Disasters can shake the very foundations of our lives.
Whether we’re impacted directly or indirectly, these events can have severe consequences that affect our health and well-being.
Coping with disasters often takes a lot of time and effort — especially for vulnerable populations such as children, seniors, and those with special needs.
But if you put time, care, and attention into preparing your home and family for these situations, you may be able to make the recovery process that much easier.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at four effective strategies you can use to prepare to cope with disasters…
1. Learn What Post-Disaster Stress Looks Like
It’s essential to understand the signs and symptoms people show when struggling with disaster-related stress.
That way, if you notice you, a close friend, or a family member experiencing them, you can take the proper steps to get help.
With some help from Mental Health America and ready.gov, we compiled this list of signs to look out for when recovering from a disaster:
- Inability to accept reality, disbelief
- Difficulty communicating thoughts
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble maintaining life balance
- Irritability, mood swings
- Increased use of drugs/alcohol
- Limited attention span
- Poor work performance
- Stomach issues
- Tunnel vision
- Muffled hearing
- Colds or flu-like symptoms
- Confusion or disorientation
- Trouble concentrating
- Reluctance to leave home
- Sadness, depression
- Feeling hopeless or powerless
- Frequent crying for no apparent reason
- Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt
- Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone
- Over or under eating
If you see any of these signs and symptoms, it may be time to seek help from a professional crisis counselor that can provide guidance on mental health and stress management strategies.
2. Be Ready to Ask for & Accept Help if You Need it
In our daily lives, it’s not always easy to ask for help when we need it.
But after disasters — extreme situations that most people have never experienced before — knowing when and where to get help can be even more complicated.
To prepare for these emergencies:
- Study the symptoms in the previous section, so you know when it’s time to get help…
- Look up crisis counselors in your area, so you and your loved ones will have a helpful resource if the time comes, and…
- If tragedy does strike, implement strategies from the section below to help combat disaster-related stress.
3. Learn Stress Management Strategies
Confusion, loneliness, and fear can quickly take over after a disaster.
But having a “toolbox” of stress management strategies at the ready can provide some much-needed direction.
Here’s a list of useful methods that can help ease post-disaster stress:
- Seeing a professional crisis counselor
- Opening up to close friends and family
- Spending quality time with friends and family
- Finding disaster support groups
- Reminding yourself that the disaster and events that happened as a result were not your fault
- Taking care of your mind and body with regular exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of rest and relaxation
4. Create & Practice a Disaster Plan
The better you plan for disasters, the more confident you’ll feel when dealing with them — both during and after.
These general emergency preparedness tips will help you create a disaster plan unique to you and your living situation:
- Identify your risks – Is your area prone to tornadoes, fires, floods, earthquakes, or hurricanes? Find out and take the appropriate steps to prepare your family and home for these emergencies.
- Establish meetup locations – Many disasters require us to evacuate our homes or immediate area. Make sure to designate specific locations to meet up with your loved ones in the event of an emergency.
- Create a plan to protect your valuables – Different disasters call for different strategies for protecting what’s most precious to you. Based on the risks in your area, build a plan to safeguard your valuables. You can check out our guide to protecting your valuables in an emergency here.
- Build an emergency supply kit – Disasters may cause you to lose power or shelter in place for extended periods of time. To make sure you stay fed, hydrated, and healthy during these events, build an emergency supply kit complete with first-aid supplies, a flashlight, batteries, medications, items for those with special needs, and other essentials.
- Practice with loved ones – Emergencies are unpredictable. But the more you practice your disaster plan with your loved ones, the more likely everyone will be to follow it if tragedy strikes. Make sure to practice evacuating your home, meeting up at designated meeting locations, sheltering indoors, and other essential emergency steps you may need to take. This process will ensure everyone knows how to respond to any emergency that may arise.
- Download the Rescu app for 24/7 protection – Without saying a word, the Rescu app allows you to dispatch fire, police, or EMS responders to your exact location (anywhere in the US) in just two taps on your smartphone. With response times quicker than 911, you’ll have the fastest way to get help in an emergency as part of your disaster plan. Download today to get started!