After a disaster strikes, you may feel overwhelmed with the thoughts of loss and recovery. The following information comes from the American Red Cross.
Immediately after a disaster
- Check the area around you for safety.
- Have injuries treated by a medical professional.
- Avoid using the telephone (cellular or landlines) if a large number of homes in your area have been affected by a disaster. Emergency responders need to have the telephone lines available to coordinate their response. During the immediate post- disaster time period, only use the telephone to report life-threatening conditions and call your out-of-town emergency contact.
- Remain calm. Pace yourself. You may find yourself in the position of taking charge of other people. Listen carefully to what people are telling you, and deal patiently with urgent situations first.
- If you had to leave your home, return only when local authorities advise that it is safe to do so. Also, be sure to have photo identification available, because sometimes local authorities will only permit people who own property in a disaster-affected area back into the area.
- Except in extreme emergencies or unless told to do so by emergency officials, avoid driving during the immediate post-disaster period. Keep roads clear for rescue and emergency vehicles. If you must drive, do not drive on roads covered with water. They could be damaged or eroded.
- If the disaster was widespread, listen to your radio or television station for instructions from local authorities. Information may change rapidly after a widespread disaster, so continue to listen regularly for updates. If the power is still out, listen to a battery- powered radio, television or car radio.
- If the area was flooded and children are present, warn them to stay away from storm drains, culverts and ditches. Children can get caught and injured in these areas.
Disasters can stir up many different feelings and thoughts. People may experience fear concerning their safety or that of a loved one, shock, disbelief, grief, anger and guilt. Memory problems, anxiety and/or depression are also possible after experiencing a disaster.
Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. Children, senior citizens, people with disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language are especially at risk. Children may become afraid and some elderly people may seem disoriented at first. People with disabilities may require additional assistance. It is important to let children and elderly people know that they are safe and that you will help them find a safe place to stay. It is important that you try to talk with them in a calm way.
Some basic steps you can take to meet physical and emotional needs:
- Try to return to as many of your personal and family routines as possible.
- Get rest and drink plenty of water.
- Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television, the radio and in the newspapers.
- Focus on the positive.
- Recognize your own feelings.
- Reach out and accept help from others.
- Do something you enjoy. Do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.
- Stay connected with your family and/or other support systems.
- Realize that, sometimes, recovery can take time.
If you have pets, try to find and comfort them. A scared animal may react by biting or scratching. Handle animals carefully and calmly. Since pets will need regular care and attention to help them calm down, try to leave pets with a family member, friend, veterinarian or boarding facility while you are cleaning up your home. Animals are naturally inquisitive and could get injured if they are brought back to a damaged home.
- Use toys, a blanket or favorite human's unsoiled clothing to comfort pets.
- Make sure pets are fed their usual diet, and have plenty of water.
- Visit your pets regularly, speak calmly and take some time out to play with them. Doing so can help you in your recovery, as well.
If you have any questions about rebuilding after a disaster, call the Town of Blacksburg’s building safety official at 540-558-0711.
The elderly, especially, are often targeted by fraudulent contractors after a disaster. Be alert for scams and price gouging and report any illegal activity to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357, the Better Business Bureau at 800-533-5501, and the Blacksburg Police Department at 540-961-1150.