Friends in need

With the disaster on the Gulf Coast, there are three things Americans immediately must think about: helping the victims, dealing with the hurricane’s results as a nation and preventing additional environmental degradation.

First, while many people’s first inclination was to rush to the disaster area to help, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has cautioned well-wishers not to get on the road.

“Volunteers should not report directly to the affected areas unless directed by a voluntary agency,” according to Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response.

“Cash donations are especially helpful to victims,” Brown said. “They allow volunteer agencies to issue cash vouchers to victims so they can meet their needs. Cash donations also allow agencies to avoid the labor-intensive need to store, sort, pack and distribute donated goods. Donated money prevents, too, the prohibitive cost of air or sea transportation that donated goods require.”

There are, however, places to sign up to get your body into the relief effort. One place to start is at the American Red Cross’ Web site: Don’t forget, though, your help may be most useful here at home; go to, to see which local groups might need you.

Cash donations are also being administered by the Red Cross. Go to to make online donations. If you want to make a Katrina-specific donation, be sure to put “Hurricane Katrina” in the check’s memo line and mail to American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. Telephone credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 435-7669 for English speakers or (800) 257-7575 for those who prefer Spanish.

Finally, for Webmasters, the Red Cross has banners with information on how to help for Web sites in a variety of sizes and formats at

Gas prices have had an immediate impact on the working poor in the United States. In the ‘70s, during the last major gasoline crises, car pooling helped to save people money, bring down demand and decrease air pollution. Now, we have the Internet, and it seems getting set up with a car pool should be easier than ever. There are carpool sites to help people get together all over the Internet. Three of the most popular, according to, are, and Please don’t consider this editorial an endorsement of any of these sites, and be diligent in getting information about any stranger you get in a car with. RTC also offers assistance for carpooling; to learn more about it call 348-7665.

It is too early to begin to assess the environmental issues caused by the massive flooding and destruction of property. Environmental leaders emphasize that people should be helped first, but they also say that to prevent an even bigger, more long-term disaster, cleanup crews must be cognizant of what they are dumping where, and the need for haste should not overwhelm proper disposal of hazardous materials.