How To Help Louisiana Flooding Victims

Good Morning Everyone,

I woke up this morning, checked the news, looked at the new predictions for flooding in Ascension Parish, and tried to wrap my mind around the worst flooding that I have ever personally seen. As I sit here writing this post, I am acutely aware that I am one of the lucky ones. As of the writing of this post, my neighborhood has not flooded. I still have a home, my pet is safe, my power is on, and I have cell phone service. These are things that I take for granted most days, but today, they are a luxury in many areas of Baton Rouge, Livingston Parish, and so many more parishes in the state of Louisiana.

Like everyone else, I pulled everything up as far off the floor as I could get it, packed a bag in the case of evacuation, and made sure to reach out to loved ones outside of the area to tell them where to look for updates in case the power or phone lines go down. As I was having this conversation, it occurred to me that I should put these many years of Red Cross training to good use and give a run through of some of the things that we are taught with respect to how to prepare for, sustain, and manage a disaster of this scale. I hope this helps anyone who is looking for this kind of information, and as many that will read this post, will  not do so until their lives return to normal, I hope that it may serve as a guide for how to stay prepared for future disasters. As we are in the middle of the actual disaster, I am listing the information out of order, but by priority as; High Priority Information, How You Can Help During A Disaster, then How To Help Before A Disaster (For Next Time) and finally, How To Help After A Disaster.

******Recent Request For The Addition Of This High Priority Information:

  1. Please visit FEMA Disaster Assistance to download the application for disaster assistance. Also, please be advised that FEMA has an app, which you may download directly to your phone and reach out to them there. I have been advised by FEMA that flood victims are experiencing long delays being able to access their website. They advised to be patient and continue trying.
  2. Please visit this FEMA Filing A Claim link to learn more about how to file a claim. This page walks you through everything.
  3. Since the writing of the blog post that you are reading, I interviewed a Baton Rouge gentlemen who works closely with FEMA. With the help of his interview, I was able to put together a short and clear plan for How To Apply For FEMA Disaster Assistance.
  4. I have created the following playlists on my YouTube channel titled ‘How To File A Flood Insurance Claim‘, What To Do With A Car With Flood Damage, and How To Handle Flood Water Damage and Clean Up . I have included all videos which I think are helpful to people who need this information. These are not my videos, but the videos of other content creators on YouTube. I have no affiliation to any of the companies listed in the videos. They are being provided solely as another source of information for local residents in need.

My apologies for inserting the information above there. It may seem out of place, but I was receiving a lot of request for the information. Ok, back to the task at hand.

DURING THE CURRENT 2016 BATON ROUGE FLOOD: WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? 

This article is not about what to do during a flood, so much as it is about how to help before, during, and after a flood. In the last section, we talked about how you can help before the disaster, so now let’s talk about what you can do during the disaster.

  1. Assuming that you are still in your home, try to stay off of the phone as much as possible. Phone lines are overwhelmed, so try to keep all conversations that do not need to be had to a minimum. Text if you have to, but keep the phone lines open for affected victims and emergency responders.
  2. This is an excellent opportunity to start going through your house, room by room, and identifying items that you may no longer need. All flood victims will have the same basic needs; food, shelter, and clothing. Go through your closets, your kids closets, your pantry, etc and pull out items which you are willing to donate. This can also include things like blankets, batteries, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and more. Bag these items up in like groups. For example, put all of the toiletries in one bag, clothes in another, etc. This way you can distribute it to the shelters that have a need for that specific kind of item. This will ease their work on the receiving end at the shelters, as they will not have to sort through your donation bag. Also, use bags not boxes. Bags are easy to break open, reuse, and dispose of. Boxes are bulky and can be hard to store or break down when there are a large amount of incoming donations.
  3. During a disaster, one of the most insidious problems is distribution of information. The responders are so busy trying to keep their heads above water, that they frequently do not have the time or assets available to them to declare their needs effectively. In our information age, this is becoming less of a problem, as we can communicate those needs on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Check the Facebook pages of your local churches, grocery stores, and the like to see if they are a receiving location for items of need, or if they are actual volunteer spots. This reduces the amount of phone calls that inundate organizations like the Red Cross during a disaster. You may even volunteer yourself to one of these locations to coordinate and receive donations if they have not set something up yet.
  4. You may check the local Red Cross Website. In the currently affected area, that is the Louisiana Red Cross. They will have a list of ways to volunteer and usually a list of declared needs. Additionally, you may sign up to volunteer at Volunteer Louisiana.
  5. Assuming that your roads are clear, and only if they are clear from your home to the store, to the shelter, and back. Please do not become part of the problem by driving into standing or moving water and then becoming a victim yourself. This will require that emergency personnel will have to come to your assistance, and they are already spread very thin during a disaster. You may go to the local dollar store, grocery store, or WalMart and purchase needed supplies; toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, sanitary items, bagged or boxed food, etc.

