When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

05 January 2005

Charity Navigator

Well, just as sure as the sun sets in the west, the vultures are starting to descend on the tsunami victims.

Terrible stories are starting to appear in the media about people preying on survivors, looting the homes of victims... and, naturally, con men and unscrupulous "charities" taking advantage of the altruistic instinct to line their own pockets.

A little more than (cough) twenty years ago (cough), I was a volunteer EMT on a small rural rescue squad. While there, I took some additional training in handling mass-casualty incidents, and a couple of points I heard from several instructors stuck with me.

Key point: When a mass casualty incident occurs, humanity's noblest and basest instincts express themselves.

For example:

One of the first things you need to do in a mass-casualty incident, for safety reasons as well as legal reasons, is to establish a makeshift morgue... and put one or more armed persons in charge of guarding it, to shoo off the people who inevitably show up to rob the corpses (shudder.)

On a much happier note, another thing that you need to do is assign one or more people to intercept all of the people who will show up of their own free will at the site of the incident to offer help--another instinct that tends to express itself (in a better class of person) under extreme duress. You want to give these people something safe and productive to do, if possible, but keep them out of the way of active rescue efforts, so that their instincts don't impede your progress.

In the spirit of aiding the altruistic instinct, and preventing the enrichment of the unscrupulous, let me point you to a great site: Charity Navigator.

Charity Navigator evaluates thousands of charities, ranks them by efficiency in delivery of services, and helps you make an informed decision about how and where to give money. When in doubt, check it out.

I am adding Charity Navigator's "Featured Charities" to this blog's sidebar; I hope you find it helpful. They've got a list of "four-star" charities aiding tsunami victims; you can give to any of these charities with confidence that most of the money you donate will get to the intended recipients.

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