- Get Support
Family Assistance Center
To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, call or text the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
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 and are likely to need extra care and help. But everyone, even the people that others look up to for guidance and assistance, is entitled to their feelings and deserves support throughout the recovery process.
When we experience a disaster or other stressful life event, we can have a variety of reactions, all of which can be common responses to difficult situations.
These reactions can include:
- Feeling physically and mentally drained
- Having difficulty making decisions or staying focused on topics
- Becoming easily frustrated on a more frequent basis
- Arguing more with family and friends
- Feeling tired, sad, numb, lonely or worried
- Experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns
Most of these reactions are temporary and will go away over time. Try to accept whatever reactions you may have. Look for ways to take one step at a time and focus on taking care of your disaster-related needs and those of your family.
Keep a particularly close eye on the children in your family. When disaster strikes, a child's view of the world as a safe and predictable place is temporarily lost. Children of different ages react in different ways to trauma, but how parents and other adults react following any traumatic event can help children recover more quickly and more completely.
Recovery Takes Time
Getting ourselves and our lives back in a routine that is comfortable for us takes time.
- Take care of your safety. Find a safe place to stay and make sure your physical health needs and those of your family are addressed. Seek medical attention if necessary.
- Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television, the radio and in the newspapers.
- Eat healthy. During times of stress, it is important that you maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
- Get some rest. With so much to do, it may be difficult to have enough time to rest or get adequate sleep. Giving your body and mind a break can boost your ability to cope with the stress you may be experiencing.
- Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and getting support is one of the most important things you can do. Try to do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.
- Be patient with yourself and with those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need some time to put their feelings and thoughts in order. That includes you!
- Set priorities. Tackle tasks in small steps.
- Gather information about assistance and resources that will help you and your family members meet your disaster-related needs.
- Stay positive. Remind yourself of how you’ve successfully gotten through difficult times in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.
When the Challenges Are Ongoing
Many people have experienced coping with stressful life events and typically feel better after a few days. Others find that their stress does not go away as quickly as they would like and it influences their relationships with their family, friends, and others.
If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing some of the feelings and reactions listed below for two weeks or longer, this may be a sign that you need to reach out for additional assistance.
- Crying spells or bursts of anger
- Difficulty eating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Losing interest in things
- Increased physical symptoms sucha as headaches or stomachaches
- Feeling guilty, helpless or hopeless
- Avoiding family and friends
Children and Disasters
Children experience traumatic events differently. Experiencing a disaster can leave children feeling frightened, confused and insecure, particularly if this experience is not their first.
Because they can’t always talk about their worries, it sometimes comes out in a child’s behavior. Some may react immediately; others may be fine for weeks or months and then show troubling behavior. Knowing the signs that are common at different ages can help parents recognize problems and respond accordingly.
- They may be more agitated or act out
- They may be more clingy or cry often
- They may need more attention or reassurance from adults they trust
- Scary memories become attached to the sounds, sights, and smells that happen at the time of the experience. It’s important to remind children that they are remembering the scary thing that happened; that it is not happening now.
Here are a few tips for talking to children after a traumatic event:
- Provide children with opportunities to talk
- Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers
- Allow kids to discuss their fears and concerns
- Answer questions appropriate for their age
Click here to learn more about how to build resilience in children through coping skills.
- Contact your insurance agent, broker or insurance company as soon as you can to report how, when, and where the damage occurred. Provide a general description of the damage.
- Prepare a list of damaged or lost items and provide receipts if possible. Consider photographing or videotaping the damage where it occurred for further documentation to support your claim.
- If possible, keep damaged items or portions of those items until the claims adjuster has visited your home. Do not throw away anything you plan to claim without discussing it with your adjuster first.
- Keep receipts for all additional expenses that you may incur such as lodging, repairs or other supplies.
- Make copies of all documents and pictures given to your claims adjuster or insurance company. Besides insurance, there are many questions related to taxes, expenses and determining just how you will recover from a personal financial point of view. For helpful advice, please see Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues (A5076).
Cash Flow, Bills, and Debt
- Stop unnecessary expenses. For example, if your home is temporarily uninhabitable or totally destroyed, notify the utility company and other service companies, such as the phone company, so they can stop billing immediately.
- Estimate the amount of income and emergency savings you have to pay bills while you recover from the disaster, then prioritize your bills. Paying your insurance premiums and rent or mortgage should be your top priority.
- Call any creditors and ask for more time to pay. Most creditors will be willing to work with you, especially if you notify them before payment is due.
Where to Replace Vital Documents Lost in a Disaster
- Drivers license
- Texas Department of Public Safety
- Insurance policy
- Your insurance agent or company
- Military Discharge
- Department of Veterans Affairs, Papers 1-800-827-1000 or TDD/TTY 1-800-29-4833
- Visit State Department website
- Birth, Death, Marriage Certificates
- Jack County or Bureau of Records in the appropriate state
- Social Security and Medicare Card
- Local Social Security office1-800-772-1213 or TDD/TTY 1-800-325-0778
- Credit Card
- The issuing financial institution, as soon as possible
- Title and Deed
- Records department of the area in which the property is located
- Stocks and Bonds
- The issuing company or your broker
- Your attorney
- Income Tax Records
- The IRS center where filed, your accountant or 1-800-829-1040
- Citizenship Papers
- Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, 1-800-375-5283
- Mortgage Papers
- Lending Institution
- Lending Institution