08/28/2011 01:19 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2011

Irene's Fury and Your Response

Imagine you are at Operation USA headquarters ( this weekend watching Hurricane Irene's path of destruction. If you are not a local, state or federal government agency or government relief contractor like the American Red Cross, what would you do?

Pretend it's nearly a zero sum event. You start with no money and a few tons of medical clinic supplies set aside for a local disaster. You want to help disaster victims as you did after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike, Gustav and Andrew; after the tornado which recently struck Joplin, MO; and, the floods which recently hit Tuscaloosa, AL. You're not a First Responder like a fire department or paramedic unit; you're not FEMA; and, do not command the vast logistical resources of an entire government...

What would SMART Aid consist of in this situation?

To ensure you have financial resources, you contact your habitual "angels" and put them on notice... "watch your TV." You contact corporate supply donors and alert them that your relief effort is being formed and that your large warehouse is ready to accept bulk donations of aid supplies -- electric generators, large all-weather tents, medical supplies, water purification equipment and small items that families need (flashlights, radios, cooking utensils, etc.). You might alert companies which do employee matching fund drives in case the damage is so widespread that everyone feels compelled to help (as so many Americans did in Haiti).

Very importantly, you contact other relief agencies and groups of health care providers who work with those most in need during normal times. It is the local agencies who typically cannot get what they need for a sustained disaster response. Sounds like rocket science? Not really, but doing it well is important.

The fact that we are in Los Angeles and well away from "Irene" allows us to focus on finding just where our help is most needed and would not be duplicative of that provided by others. There are always gaps in aid efforts, and filling them, however modestly, is a useful thing. By Monday, we'll have an idea of what we'll try to do. If you can help, we'd like to hear from you at 1-800-678-7255.