PETALING JAYA - Be safe before you save others - that is the advice from flood relief volunteers to Malaysians who want to go to disaster areas to lend a hand.
Malaysian Elite Disaster Rescue Foundation administation special officer Kelvin Pang said people heading off to such places on their own must be prepared first.
"Don't simply go in (to a disaster area). Those who want to help, think of safety first. Many people take things for granted," he said.
Pang said those who were unprepared or did not travel in a group could put themselves in danger - a matter made worse if they did not inform others of their plans.
As an example, he cited an incident where a four-wheel drive heading into a flooded area near Temerloh, Pahang, was carried away by a sudden current.
"Sometimes, people think they can drive through floodwaters. You must know the water level and its condition," he said.
Besides travelling in groups, he said it was important to be prepared for the worst, and have clothes and food in case you get stranded.
He said there was no fuel in some areas, so spare fuel might be needed.
Relief volunteer Yoy Khairuddin said a good rapport with residents or authorities in an area was important, as they would know which roads to take and the water levels.
"When we went to Kemaman last week, we got help from a local fireman. In Temerloh, we contacted the people there to make arrangements on how to drop our load," he said.
United Sikhs representative Rishiwant Singh said common sense was needed for those heading into disaster zones.
"Common sense will rule. If they (authorities) tell you not to go into the river, don't go into the river," said Rishiwant.
MRCS National Disaster Management committee member James Kon said Kelantan and Terengganu were safer now.
"For states like Pahang which are still flooded, you may want to wait until the waters recede," he said.
He also advised volunteers to carry protective masks.
MRCS could use more volunteers although tasks such as sorting goods might not need constant manpower, he said.
To offer help, you can call MRCS at 03-2143 8122, Mercy Malaysia at 03-2142 2007, Youth Care Malaysia coordinator Nicole Wong at 012-326 9069, RAOKFloodRelief at 012-975 1147 or Save East Coast at 014-264 6004.
Meanwhile, 8th Brigade Pengkalan Chepa Camp commander in Kelantan Brig-Jen Datuk Azmi Yahya asked individuals and non-governmental organisations wishing to help victims to work with local authorities.