October 14, 2018

Disaster Relief with Rick Haskins: Hurricane Michael

At 1:40 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 10, disaster occurred when Hurricane Michael officially made landfall on the Florida Panhandle. This Category 4 storm is the first storm of its strength to ever hit the panhandle, and it is the first to make landfall on the panhandle at all since 2005.

The natural response to such a disaster is to attempt to help as much and as quickly as possible. However, in the interest of cooperating with disaster response professionals, one must be aware of best practices in their attempts to aid the situation. In order to educate ourselves further on the matter, we spoke with Rick Haskins – Principal Broker at Buy The Keys, Property Manager for Key West Vacation Rentals, and Community Manager for Vacasa. He was on the ground when Hurricane IRMA made landfall last year, aiding in the evacuation and response for his area throughout that ordeal. Rick is now using that experience to aid the panhandle and other areas affected by Hurricane Michael. Here are some tips and insights from our conversation.

disaster communication

Disaster Relief: Be Organized and Have A Plan

It’s obvious that if you have a water-front property, you should have a plan for prepping before a hurricane. What’s not so obvious is the need for a post-disaster communication plan. Those that are in the zone (or have loved ones in the zone) should establish a central point of communication. “The number 1 thing is having a pulse on where everyone is,” says Haskins. This central point of communication can alleviate some of the panic and confusion that may arise if cell phone signals fail. Alternate analog means of communication can be directed to wherever these headquarters are located. Steady updates are of the utmost important. “Constant communication makes everyone feel better,” says Haskins.

disaster logistics

Disaster Relief: Be Aware of the Situation

If you’re outside of the zone and either want to send aid packages or physically go to the zone to help, you must be aware of the logistics surrounding disaster response. The immediate aftermath of such storm leaves debris and destruction blocking many of the main roads in the area. You may not be let in if you just show up wanting to help. “Make sure you’re working with someone on the ground who actually knows what’s going on,” says Haskins. Someone in the zone that has knowledge of the situation can tell you when it’s clear to send supplies or travel down to begin cleanup.

We unfortunately have to also consider looting during this time. This is another reason why the border of the affected area is guarded –– to protect those inside. Working with someone on-site gives the peace of mind because they’ll anticipate your arrival and know your intentions.

Those that can’t travel in to assist with cleanup but want to help can offer housing to evacuees. Even if this housing is an hour or two away, it can make a big impact in increasing stability during these tumultuous times.

disaster help

Disaster Relief: Listen and Be Considerate

“Be ready to help in any way you can,” says Haskins. Whether it’s providing housing or sending aid supplies, help is appreciated. However, those who seek to aid must listen to those on the ground. They’ll tell you what needs to be done. There are many things needed in the aftermath of disasters that don’t typically show up on lists. Tarps, bug spray, gloves, socks and snow shovels are a few things that Haskins mentioned.

As the recovery effort goes on, the needs of the areas and those affected by the storm will become clearer. We urge you all to simply do what you can in the most responsible way possible. Recovery from storms of this magnitude doesn’t happen overnight. “It’s so overwhelming. There’s so much to do –– you just have to start,” says Haskins.

In Conclusion

As recovery continues for those affected by Hurricane Michael, know you’re all in our thoughts. We wish you safety and a speedy recovery. We’re inspired to see stories of first responders who have been working tirelessly on the ground since the storm passed. Know that we’re doing what we can to aid in the effort as well, and would love to hear if there’s any particular requests from our readers. In the words of Rick Haskins, remember that “We can’t always go build a house. All we can do is help them get back going.”

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