Typhoon relief continues

More efforts are underway to bring relief to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, leaving thousands dead and millions homeless.

Peace Winds America, the Seattle-based disaster preparedness and response organization, is providing rice, canned food, dried fish, water, water purification, bedding supplies (sleeping mats, blankets), hygiene kits (soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste), and shelter (tents, plastic sheeting). Following that, the group is also coordinating a recovery phase with semi-permanent shelter (plywood houses), fishing industry support, agriculture support (seeds, equipment), community disaster education, and child counseling services.

The nonprofit group is targeting 10,000 families on the islands of Samar and Leyte for relief, in partnership with the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center based in Manila. The group is also coordinating with Peace Winds Japan.

To donate, visit peacewindsamerica.org.

Meanwhile, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn urged Seattle residents to support relief efforts in East Asia in the aftermath of the devastating typhoon. The City of Seattle has also launched a website that collects useful resources related to typhoon recovery efforts, which can be found athttp://www.seattle.gov/html/citizen/yolandarelief.htm.

The website includes links to help locate people missing as a result of the disaster, including Google Person Finder and the Philippine National Red Cross. It also includes donation links for several prominent relief organizations.

The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved an ordinance allowing contributions to the charities assisting in the recovery efforts. The adopted ordinance expands employee flexibility on how they can make their regular contributions to King County’s Annual Charitable Giving Campaign while still supporting the relief efforts taking place throughout the Philippines. It also allows them to voluntarily donate vacation or compensatory hours to organizations supporting relief efforts during natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan.

Also, the United States Navy has responded to the typhoon by sending the USS George Washington (CVN-73) and her escort ships to supply humanitarian aid to those in need. Operation Damayan, the US military’s disaster relief operation after the typhoon, has already delivered 11 tons of humanitarian aid to those hardest hit by the storm. The Navy is utilizing helicopters from the carrier to deliver aid to the towns and villages hardest to reach.

 In the wake of charitable giving, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) has issued a reminder to the public that there is a potential for fraudulent activity pertaining to relief efforts associated with Typhoon Haiyan.

Solicitations can originate as emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and similar methods.

 Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:

· Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails. Do not click on links contained within those messages because they may contain computer viruses.

· Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites.

· Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.

· Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by using Internet-based resources.

· Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because those files may contain viruses.  Only open attachments from known senders.

· To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.

· Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.

· Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

· Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by debit or credit card, or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.

· Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.

· Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com.

If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, contact the NCDF by phone at 866-720-5721, fax at 225-334-4707, or email to disaster@leo.gov. (end)

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