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The Road To Recovery after Hurricane Irma and Harvey

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Author: Dr. Jon Berman | Category: Beyond The Bench | September 25, 2017

Recently the U.S. saw two severe weather events, hurricanes Harvey and Irma. While no individual event is directly attributable to climate change, we can expect events like these to increase in severity and frequency. One of these events had severe consequences for our neighbors in Houston. Many of us watched images of people in need, and people helping any way they could, from two hundred miles away, wondering what we could do. 

The water has started to drain, but the consequences of Harvey and Irma will continue. For many the road to recovery will take months or years. At times of disaster charities often see a “flood” of donations, but hard work needs to continue for much longer.

One of the most important lessons that I take from science is that human beings have the power to use their hands and their minds to make the world better, even in the face of large and impersonal forces.
Here’s some of what you can do to keep helping:


Direct Relief was given an A rating by Charity Watch, a 100% rating from Charity Navigator, and a 100% efficiency rating from Forbes. That means that for every dollar you donate, a dollar goes to the mission of the charity.

From their website:

“Nongovernmental, nonsectarian, and not-for-profit, Direct Relief provides assistance to people and communities without regard to politics, religious beliefs, or ethnic identities. Direct Relief’s assistance programs focus on maternal and child health, the prevention and treatment of disease, and emergency preparedness and response, and are tailored to the particular circumstances and needs of the world’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations. This tradition of direct and targeted assistance, provided in a manner that respects and involves the people served, has been a hallmark of the organization since its founding in 1948 by refugee war immigrants to the U.S.” You can donate here.

Imagine the good they could do for victims of Harvey and Irma if everyone donated even a dollar! Obviously you can donate more than that if you afford it, but even a single dollar—less than the cost of a cup of coffee in many places— can make a huge difference to people in need.


The Houston food bank is on the ground right now, feeding displaced people. They’re doing incredible work and accept donations of money or food.

Donate your blood
If you can’t afford a monetary donation, I suggest that you donate blood locally. Often after disasters there’s an initial surge of blood donations, followed by weeks of shortages as many donors are in the 8-week donor waiting period. Blood sacrifice isn’t as scary as it seems, and it helps fight vampire starvation. You can donate blood through the American Red Cross, or through a local organization. Where I am that’s South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, but if you can find one easily locally be searching for “Donate blood, (CITY NAME).” The South Texas Blood and Tissue center is open every day at the Donor Pavillion:

62211 IH-10 West at First Park Ten

San Antonio, Tx 78201

Donate goods

If donating goods, confirm what the organization needs prior to donating, sorting through unusable donations can waste volunteer time. Often a monetary donation is preferred because it gives organizations more flexibility in distributing resources where they are needed. 

Donate time

In a disaster situation it’s better that you not “self-deploy” and that you work with trained individuals. Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster provides a means to connect with local volunteer organizations. Certain organizations require special licenses or certifications for volunteers (for example, Amateur Radio Emergency Service requires an Amateur radio license). Others are religious organizations that may proselytize instead of actually helping people. Be careful to research the mission of organizations you choose to work with before giving your time.

If you want to volunteer in another area, can provide resources to link you with organizations that need volunteers. 

About the Author

Dr. Jonathan Berman is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio in the laboratory of James Stockand and in the Department of Physiology. Dr. Berman's research has focused on the molecular origins of hypertension, and will expand to the physiology whole body magnesium homeostasis and associated diseases.

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