding the speed at which FEMA was moving to assist; however, differences aside, a major disaster declaration was declared by President Trump on September 20th, three days after the storm hit the island.

How You Can Help

According to the center of International Disaster, donating money is the most efficient way to help. You can start with Charity Navigator, which lists charitable organizations for all natural disasters that have recently occurred around the world. If you happen to live near damaged localities and want to help in person, you can register on the website of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster instead of self-deploying.

If you want to donate cash, then Global Giving’s website is a suitable option. It vets the local organizations before funding them and has a good reputation one charity watchdogs.

Relief Organizations You Can Count On

One popular relief organization is the American Red Cross. They are well known for disaster relief and recovery and have an excellent reputation. They provide support services to those in need to anyone in the world. They also provide training and certification programs for individuals and businesses.

Donating money to charities is not the only way to help victims. You can also directly help by giving supplies to these people in need. The Salvation Army is well known for their support and assistance to the poor and victims of catastrophic incidents. In addition, the New York Times provides a list of many, if not all of the legitimate charities available to help the victims of the recent hurricanes, including an excerpt on how to avoid scams.

If you have a particular charity in mind that doesn’t make the lists mentioned, here are some tips on how to ensure your charitable gifts will go to the right place:

How to Donate in the Aftermath of the Hurricanes 

Putting some thought and homework before donating money to relief work of the hurricanes will make you a more informed and aware donor, and it will increase the chances that your donation will be going to the ones who are in desperate need of it.

Do Prerequisite Research Before Donating

You should know more about the group you are going to donate to. Read up on their past performance. Try to find out if there has been an issue with their management. You can also review charity watchdogs to know about the best options to donate.

You are Entitled to Demand Transparency

NGOs don’t require any detailed disclosure of their spending. However, as a donor, you own the right to ask them to go public with the details of their spending. You can also ask the respective elected officials to supervise charities that raise money after natural calamities and disasters.

Groups with Local Roots and Workers are the Best Bet

Groups having significant experience working in areas affected by the disaster are the best options to donate. They use money slightly better than the ones who are not connected with the local population.

The US Military’s Response

This article would not be complete without giving thanks to all branches of our military, which includes the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, who make up a combined force of over 20,000 soldiers that have come to assist all victims of the three hurricanes.

Some examples of military assistance involve The Coast Guard, who have set up an air station in southeastern Houston. The Texas National Guard was activated early on to provide rescue operations and the Marine Corps are supplying units of tracked amphibious vehicles. The Air Force has 1,000 airmen and 30 aircraft providing rescue missions across the coasts of Texas and Florida. Helicopters and an E-8 JSTARS surveillance plane are also participating to gather information about the ongoing conditions on the ground.

The Navy is running relief operations with a swarm of helicopters and a P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane, looking for those stranded in their houses or other facilities where they cannot currently leave.


Following the above-mentioned tips of donating can ensure that your money or supplies are being used in the most appropriate manner. We encourage you to come back frequently to Howard Fensterman Charities to read the latest events and how you can assist when a tragedy occurs, whether man-made or by nature.

Whenever a catastrophe hits, it is a collective responsibility on our part to do what we can to assist!

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