This month’s feature story is not about one event or one action; it is about hundreds, if not thousands of measures taken by the Autism Society Affiliates around the country and the caring and generous supporters with whom they are involved.

Hurricane Harvey and then hurricane Irma hit Texas and Florida hard. Our Affiliates were there and ready to help the families with autism in need! The generosity and support came from the National Autism Society, Affiliates nationwide, volunteers, organizations and generous people making donations. Donations came in the form of gift cards, checks, weighted blankets, iPads, sensory items, and more. Also, the emotional support was overwhelming. Calls of encouragement and social media sharing further assisted the recovery effort. Texas is supporting over 110 families with autism and just with their donation link, raised $40,000 from 320 donors.

The Autism Society of Texas provided the Autism Society Florida with critical information which allowed them to prepare for hurricane Irma. Before the storm, the Autism Society Florida worked with Autism Society of America National Headquarters and Suzanne Potts from the Texas affiliate. As a result of this guidance, several days before the storm Autism Society Florida contacted FEMA and the Red Cross to prepare for what was coming.

Also, Autism Society Florida was able to post all of the information families would need to prepare for the storm and where to turn when the storm passed. The emergency information was also posted on their Facebook page and updated throughout the storm.

While Autism Society Florida was expecting hundreds of calls, they only got a few. That may have been due to the lack of service by phone carriers and internet providers. The keys suffered the most damage, and Autism Society Florida reached out to multiple organizations offering their help. They found that the situation there was the same as they were experiencing. Hopefully, this was all good news indicating that people evacuated resulting in fewer disasters. Teresa Becerra’s communication with the various organizations has led to requests for training of first responders and other personnel.

What else has developed from these horrible natural disasters, is the idea to develop a strategic plan that can be used by all Affiliates nationwide to prepare, handle and contribute to the recovery efforts needed both before and in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The vision for this plan would involve all of the Affiliates nationwide along with joining forces and offering training to shelters, FEMA, the Red Cross and the United Way to help them prepare better for our families. In addition to this proposed plan, is to develop our own ASA Disaster Tool Kit.

Two horrible natural disasters were met with tremendous amounts of support and help, and have led to the development of tools and training to prepare for future storms. Thank you to all of you for the incredible work you did, the dedication and the care that you show not only during disasters but every day!