As seen in the past, hurricanes are big news. We worry about loved ones and the electronic communications bring us ever closer. As noted in the response to Hurricane Katrina, communications were a major issue. Rumors easily spread out of the Superdome and due to those massive communications nets those rumors whipped up pretty drastic hysteria.
What can a librarian do in this? The first thing to do is to be patient. While librarianship is sometimes considered a helping profession it must be remembered that a drive on our parts to help must be tempered with caution. The time to start thinking about donations of physical goods is best after landfall rather than before. The best thing that can be donated before landfall is money because that is far more fungible than a roll of toilet paper might be in terms of procuring goods. Money allows for those directly impacted to make decisions about how to respond rather than such being made in a disconnected place. The after-action reports from Katrina showed that while folks outside the impacted area might have been well-meaning sometimes the bulk donation of some types of physical goods was not quite effective.
Communications will be presumably impacted by this event. LISTen will not be reporting on Gustav. Rather than get details second-hand from LISTen a pointer is given below instead to an experimental podcast from the National Hurricane Center that may be issued as often as hourly. In this case it is best to get it directly rather than filtered. Care must be taken to ensure that telephone communications are not disrupted by attempting to contact loved ones that might still be in the projected impact area. If you receive a message that circuits are busy, it is best to wait as it may be a while before congestion clears. Many emergency response plans prioritize telephone traffic to support emergency response traffic first so continually trying might only cause you grief rather than relief. Individuals impacted by the storm should have registered with the American Red Cross “Safe and Well” system which is set up to help alleviate circuit congestion issues.
Even though it is a holiday weekend in the United States, the hard part is having to wait. Folks abroad also may have worries too. The links below are commended as ways to keep yourself up to date as well as for sharing with others who may have concerns.
American Red Cross “Safe and Well” Site
Tip sheet by the American Red Cross on hurricane evacuation
American Red Cross Gustav Newsroom
American Radio Relay League’s links to resources
List of groups from National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster who you could donate funds to that might aid relief efforts
Jim Lindgren at The Volokh Conspiracy highlights a report about charities that performed best in responding to the 2005 storms
Details about the National Hurricane Center Podcast
Gustav Information Center on Ning
Podcasts available from The Weather Channel
CNN reporting on Hurricane Gustav
RSS feed for CNN hourly news audio
RSS feed for CNN twice a day news video
ABC World News webcast via FeedBurner