In the wake of the tornado that has hit and devastated Joplin, Independence Health Director Larry Jones is reminding area residents they should not “self deploy” to the area to offer assistance.

“We all sympathize with the plight of those in Joplin and our hearts go out to them,” Jones said.  “And it is natural for us to want to help out in situations such as this, but there are ways for us to do that already in place.

The Joplin tornado was described as being about one-half mile wide when it touched down just west of 20th and McClellan at about 5:41 p.m. Sunday, according to the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency. It reportedly grew to as much as three-quarters of a mile wide, before returning to about a half-mile in width and lifting up or dissipating at 20th and Prosperity Road. The track was about 4 miles long, heavily damaging residences, businesses, schools and apartment complexes. This is a densely populated section of the central city and estimates are that 10-30 percent of the city of Joplin had been damaged or destroyed, or approximately 2,000 structures.

Gov. Jay Nixon deployed 100 National Guardsmen to the affected area with specialized equipment to aid in search and rescue and debris clearing. Expected support missions include: search and rescue, emergency route clearance, communications support and security.

“The best thing you can do if you are looking for a way to help is to contact organizations such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army,” Jones added.

• To support the American Red Cross Disaster Relief, people can text the word “REDCROSS” to 9099 to make a $10 donation; by calling 1-800-Red-Cross (1-800-733-2767). Donations may be mailed to the Greater Kansas City Chapter, 211 W. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64114.

• To support The Salvation Army Disaster Relief Efforts, people can text the word “JOPLIN” to 80888 for an automatic $10 donation; by calling 1-800-Sal-Army (1-800-725-2769) or by going to Donations may be mailed to The Salvation Army, 3637 Broadway, Kansas City, MO 64111.

Jones also said that if licensed medical professional of any type wants to volunteer they must register on so they can be put into the system, get credentialed, and be deployed via a mission request from the Local Emergency Operations Center in the affected area. If they have not gone through Show Me Response then they will not be able to be used or put to work at a facility because they have not been credentialed. Also, spontaneous medical volunteers will burden the system and cause more hardship to the locals that are in response and rescue mode right now.

All others that want to volunteer their services that are not medical professionals can do so by calling United Way 211. Dial 211 from inside Missouri or by dialing 800-427-4626 or by going to their website to register at  UW 211 works with all of the other voluntary organizations active in disasters and will assist with coordinating volunteer deployments by matching up skills with needs. Jones said they are getting a high volume of calls, so please be patient.

For persons wanting to check on loved ones that they cannot contact or for those that have survived:  Red Cross' Safe and Well site to register if you are safe and for family to check often for their loved ones that are missing at .