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6. Check on trending hashtags for up to the minute information. Some of the most helpful current tags are:

#flood, #louisiana, #batonrougeflood, #laflood, #batonrougepets, #lawx, #lousianaflood, #denhamsprings, #redcross, #batonrouge, #la, #ascensionparish, #AscensionOHSEP, #wafb

7. As of 8/15/16, the following information has been provided as places of need, or as places that you may donate or volunteer.

The Salvation Army: A makeshift Salvation Army command center has been set up at 4025 West Brookstown Dr. Volunteers are welcome to report to the Brookstown location to help with food service and more. To volunteer, or if you are in need of assistance, call (225) 355-4483.

Baton Rouge Area Foundation: BRAF has a relief fund that assists nonprofits responding to flooding across the state. People can make donations online at braf.org. Donations to the Louisiana Flood Relief Fund are tax deductible.

Rouses Markets: In partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, Rouses Markets are accepting cash donations and donations of non-perishable food, cleaning supplies and toiletries. You can make donations at the cash register or online.

Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office: The sheriff’s office is accepting clean clothing for flood victims beginning Monday morning. All clothing should be bagged or boxed and can be delivered to the Sheriff’s Office training building at 819 South Broad Street.

Lamar Dixon Center: We need medical folks at shelter at Lamar Dixon. Specifically RN or EMT. They need help handling meds, etc.

Fellowship Church at 14363 Highway 73 in Prairieville:

Fellowship Church at Prairievillle (14363 Hwy 73) will be a drop off site for the shelter at Lamar Dixon again today. Please bring donations of toiletries, ladies hygiene products, baby formula and supplies, non perishable foods. We will update list of needs throughout the day.

**Just Added: Albertson’s Grocery Stores:

Effective 5PM this evening, Monday 8/15/16, all Albertson’s stores in the local baton rouge area (except the Denham Springs flooded store) will have a way for you to add money to your checkout to donate funds to the disaster relief.

American Red Cross: 

Give money to the American Red Cross. On this page, simply use the drop-down menu to earmark your money for the Louisiana floods. Or text LAFLOODS to 90999 to automatically send the organization $10. You may also call them at 855-489-2528 to volunteer.

United Way of Southeast Louisiana:

Donate to or volunteer with the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, which will provide flood victims with counseling, food and other items, here.

Zeta Phi Beta:

Check out the Louisiana State University’s Zeta Phi Beta sorority’s GoFundMe, which is aiming to raise $10,000 and disburse it to students impacted by the flooding, here.

Receiving Centers in New Orleans:

For nearby residents, such as New Orleans, there are many receiving areas that have been set up to collect items of need. Please click here for a link to New Orleans area collection centers.

8. As of 8/15/16, the following information has been provided as a vital need: There is a critical need for families who can provide a foster home for pets during this disaster. Please contact Capital Area Animal Welfare at (225) 752-5801. 

The question is “How can I help flood victims in Louisiana?” Let’s back up for a few minutes though before we answer that question to try to minimize the chances that you ever become a victim, and how to mitigate damages in the event that you do. If you are displaced from your home, it is a lot easier on both you and emergency personnel if you have some of your basics covered. If you have to go to a shelter, it’s devastating enough. It’s a medical emergency if you have to go without your medicine. During a flood, emergency personnel and first responders are overwhelmed, so do what you can to minimize your needs during the disaster.

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WHEN FLOODING IS A POSSIBILITY IN OR AROUND YOUR LOCAL AREA:

The question is “How can I help flood victims in Louisiana?” Let’s back up for a few minutes though before we answer that question to try to minimize the chances that you ever become a victim, and how to mitigate damages in the event that you do. If you are displaced from your home, it is a lot easier on both you and emergency personnel if you have some of your basics covered. If you have to go to a shelter, it’s devastating enough. It’s a medical emergency if you have to go without your medicine. During a flood, emergency personnel and first responders are overwhelmed, so do what you can to minimize your needs during the disaster.

  1. Find out what local resources are available to you to fill sandbags for your home. Get a list of at least two, and preferably three, in case the others are inaccessible due to heavy use or flooding. If you think that your place may flood, go and fill sandbags and protect your home. If you wait until you are certain, you will likely be far too late. Those sandbags can hold back water that would otherwise freely flow into your home, so it’s just good practice to surround your home and stop yourself from becoming another flood victim. It goes without saying that some will be unable to protect their homes regardless of all of their best efforts, but you should still try until you know that you have exhausted your options.
  2. Have enough drinking water on hand. If you live in Louisiana then you are all to familiar with a ‘boil water advisory’, which you should be able to do, but if you lose your power that option will be lost with it. Make sure you have enough bottled water and food (non perishable) available to eat so that you, your family, your animals, and potentially additional family members or friends who may come to you after losing their homes are covered. Do not stock up on things which require electricity (meats, cheeses, etc.), as you have no promise that you will have power during the disaster. You do not want to go to the grocery store and find empty shelves, so you should always have a ready supply of non perishables in your home.

