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Making A Difference: The World of Giving -- Helping After a National Disaster Such As Hurricane Sandy

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With more than eight million U.S Homes without power and 55 people dead, Hurricane or "Frankenstorm" Sandy is definitely leaving its mark on America. Just as President Obama said in his address on Tuesday to all of the victims of this disaster, "America is with you" and we are. Many Americans across the country are wondering what they can do to aid their family, friends and comrades on the East Coast.

Here are some tips on what you can do NOW, what you can do in the near future and ways to prepare yourself and your family for a natural disaster.

Right now, the East Coast is still digging out and assessing the damage. It is important to not go to the affected areas right now. Let our civic leaders and professionals evaluate the situation and develop a plan.

Here are some things you can do right now to help those that are suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy:

• Check on your loved ones in the affected areas. Send an email, text or call to make sure they are safe. However, do not clog up the phone lines! With all of the power outages cell phone batteries are going to be low and the energy needs to be saved for emergency phone calls.
• Send cash to your family members affected. Remember, no power means the banks are not open and ATMs aren't working.
• Care packages are another great way to help! Many homes have been flooded or burned down, sending basic necessities like soap, shampoo, conditioner, personal hygiene products, medicine and even snacks can make a huge a difference.
• Schools and hospitals have also been devastated and will be in need of supplies. Get together with neighbors and friends to put together a care package for the hardest hit schools and hospitals.

Once the water recedes, people are going to need help rebuilding. Volunteering with the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity can guarantee people will have enough food, clothing and shelter.

If you cannot volunteer your time, you can also consider making a donation to one of the above named nonprofit organizations as well as Feeding America and AmeriCares. Donations can be made at any of their websites. The American Red Cross makes it even easier to donate! All you have to do is send a text to 90999 with the word REDCROSS and it will automatically make a $10 donation.

Some might say that we can and should rely on the government or others to help us. I would say that it is important to help others as well as to being ready to take care of yourself and your loved ones in the case of an emergency.

There are a few easy steps that you can personally take to prepare your and your family for a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. Here are five easy recommendations almost everyone can do!

1. Create an emergency plan of action. What would you and your family do if something like this happened? Could you survive for three days without electricity?
2. It is recommended you have three days to two weeks' worth of food and water on hand. This should include nonperishable items such as crackers, tuna and peanut butter.
3. Always have extra batteries on hand for flashlights and clock radios.
4. It is important to document all of your valuables. A friend of mine who lives in the Southwest recently returned from a trip with her husband to find a burst water pipe that appeared to have been spewing water for the entire time they were gone, which was more than 10 days! This happened and there wasn't a natural disaster... be prepared!
5. It's a good idea to have extra cash on hand to buy necessities because, as shared before, if there's no electricity that means banks are not open and ATMs aren't working!

Bonus Tip: For natural disasters and as a tip for everyday life, make sure your cell phone battery is fully charged. You never know when disaster will strike and you will need to get ahold of someone or receive important alerts! There are also battery powered charging options that you could look into purchasing.

Bonus Tip #2: It's important to not forget about your pets during an evacuation! If you're being evacuated and don't know when you'll be back, take your pets with you! The Humane Society often supplies lists of pet-friendly shelters for you to reference. If you lose your pets, don't despair! Many rescue groups help to match pets with their owners.

Now that you have all of these tools, it's time to act! Check on loved ones, make a donation and create a plan! These are all things you can do to ensure you are Making A Difference (M.A.D.) today and everyday! What are you doing to be M.A.D. during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy?