From natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, fires, or flooding to “man-made” threats like an active shooter situation; emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. The common denominator is that all emergencies are unexpected and can quickly wreak havoc on your life.
In fact, knowing what to do during and after an emergency can be the difference between life and death. Here, we will cover some general strategies and tips for dealing with a disaster-level situation, whatever the cause may be:
During and Immediately After an Emergency
The actions you take during and immediately after an emergency will differ from those you take later on. Here are the first couple things you need to do:
Grab Your Emergency Supply Kit
Your emergency supply kit is what will get you through a disaster. This is especially true for natural disasters, where your access to everyday supplies might be cut off for extended periods of time. Among other things, it is integral that an emergency supply kit includes:
- Water: At least one gallon per day, per person for at least three days
- Food: A three-to-five-day supply of non-perishable food items
- Prescription medications: You’ll need all prescription medications on hand, particularly if the disaster will make getting refills impossible.
- First-aid kit: Aspirin, bandages, gauze, a cold compress, an emergency blanket — grab everything you’ll need to handle unexpected injuries.
- Radio: A battery- or crank-powered radio is essential to stay informed
- Safety items: These include batteries, flashlights, whistles, a fire extinguisher, a portable charger, and charger cables.
All these items should be stored in a waterproof container that is easily accessible. Sometimes, you may not get an intimation about an imminent emergency. In these cases, grab your emergency supply kit the instant you realize you are in the midst of a crisis.
Follow your Emergency Plan
It’s always good to have an emergency plan in place. A plan can be a lifesaver in times of stress, allowing you and your family to take methodical action in case of an emergency. During and in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, it is vital to follow your practiced plan.
A detailed emergency plan should include the following:
- An agreed-upon meeting place to regroup.
- Contact information of each family member.
- Numbers of local emergency services.
- Directions to nearby emergency shelters.
- Designated duties for each family member for when word of a pending disaster comes through.
Doing a practice run through of your plan is a wise choice. This way, you are more likely to stay calm when a real disaster occurs. In the event of a crisis, follow your plan as thoroughly as possible.
When the Dust Settles
After active threats have been neutralized, there are a number of things you can do to prevent further damage:
Identifying Missing Victims
First and foremost, you should let people know that you are safe. Then, you can begin to look for family members and friends who might be missing. To do so, the U.S. Government Services and Information website recommends calling and staying in touch with your local law enforcement agency. Additionally, you can call 1-800-THE-LOST for help with locating a missing child and use the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System for help with missing persons.
Returning home immediately after an emergency can be tempting, but you should only do so if authorities have declared the area safe. Before entering your home, check for hazards like loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. When cleaning up due to damage, be careful while moving around, and make sure you don’t injure yourself. Remember to document any property damage through photographs — this will come in handy for insurance proceedings later on.
Replacing Vital Documents
Sometimes, disaster-level situations can result in a loss of vital documents. The process of replacing these varies by state, and general guidelines regarding the same can be found here. Be sure to check for your birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate, driver’s license, and social security card.
In terms of business, you must have a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place. A DRP is a series of actions you can take in anticipation of, during, and following a disaster in order to protect your business. DRPs usually focus on preventative measures and are essential to safeguard business data in the event of an emergency. In case you don’t have one in place, you can contact external providers who will assist you with corrective measures after an emergency.
Caring for Your Mental Health
Surviving a disaster can have long-term effects on your psyche, even if they aren’t obvious at first. For instance, in an article on post-crisis challenges associated with school shootings, Gail Kirby highlights various environmental triggers in the wake of the Columbine shootings. She evokes “the sound of balloons popping, war footage that might be shown in history classes, the sound of the fire alarm (since it was pulled during both of these school shootings), and feelings of loss that inevitably emerge around events like prom and graduation.”
A lot of these experiences might at first seem very common, but they can be the cause of great stress in the aftermath of an emergency. It’s important to take full stock of potential environmental triggers and keep a check on the mental well-being of you and your family following any crisis. Overlooking immediate psychological effects can often lead to lasting trauma.
Consider joining a support group to talk about your experiences, or opt for some therapy sessions. Finding a healthy way to express your feelings in the wake of an emergency is key for emotional and mental stability.
While prior preparation is a must, it’s good to know what to do after a disaster occurs. These tips should help you and your family stay safe and properly deal with the aftermath of an emergency.
About the Author:
Adrian Johansen loves to write, teach, and create. She believes in that a combination self-sufficiency and teamwork can help anyone live an intentional, meaningful life. Check out more of her writing on twitter!