Grocery Stores Empty

  1. Assemble your valuables, your real valuables; passport, ID, medicine, two days worth of clothing, toiletries, phone charger, a small blanket, flashlight (or a flashlight app on your phone), multi purpose tool, knife, batteries, a radio, etc. Please take the number of your insurance agent and your policy number with you if at all possible. You will need this to begin the claims process. You will also want to bring a small amount of food with you; protein bars, pop tarts, dry nuts, and water. You may displaced for several hours during an evacuation. The lines will be long at the shelters, and you will be cold, wet, tired, and emotionally shaken. You do not need to add hungry or thirsty to the list. Take enough to get you through the first 24 hours if possible. Click here to read the Red Cross Evacuation Bag List list.
  2. Put all of your valuables in gallon sized ziploc bags and squeeze out all of the air. Roll clothes up tightly before placing in bags to conserve space. If you have to evacuate by boat and your bag slips off into the water, your items will remain dry if you have them bagged up in the ziplocs. Plus, these zip loc bags serve as a wonderful way to carry and store items that you will be provided once you are at the shelter.

Evacuation Bag During Flooding

5. Put your items in a backpack, not a bag that you carry by hand. When you are evacuating, you may need both arms to be pulled off of a roof, car, etc, and you should not have that terrible situation complicated by also having to struggle with a bag. Put it on your back so that you may move around hands free. This also frees your hands up at the shelter where things are crowded and space is tight. Inside of a shelter, you will be fumbling with paperwork, possibly your children, and you do not need your personal belongings complicating the matter. Additionally, it keeps items up off of the floor which reduces the possibility that someone could trip on your bag or accidentally take your bag and move it out of the way.  In other words, do not skip this step.

Evacuation Backpack During Flood Louisiana6. Always have cash in your evacuation bag. Do not carry all large bills. During disasters, ATM’s go down, and business may or may not have money couriers coming in. In other words, they may not have change to give to you, and you may not be able to get money from the bank. Trust me when I tell you that I have seen someone pay $20 for a gallon of water, because it was all that he, or anyone around him had. If you need water, and the clerk doesn’t have change, you have to hand over what you have. Do yourself a favor and have at least $50-$100 in $1 or $5 bills. You may already be taking a bath due to the flooding, and you don’t need to take a financial bath too. Save yourself the trouble and make this a part of your evacuation bag.

7. Make sure that you have enough food in a ziplock bag ready to go for your animals, as you can not guarantee that your receiving shelter will have this need covered. Also, please remember to pack any medications that your animal requires.

8. Similar to number 7 above, please make sure that you take ample baby formula and diapers to sustain your babies for at least 24 hours, as this is a need which is always a challenge during a disaster. Again, remember any medications that your baby may need.

9. Make sure that you have registered your pet’s chip if they have one. Should you be separated from you pet during the flood, this is a way to guarantee that you will be reunited. If you do not remember who makes your chip, simply call the Capital Area Animal Welfare Center at (225) 752-5801. When you read them your chip number, they will be able to tell you who it is registered to.  Please register these chips. If your pets do not have chips, please make sure that they have a collar on with your current information on it. If you have pets, print out the Pet Emergency Preparedness Plan, written by Sirena Madden of  Happy Trails and Wag’n Tails. She has been in the ‘dog care’ business for over a decade and has seen it all. She gives you a lot of valuable pointers that could easily be overlooked.

10. Fill up your car or truck. This is because the gas pumps in your area may be submerged under water. Additionally, gas trucks may be unable to get into your local area to refill the pumps. You will need to be able to drive for various reasons before, and especially after, the flood, so make sure that you have already taken care of this for yourself and your family members.

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**All Flood Photos Couresy of Local Realtor Kristina Smallhorn (aka. YourRealEstateWhisperer)

11. Make a contact and evacuation plan. The Red Cross and your local news station (for example, here in Baton Rouge it is WAFB Baton Rouge News) will post constant updates about where you should evacuate to in the event of a disaster. Additionally, they will post local numbers of resources that you may find yourself in need of. Call 911 in the event of an emergency. If you can not get through to 911 for evacuation, please contact GOHSEP (Governer’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management) at (225) 925-7500.  Have your local power company’s phone number handy. Where I live, that company is Entergy Power Company. You may contact them at 800-542-2668. If you do not have the chance to shut off your power, call the electric company to do it. Many people forget how frequently people are electrocuted both during and after floods as a result of active power at a disaster site. **Important note, NEVER go into a basement where there is standing water to shut off the breaker box. If you have to stand in water to reach it, just call the power company to shut it off.

