A few comments first. We watched helplessly as lives were lost and homes and livelihoods destroyed in Florida the past two weeks. I have been asked many times why I began giving Christmas ornaments and created Operation Christmas Ornaments for disaster survivors. We have just seen many families lose all their earthly possession due to hurricane Ian. As I have interviewed survivors the past 30 years, they often mentioned the grief at losing their Christmas ornaments. We can never replace the memories associated with those ornaments, but we can help create new memories. As they hang ornaments year after year, we hope survivors will reflect on the joy of receiving them from all around the United States made by children, families, church groups and others.

Secondly, you have been asked about ornaments for Florida. It is now two weeks since Ian made landfall. How much coverage is there today? Very little. Already those suffering are being forgotten. We are hoping receiving a dozen ornaments made in a dozen different states a year from now will help survivors understand they are being remembered. This year we are serving those who lost everything to the firestorm in Colorado and the tornado in Kentucky a year ago. They have not been forgotten.

Many want to help following a disaster and they load their cars and take their boats to lend a hand. It is important to remember when you are aiding in cleanup after a disaster, nothing will be provided for you to use. Bring as much of your own food, shelter and equipment as possible.

What to Bring:

Number one: A positive attitude, a sense of humor and patience. This work will be hot and dirty, and your muscles will ache but your spirits will soar as you serve others.

  • Bring all you have to share.
  • Brooms: especially push brooms.
  • Chainsaw with fuel.
  • Clothes pins for drying papers, photos, rags and clothing.*
  • Disinfectants: Bleach and clean water and buckets to mix them or a commercial disinfectant.
  • Dremel type tool for cutting dry wall.
  • Fire extinguishers.
  • First aid kits.
  • Folding chairs. You will need breaks and so will the survivors.
  • Folding tables. To sort and to hold equipment and tools.
  • Gloves medical: For delicate tasks.
  • Gloves, rubber: For wet cleanup
  • Gloves, work. Bring extra, people forget these. They will also get coated with mud and become of less use.
  • Hats. Bring extra to share.
  • Hard hats.
  • Insect repellant.
  • N95 masks: purchase at pharmacy stores.
  • Notebook and pens: for inventory, make lists of items needed or to leave notes for those coming to check on you, including first responders.
  • Paper towels and rags.
  • Pitch forks
  • Plastic bags: large trash
  • Plastic bags: small resealable for found items
  • Port-a-potty and TP
  • Radio: it’s good to stay informed.
  • Rain gear.
  • Rope for use as a clothesline or to help create shade
  • Shade structures such as patio umbrellas and dining tents.
  • Shovels: Flat are best.
  • Socks: wet socks should be changed often.
  • Tarps: good for covering salvaged items and to haul debris.
  • Tent or other plan for sleeping.
  • Tool kits.
  • Water for cleaning.
  • Water, lunch, and snacks for yourself and to share.
  • Wet wipes: for when you take a break to eat or just to freshen up.

When working on a cleanup project, always wear sturdy shoes and long pants. Insects, rodents, snakes, and all manner of creatures will be out looking for new homes. Long sleeve, light colored shirts will help prevent sunburn and in reality, they will keep you cooler.

Don’t forget your personal supplies. Again, you will not be able to easily purchase items you have forgotten. Remember:

  • Cooler with ice. You will not be able to easily replace the ice but if you can, you will be able to keep drinks cold and share those with others.
  • Your hands will dry out after hours working with wet objects or sweating in gloves.
  • Medications for muscle pain, headaches, stomach upset etc.
  • Personal hygiene items, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine hygiene items, etc.
  • Prescription eyeglasses
  • Prescription medications.
  • Sunburn medications.
  • Wash cloth and hand towel.

You may not be in a position to help with cleanup following Ian but there will be other disasters, or you may know those going to help following a disaster who will need this information. To help later be sure to copy this list for the binder you are creating for quick reference when the need arises. If you have the Totally Ready Emergency Binder this information is included.


*Information for saving photos, books and documents is in your Totally Ready Emergency Binder

Carolyn is always available to answer questions and share tips at Totallyready.com and on Facebook. For those wanting information or to participate creating Christmas ornaments for disaster survivors visit Operation Christmas Ornaments on Facebook and on Carolyn’s blog.

Catch Carolyn on Annette on America:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kLaXgPacxE (school safety)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrFKyecixeo  (prepping for blackouts and civil unrest)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO_XUJMC008 (prepping for recession)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjtEdX0h2OA&t=2507s  (prepping for inflation)