Senator Caleb Rowden’s Legislative Column for the Week of Sept. 11: Helping Those Impacted by Harvey, Irma

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It has been several weeks since Hurricane Harvey first made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas. In the weeks since Americans watched the category 4 Hurricane wreak havoc on Houston and its neighboring communities, we have also seen similar images from Hurricane Irma which ravaged communities in Florida from coast-to-coast. Since then, the nation has pulled together to offer support and hope to the victims of these horrible disasters. Thousands of men, women and children have been displaced, their homes and businesses destroyed. So many have lost so much, and they now need our help.

To ensure volunteer and donation efforts are meeting the actual needs of Hurricane Harvey’s victims, FEMA has compiled the following tips to help make the most of your contributions:

  • Cash is the most efficient method of donating. It offers volunteer organizations the greatest flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and also pumps money back into local economies, helping these hard-hit areas recover faster. Furthermore, FEMA discourages donations of unsolicited goods, such as used clothing, household items, medicine or perishable food.
  • Donate through a trusted organization. For volunteer options, FEMA suggests going to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster(NVOAD) website.
  • Affiliate with existing non-profit organizations before coming to the disaster area. Immediately following a disaster, a community can easily become overwhelmed by the amount of generous people who want to help. Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained to respond in the most effective way.
  • Be safe. Do not self-deploy until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites and opportunities have been identified.
  • Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media’s attention to the disaster. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster — especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.

I want to specifically acknowledge the tremendous efforts of Boone County’s own Missouri Task Force 1 (MO-TF1), which returned home this week after being deployed to Houston for 13 days. The team consisted of 37 emergency response personnel and 10 ground support personnel and brought more than 100,000 pounds of equipment to aid in relief efforts. In total, MO-TF1 rescued close to 376 people and 40 pets. Thank you for your service, sacrifice and for bringing the generous heart and giving spirit of Missouri’s people to Texas.

Unfortunately, MO-TF1’s work is not yet over. In preparation for Hurricane Irma, MO-TF1 has activated several members to serve on FEMA’s Urban Search and Rescue Response System Incident Support Team. Irma devastated the Caribbean Islands and most of Florida. Altogether, 12 members of MO-TF1 were deployed to St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, Florida and Georgia. Several of the members deployed are from Boone County.

I ask each of you reading this to please keep the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, as well as all those assisting with search, rescue and recovery efforts, in your thoughts and prayers. And I encourage you to help in any way you can if you are in a position to do so.

I am passing along my deepest sympathy to members of MO-TF1 and the family of former MO-TF1 member, Dr. Chris Bosche.  Dr. Bosche responded to the World Trade Center after 9/11 and passed away this past week. He was 44. In 1996, Dr. Bosche started with MO-TF1 while still a Mizzou medical school student. He was with an Ohio disaster team when the Twin Towers fell in 2001.  After he returned to the state and Missouri Task Force 1 in 2003, he responded to several disasters, including the Joplin tornado in 2011. Dr. Bosche had been battling with cancer until his death Sept. 12.

I am here to serve you, and my office door is always open to your questions, concerns and suggestions. You can reach my staff at 573-751-3931 and an array of legislative and constituent resources at