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Lastly, make sure that you have one contact outside of the area that you appoint as your family’s ‘point of contact’. You do not want to rely on others that are in the affected area, as they may be suffering catastrophic losses themselves and be unable to provide assistance. You simply text or call your loved ones and make sure that they know who your point of contact is. Then, as things develop, you may simply tell one person, and anyone who wants to check on you may call them. You will have your hands full dealing with your situation, the phone lines will be inundated or shut down, and you may not have access to a place to charge your cell phone. For all of these reasons, text (preferred to reduce phone line overload) the one person and let them do the talking for you. You may of course always post to Facebook, but that can take up a lot of your time trying to answer questions from everyone. It’s best to just focus on where you are in that moment, and let someone with a clear head manage that for you. Please also instruct that person to relay to family/friends that they may check the Red Cross Safe and Well Locator System for updates. Whenever you enter a shelter, one of your first stops will be at a table where you will be asked to fill in this form so that you may be checked in safe.

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Receiving Area for Displaced Flood Victims

If you take care of those 11 tasks, then you will have helped yourself and your family. In so doing, you have already exponentially reduced the amount of resources that you will require during a disaster, and that is a massive contribution to relief efforts.

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AFTER THE DISASTER: 

People are trying to get back to ‘normal’ and you want to help. Here are some ways that you can contribute that may seem less obvious.

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  1. Offer to watch children at the local church, as many people will struggle with childcare issues during clean up.
  2. Buying school supplies will be much appreciated. Though this is not an immediate need during a disaster, it will quickly become one when schools reopen and victims of the flood do not have school supplies for their children.
  3. Register for a course from the Red Cross about Emergency Preparedness . This way the next time that there is a disaster, you will have a wider skill set to offer to your local community members in need.

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4. Talk to your employer about using unused sick days or leave. Many large workplaces, like the federal government, allow people to give unused leave to others. Contact your HR representative and ask if you can donate some of your unused leave to people affected by the flood.

Yes, there are a million other ways that you can provide assistance, but this post was meant to encourage you to be creative, get out there, and get connected. We all want to help others in need. It’s a basic human desire. It’s what makes this country great. It what makes me proud to call Louisiana home today.

I hope this article helped you in some way. Please share with your friends and family on social media, and post any additional needs or comments below to help others.

In closing, I want to take a moment to thank all of the emergency responders, volunteers, news crews and more who have given so generously and placed themselves in harm’s way to save others. Thank you for spending this time with me. Stay safe. Have an open heart. Give back.

With gratitude,

Raphaela Laurean

 

 

I am ‘Under Construction’ with Team Bombshell

Ok, I’m in. I received my email yesterday from Team Bombshell, officially welcoming me to join their ‘Under Construction’ team, which is great, because that is the one that I applied for. They have several different levels at which you can join, and being honest with myself, I had to start from the beginning.

The ‘Under Construction’ part of things means that you are now working with their nutritionists, trainers, and exclusively using their advice to move up to the ‘Bikini Competition Team’. I have really given this a lot of thought, and I would estimate that it will take me roughly 4-5 months of solid training to move up to this next level.

I am very eager to try their nutrition, training programs, etc. After years and years of working out every day with minimal gains at best, it’s time to admit to myself that I simply do not know what I am doing. I know how to drive to a gym, lift weights, get on and off of a treadmill, take supplements, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that I personally possess the knowledge to make all of those elements work together correctly. There is no shame in admitting that you are not the best person for the job. There is only shame in admitting that you waited too many years to have that little chat with yourself. C’est la vie.

I am hoping to attend their weekend camp this weekend to meet the girls, staff, learn the ‘trade’ and come out of it with my program for success. As for the details of the training, nutrition, etc, I will have to be pretty vague on here about all of that. As a business owner myself, I can appreciate completely that they want to protect their intellectual property (methods/techniques) and their business model. It’s not like they swear you to secrecy, but they do ask you not to divulge what you are learning, as that is proprietary to Team Bombshell Fitness, and I totally agree with that.

I am so ready to get there and get fit! For the first time in I don’t know  how many years, I am actually excited about bikini season. I have a lot of work to do, and a short time frame to complete it in. Let’s get this party started Team Bombshell!

If you would like to learn more about Team Bombshell Fitness, click here. I will not lie to you, it’s a little pricey, but what is it worth to you to not have to hide in your clothing anymore?

For me, the answer is, priceless!

Gratefully,

Raphaela Laurean