February 28, 2011
Helping during a disaster
Having lived through a devastating earthquake as well as the affects of a
Volcano and even a small Flood I feel like I at least have an emotional handle
on the issues that arise after a natural disaster. And, can you believe I now
live in Tornado Alley and have never actually seen a tornado?
1. Realize they aren't thinking very rationally. They can
hyper-focus on what may seem silly (a Christmas décor, a childhood doll
You'll need to very gently help them think of the bigger picture and the
immediate, ex: furniture removal, restoration services can pack up and restore
damaged items and provide a list for insurance, itemizing (if possible) the
missing/damaged beyond repair items.
2. Speak quietly and choose gentle, soothing words. Believe it
or not, the most frustrating things can be a loud voice or a speed-talker. Our
minds are so overwhelmed that it takes a gentle, quiet, calming voice to help us
settle down and begin the difficult planning.
3. Create a list of service providers who had good reputations BEFORE
the event. The "worms” come out of the woodwork! By providing a phone list
of the best services, you prevent them from accepting help from the "ambulance
chasers”. You may even want to offer making the first connection with a couple
of companies to get estimates. And don't forget to include quality mental
health professionals. They WILL need to speak to someone, even if only once.
The children really need to talk to professionals. Their minds draw wild
conclusions about the disaster that a professional can help them minimize and
bring under control.
4. As you begin to "clear the clutter”, realize that your definition
of trash must change! They are looking for any piece of their life, even a
broken tea pot or one piece of china. Don't throw anything out without
approval!! AND, protect them from themselves; some tend to be extreme in
tossing everything or keeping everything – you need to be the voice of
5. Provide basics in a 5 gallon lidded bucket. If you can find
one, fill it with wipes, bottled water, protein snacks, soap, laundry soap,
toothbrush/paste, flashlight, stuffed animals (if kids involved). They can use
the bucket to sit on, wash clothes in and store items to keep dry.
6. Take Pictures! They will not think of this most likely and
will appreciate the evidence both for posterity and for insurance claims.
Sometimes the photos help them remember what items really were destroyed and
where some items may be. They also help them to see the progress when it feels
like it taking too long to get back to normal.
7. Watch their body language. They may need to be told to sit and
rest and be assured that it will be ok. They need to be given permission to NOT
work 15 hour days. Suggest going to dinner with neighbors (even if dinner is a
barbeque in the middle of the street – pot luck)
There are so many more things you can do, but the key is, START! Start
helping and sharing the burden.
A Virtual Hug,