Relief or Rubbish? Worst Disaster Donations
by Staff
When disaster strikes, communities are often overwhelmed by a tsunami of misdirected generosity. In fact, some professional disaster responders cite unsolicited donations and swarms of untrained volunteers as the hardest part of disaster relief. Learn how you can really help during a recovery effort.

What percentage of items donated after a disaster cannot be used?

  • 20 percent
  • 40 percent
  • 60 percent

Which of the following items was NOT among the strange and useless donations cited in an NPR story about donation waste?

  • high-heeled shoes
  • a pet iguana
  • a chandelier

What term do disaster responders use to describe the glut of unusable donations that pour into disaster areas?

  • "tsunami of crap"
  • "second-tier disaster"
  • "hurricane trashy"

Which of the following useless donations arrived in Florida after Hurricane Charlie ravaged the coastline in 2004?

  • 2,000 pairs of snow skis
  • 500 dog whistles
  • a truckload of sex toys

Following the tragic earthquake and tsunami that punished Japan in 2011, relief workers complained of receiving too many blankets, too much clothing and which of the following odd items?

  • too many broken bikes
  • too many broken wheelchairs
  • too much rice

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, relief workers were flooded with donations of which of the following items from well-meaning animal lovers?

  • cat asthma medicine
  • dog shoes
  • pigeon face masks

In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, philanthropists donated millions to build orphanages for children who had lost their parents in the horrific destruction. What was the unintended result?

  • Poor parents sent their children to live in the new orphanages, even though they weren't orphans.
  • There weren't enough workers to finish the orphanages, so hundreds of them became homes for families of monkeys.
  • Instead of building orphanages, local warlords took the money and built fancy new homes for themselves.

What donated item do all disaster relief agencies agree is the best kind of donation?

  • canned food
  • money
  • shoes

True or false: If you're donating money to a disaster relief agency, it is best to earmark the funds (specify how they should be used) to avoid mismanagement.

  • true
  • false

Which country refused outside aid in the wake of a natural disaster?

  • the United States after Hurricane Katrina
  • Burma after Cyclone Nargis in 2008
  • Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami

Awareness of local conditions and customs is particularly important when donating physical items after a disaster. Which of the following is NOT a real disaster donation reported by relief agencies?

  • pork meat donated to Muslim disaster victims in Turkey
  • cases of beer to a predominately Mormon community after a Utah mudslide
  • winter coats donated to Hurricane Andrew victims in steamy Florida

True or false: After the deadly 1988 hurricane in Honduras, a plane carrying critical medical supplies couldn't land at the airport because the runway was clogged with unsolicited donations.

  • true
  • false

Which of the following commonly donated items is almost never needed after a disaster?

  • blankets
  • used clothing
  • canned food

One of these donated food items is very useful after a disaster. Which is it?

  • unused prescription medications
  • new jars of baby food
  • fresh fruits and vegetables

Which of the following items would be the best thing to give following a major natural disaster with a lot of casualties and injuries?

  • boxes of mixed medical supplies like bandages and crutches
  • blood through an organization like the Red Cross
  • teddy bears for kids who have been hurt or lost loved ones

If you want to donate money after a disaster, who should you donate it to?

  • the national chapter of the Red Cross
  • a church group in your town that wants to travel to the disaster area and assist with the cleanup and recovery
  • a Web site run by a man from a small village raising money to rebuild an orphanage

True or false: After a major natural disaster, volunteer help is no longer necessary after the first six months.

  • true
  • false

One of the best ways to help out during a disaster is to prepare ahead of time. Which of the following is NOT recommended by disaster relief groups?

  • organizing a disaster relief group at your community organization that is ready to deploy at a moment's notice
  • attending volunteer training sessions run by the American Red Cross or a similar organization
  • becoming as self-sufficient as possible by assembling food storage and backpacks loaded with warm clothing, flashlights, etc.

Disaster preparedness is not only good for you and your family but also for the economy. According to economists, every dollar spent on disaster preparedness saves how many dollars in disaster relief?

  • $2
  • $7
  • $14

According to disaster relief agencies, which of the following options would be the most effective way to help in the wake of a natural disaster in another part of the U.S.?

  • Contact relief organizations to find out what items are needed, then pack and ship those items in well-labeled boxes.
  • Contact a church or civic organization in the area, ask what they need, then pack it in a truck and drive it directly to the location.
  • Organize a community garage sale and send the cash proceeds from the sale to a national relief organization.