Recovering from a Disaster

RECOVERING FROM A DISASTER

Recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process. Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being. If assistance is available, knowing how to access it makes the process faster and less stressful. This section offers some general advice on steps to take after disaster strikes in order to begin getting your home, your community and your life back to normal.

COPING WITH DISASTER

Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. 

Read more about Coping with Disaster.

HEALTH & SAFETY GUIDELINES

Recovering from disaster is usually a gradual process. Safety is a primary issue, as are mental and physical well-being. If assistance is available, knowing how to access it makes the process faster and less stressful.

Your first concern after a disaster is your family’s health and safety. You need to consider possible safety issues and monitor family health and well-being.

AIDING THE INJURED

Administer first aid and seek medical attention for any injured person following a disaster.

  • Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person, first stabilize the neck and back, then call for help immediately.
  • If the victim is not breathing, carefully position the victim for artificial respiration, clear the airway and commence mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Maintain body temperature with blankets. Be sure the victim does not become overheated.
  • Never try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
HEALTH
  • Be aware of exhaustion. Don’t try to do too much at once. Set priorities and pace yourself. Get enough rest.
  • Drink plenty of clean water. Eat well.
  • Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often when working in debris.
SAFETY ISSUES

Be aware of safety issues after a disaster.

  • Be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring and slippery floors.
  • Inform local authorities about health and safety issues, including chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation and dead animals.

HELPING OTHERS

The compassion and generosity of the American people is never more evident than after a disaster. People want to help. Here are some general guidelines on helping others after a disaster:

DONATE

CASH

Financial contributions to a recognized disaster relief organization are the most effective donation to make.

  • Most needed and the most efficient way of helping those impacted by disaster.
  • Allow voluntary organizations to fund response and recovery efforts, obtain goods and services locally, and provide direct financial assistance to disaster survivors to meet their own needs.
  • Make a financial contribution to the voluntary organization of your choice.
  • If you need help in determining who to give to, National Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster website has a list of major non-profits that are active in disaster work or you can make your offer through the National Donations Management Network.

When the public supports these voluntary organizations with financial contributions, it helps ensure a steady flow of important services to the people in need after a disaster.

GOODS

Learn ways that you can effectively help others after a disaster.

Confirm what is needed BEFORE taking action!

  • Donate in-kind goods that are specifically requested or needed by recognized organizations.
  • Unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
  • Confirm the needs by contacting the voluntary organization of your choice before starting to collect.
  • If you have a quantity of a given item or class of item to donate, and you need help in determining which organizations to give to, you can make your offer through the National Donations Management Network.

Everyone is moved when they hear the news that disaster has struck a community. By learning the best ways to donate and volunteer, we can all make a huge difference in the lives of those affected.

VOLUNTEER

Volunteer with local organizations to aid disaster victims.

Volunteer with a recognized organization involved in disaster response and recovery prior to the next disaster event.

Volunteer with a non-profit organization and be trained before the next event to find meaningful volunteer opportunities following a disaster. 

There are many organizations and faith-based groups in your community that have active disaster programs and need volunteers

These groups offer a wide range of services following a disaster:

The generosity and kindness of people around the country does a lot to help communities heal from the tragic consequences of disasters.

RETURNING HOME

Returning home can be both physically and mentally challenging. Above all, use caution. You may be anxious to see your property but do not return to your home before the area is declared to be safe by local officials.

Read more about Returning Home.

SEEKING DISASTER ASSISTANCE

Throughout the recovery period, it is important to monitor local radio or television reports and other media sources for information about where to get emergency housing, food, first aid, clothing, and financial assistance.

DIRECT ASSISTANCE

Direct assistance to individuals and families may come from any number of organizations, including:

These organizations provide food, shelter supplies and assist in clean-up efforts.

THE FEDERAL ROLE

In the most severe disasters, the federal government is also called in to help individuals and families with temporary housing, counseling (for post-disaster trauma), low-interest loans and grants, and other assistance. The federal government also has programs that help small businesses and farmers.

Most federal assistance becomes available when the President of the United States declares a “Major Disaster” for the affected area at the request of a state governor. FEMA will provide information through the media and community outreach about federal assistance and how to apply.

GRANTS AND ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS FOR INDIVIDUALS

Catalog of Federal Disaster Assistance (CFDA) numbers are provided to help you find additional information on the CFDA website.