First Steps After a Disaster

When an individual or a community experiences a tragedy such as the recent tornadoes in Lee County, AL, one can expect that there will be a period of emotional recovery. How long that takes is not measured by debris removal, but by emotional restoration. How individuals respond is based upon variables such as proximity to danger, loss of loved ones, loss of possessions, history of traumatic events, personal stressors and health. Even those of us who were spared “tangible” loss can still be affected by witnessing the pain and suffering of others.

Let friends and family know you’re safe.

Register yourself on the Safe and Well website provided by the American Red Cross here. You can also search for friends and family members on this site. Utilize texting and social media ahead of making phone calls so that those who need to call 9-1-1 can get through without phone lines being tied up.

Check on your neighbors.

If you are safe and unharmed, provide assistance to others. They may need water, shelter, medical aid, or help locating a family member or pet. Be especially attentive to anyone who might require additional assistance—infants, elderly people, those without transportation, large families, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them.

Get started on your recovery.

If you have insurance and it’s safe to return home, call your insurance company to file a claim. Take photos and videos of all damages before you start cleaning up.

Be aware of potential hazards.

After a tornado, expect falling limbs, poles, and other items that may have become dislodged or broken. Avoid downed power lines as well as objects that are in contact with electrical wiring. Be aware of any structural, electrical, or gas-leak hazards in your home. If these hazards are identified, report them to the proper authorities or utility. Wear gloves and boots around debris, and be mindful of nails and broken glass.

Care for your emotional health.

Look for signs of depression or anxiety related to this experience, such as feeling physically and mentally drained, having difficulty making decisions or staying focused, becoming easily frustrated on a more frequent basis, feeling unusually tired, sad, numb, lonely, or worried, or experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Seek help from your EAP if you detect signs in yourself or others.

A list of local resources in Lee County, AL can be downloaded here.

If you are in need of support, your EAP can help. Call your BHS Care Coordinator at 800-245-1150.