2 minute readDisaster

After a Disaster: What Happens Next?

Over the weekend, many people across the South were huddled in basements, laundry rooms and anywhere else they could find to seek shelter from a nasty line of storms that raged through the area. Information about setting tornado alerts was in high demand, and the Weather Red Report was out in full force with advice on how to stay safe.

Many areas were spared destruction, but for those that faced a worst case scenario – a direct hit from a tornado – this week starts the beginning of a long recovery process.

Severe weather clean-up

If your neighborhood or home was damaged by a tornado or severe storm, we have collected some tips to help start your recovery. (You can find tons of additional information on redcross.org)

Immediately after the disaster, continue listening to local news or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions. If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so. As you approach damaged structures, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and sturdy shoes. This will not only help shield you from any lingering weather, but also help to protect you from hazardous debris.

Specific things to do or look for as you approach damaged areas include:

  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and report them to the utility company immediately. Do NOT approach or touch them.
  • If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out of the building quickly and call the gas company or fire department.
  • Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
  • Clean up spilled medications, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids that could become a fire hazard.

Taking care of yourself

Even if your home wasn’t directly affected, a looming tornado can wreak havoc on even the steeliest of nerves. This leads to one disaster response aspect that often gets overlooked: emotional recovery.

Disasters can be upsetting and stressful, and reactions like frustration or anger are common. If you’ve experienced a disaster, there are a few things you can do to recover mentally and emotionally knowing that this process (like many things!) will take some time.

To start, focus on the basics. Make your top priorities a well-balanced diet, plenty of water and sufficient rest. Try to limit exposure to the sights and sounds of the disaster in the media, and just focus on your family’s needs. Maintain a support network of family and friends, and be patient with yourself and others through the recovery process.

Find more advice on recovering emotionally on redcross.org, and know that we’re always available if you need some extra help. To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746.

Recent Red Cross response

For nearly 64,000 disasters every year, the Red Cross is there. This weekend was no different, with Red Cross providing safe shelter for 100 people affected by severe weather in Mississippi, Georgia and California. You can find more information about the recent disasters and our response on redcross.org.

If you’re ever in need of help, you can find open shelters or learn how to deal with almost any disaster headed your way with our Emergency App.

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