After a Disaster

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall. — Confucius

The wildfire has now been put out, the storm has passed, the earth has stopped shaking, the chemical spill is contained or the volcano is no longer rumbling. Now, your job/focus/responsibility is recovery. Just how you recover and how long it will take depends on the type of disaster you’ve experienced. Part of preparing for disaster is anticipating what you will do after it ends. To avoid being overwhelmed it’s best to look at the recovery process in three post-disaster stages:

  • Immediate Recovery
  • Short-term Recovery
  • Long-term Recovery
  • Post-Disaster Stages
  • Immediate Recovery

First and foremost, remain safe. Is the event completely over? For example, the earth no longer quakes, but damaged buildings may continue to fall; the hurricane no longer dumps torrents of rain, but the levees continue to fail.

Remain Calm and Use Common Sense: In some cases, law enforcement officials and emergency personnel may be in a position to tell you it is safe to re-enter certain structures. However, in many cases the aftermath of a disaster is as chaotic as the disaster itself, and emergency personnel may not be available, at least initially. Exercise good judgment and proceed with extreme caution.

Use Your Mutual Support System: Gather your family and make a unified plan.

Attend to Injuries: Handle immediate medical needs by checking everyone for wounds or injuries. Use your First Aid Kit and/or seek additional treatment if injuries warrant.

Avoid Obvious Hazards: Avoid downed electric lines, the smell of gas, standing water, etc. Make sure everyone remains alert and knows how to spot and stay away from such hazards.

Listen to Your Emergency Radio: Use your emergency radio to determine your next move, which may include remaining where you are. Beware of rumors; they can exacerbate a disaster by leading to unnecessary risk or pandemonium.

Suspend Making Major Decisions: Focus on the present; when your life is suddenly in upheaval and the status quo is interrupted, you will not be in a frame of mind to make sound decisions. The emphasis now should be on your immediate needs. Nothing will be gained by making a decision while being pressured or while under duress.

Expect Emotional Extremes: It is natural for emotions to run high and swing back and forth after a disaster. Some people are elated because the disaster is over while others become depressed because things are such a mess. Fears are likely to continue for some time after an event, so do not ignore them. Address these situations as they come up, but do it with love and understanding.

Food and Water- Provided you still have your reserves, stay hydrated and nourished in order to maintain energy and stay as comfortable as possible.

Stay Off Cell Phones: Lines will be jammed, if they are working at all, so stay off your phone and conserve your battery. Your best bet is to send short text messages as this form of communication requires the least amount of band width.