Dealing with the Aftermath of Natural Disasters is something I feel isn’t often discussed – BEFORE an unsavory situation occurs. It doesn’t matter what kind of natural disaster we are talking about – we pretty much need to follow all of the same steps going forward. Think of it like dealing with the standard steps of grieving, you need to work your way through it all so you can move forward.
There are probably a few more steps in here that you might experience, I am just covering the big basics. The bottom line? If YOU have survived a natural disaster, you CAN move forward and get past all of this.
Dealing with the Aftermath of Natural Disasters
What constitutes a natural disaster? Natural disasters are catastrophic events with atmospheric, geological, and hydrological origins (e.g., droughts, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides) that can cause fatalities, property damage and social environmental disruption.
Whew- isn’t that a mouthful?
Basically, it is anything that the planet can throw at us that majorly disrupts our way of life.
Knowing that, we can plan ahead for only so much. We can have our first aid, food stores, water supply, and bug out bags – but depending on the situation? We may or may not have the access to all of that. Let’s look at what we might have to deal with:
Handling the Initial Shock
It can be very shocking at first when you see your home severely damaged by a storm, but you have to remain calm and collected.
I remember when tornadoes hit Stoughton Wisconsin in 2005. There was an F3 that leveled a few homes and farms – spreading contents everywhere. The local community pulled together and volunteers combed the area to help clean up and collect belongings for the original owners.
A mom brought her little girl along, maybe seven years old, thinking it would not only be a great service opportunity, but a lesson on nature, disaster preparation, and survival.
It backfired big time.
That poor kiddo was traumatized at seeing toys spread across a field, some speared by corn stalks. The mere thought of that happening to HER belongings was more than she could conceptualize and they had to leave.
She is probably still in therapy to this very day – the poor kiddo.
That is the thing to keep in mind though, it IS shocking to see the aftermath.
- The remnants of your belongings scattered across an area.
- The watermarks up to the second story of your flooded home.
- Your yard covered in feet of sand and silt.
- Your belongings under layers of rubble.
You need to be mentally prepared for WHAT you might be looking at after an extreme event – maybe watch a few videos, together as a family, to get an idea what might happen so there are no surprises.
Aftermath of Natural Disasters: Assess the Extent of the Damage
Sometimes storm damage can look worse than it really is. A few shingles missing from a roof isn’t really as bad as it seems, but broken windows or caved in structures can be quite bad.
It is important to decide if your structure is safe enough to actually stay in post-disaster. Can your windows be boarded up? Do you need to add a support beam or two for floors? Is everything soaked beyond belief?
Eventually, insurance will get involved, etc – but from the history of events in the United States? It can take months, if not years, for everything to be settled. Just look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. That is the lack of efficiency at its best – with government fund mismanagement and insurance fraud.
It will also need to be defensible against rioters or looters – there might be other, more desperate people out there to be aware of.
You need to decide if your home is safe enough to live in right now, or not.
What to do if your house is gone
Severe disasters can sometimes completely level houses or damage them to a point beyond repair, so you will need to figure out if a shelter or temporary housing is the best option.
If you have camping supplies, a tent, or even a pop-up camper, you can probably make it through without having to leave the area if the environment is safe enough. It certainly beats those FEMA trailers that turned out to not only be toxic but designed for a short-term living situation. We are talking six months or so.
The Red Cross often sets up shelters in schools and community centers. This may be a viable option – but those are usually build on the cheapest land and that land gets hit the hardest. Schools are often leveled in an earthquake.
Friends and family
If none of those are workable options for you then seeing if there is a family couch you can surf might be the next best step. I know I could have stayed with my mom in an instant if I needed to – and have offered my sister in Florida a safe haven when hurricanes have invaded.
They will no doubt be the most understanding if there are a lot of personal items that are destroyed. You can try to regroup and look ahead for a brighter future.
Don’t Try to Deal with it All by Yourself
You should seek out help after a natural disaster to have your home at least somewhat restored. If a disaster is serious enough, many people around the world or country will donate, even the government at some points.
While this is true, it can take a LOT of time for the funds to trickle down to those who actually need it. Some insurance companies are awesome and set up “drive-thru” clinics to speed the process along.
People will come in droves to assist – usually bringing food, water, clothes, etc and then, the manpower will come. Even kids in church youth groups will arrive to help clear debris and restore some semblance of normalcy once an area is deemed safe.
This is where you can have some faith in humanity – they WILL pull together and help you, mostly the average Joe.
Aftermath of Natural Disasters: Tensions can be High
You’ll have a lot of emotions running through your head after a disaster, but learn to handle them rather than lashing out on people who couldn’t have done anything about it.
Everyone involved are going through some of the 7 stages of grief:
- Shock and denial. This is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings.
- Pain and guilt.
- Anger and bargaining.
- The upward turn.
- Reconstruction and working through.
- Acceptance and hope.
While you do need to protect you and yours, you need to realize you are part of a larger community that is going through the same thing.
When downtown Sun Prairie exploded, I couldn’t believe all of the fundraisers and volunteers! I still see #SunPraireStrong bumper stickers and T-shirts to this day – and some of those who received help? They have gone on to pay it forward for other unfortunate incidents in our community.
The bottom line when dealing with the Aftermath of Natural Disasters? It is all about your mindset. Be ready for what you MAY experience and know that we can do anything, for a short period of time. If the people you love have survived, you have saved everything that is really the most important in life. You will be OK going forward, even if it is a rocky journey at times.