How to Recover From a Natural Disaster

By Guest Contributor: Jean Linder

Natural disasters are among the most traumatic and frightening events human beings face: unpredictable, often inscrutable, and bearing down upon their victims the full brunt of the planet’s awe-inspiring power. From the violent precision of a sinuous tornado to the vast demolishment of a hurricane, from an unchained river spilling its banks to a volcanic eruption—and acknowledging, too, the less dramatic but equally devastating droughts, cold snaps, and heat waves—these experiences are as nightmarish for those affected as they are deeply impressive.

The actual force of a storm or flood gets the most attention, but it’s the aftermath of a natural disaster that encompasses the essential work of picking up the pieces, caring for the afflicted, and repairing the damage—physical and psychological, both—that’s been incurred.

Immediate Aftermath

Following a disaster, whether you’re at home or on the streets, it’s most imperative to stay aware and cognizant of danger. Particularly in built-up areas, a natural disaster creates a slew of new hazards in its wake: powerful and debris-choked rivers (or broken-pipe torrents), downed power lines, dangerously teetering detritus, fires, glass shards, stressed and volatile wild animals encountered outside their normal haunts. Your familiar neighborhood may be transformed into a bewildering, threatening no-man’s-land. Proceed cautiously and try to foresee dangerous circumstances on your journey.

Meanwhile, take care of yourself. If you’re injured, seek medical assistance immediately. If you see others who are hurt, assess their condition and contact authorities if possible. Unless it’s absolutely necessary—as when immediate danger presents itself—don’t move a badly injured person.

Stay hydrated and protect yourself from sun exposure. Pace yourself so you don’t become over-exhausted.

Coming Home

If you’re caught in a disaster away from home and make your way back, don’t blindly rush in: Just as the neighborhood streets may have become newly threatening following the catastrophe, your home may not be the welcoming refuge you’re accustomed to. Before entering, assess the exterior for physical damage, paying special attention to any hazardous situations—dangling debris, for example. Check for a gas leak by sniffing the air and listening for hissing; if you do smell or hear leaking gas, don’t go inside. If you’re able to, shut off the gas line and contact the utility company at once.

Check also for damaged electrical systems, wet appliances, and standing water in the house, and avoid entry if there’s any danger of electrocution or fire. (You may be able to learn more tips for dealing with gas and electrical issues after a disaster by asking your utility provider, or consulting online third-party resources like newyorkenergyrates.com.)

If you’re able to be at home safely, attend to any spills and pump out flooded water; contact your insurance company to report any damage. All the while keep an eye out for animals—raccoons, dogs, snakes, etc.—that may have taken refuge in your abode.

Dealing With Stress

You may have been lucky enough to escape significant injury during a natural disaster; perhaps your property hasn’t even been affected to a serious extent. Remember, though, that the experience of the event itself can wreak major psychological and emotional damage. Seek counseling if you’re feeling stressed, panicky, or sleepless. Emotional resilience comes into major play here.

There’s no question a natural disaster can be life-changing. With a little preparation—including, ideally, some disaster-response “dry runs”—and firm presence of mind, you can—you will—recover.

Jean Linder is an emergency preparation expert. She frequently writes about her passion on home and family blogs.

Reference: Recovering from Disaster

Natural disaster destruction image via Shutterstock.

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