We tend to focus on the disaster itself, but the actual disaster is not what we really should be worried about. It is the days following a disaster that will test us. Not only do we have to survive the hurricane, fire, or flood, but we must also survive the days after.
Things do not go right back to normal after the storm clears. Depending on the degree of damage, it can take days to months to recover. In some cases, communities never fully recover. Schools shut down, police forces disband, and hospitals close. The damage is simply too much to overcome.
Their World reports, “Natural disasters, such as floods and typhoons, forced 4.5 million people around the world to leave their homes in the first half of 2017. They included hundreds of thousands of children whose education has been stopped or disrupted due to schools being severely damaged or destroyed by the extreme weather conditions.”
On July 4, 2019, Southern California was hit by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, causing significant damage and fear of aftershocks. According to ABC News, “In Kern County, the quake has sparked fires as well as evacuations at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital and some apartment buildings, officials said. […] In San Bernardino County, the quake broke water mains, downed power lines, cracked buildings and caused rock slides on roads.” Even after the earth stopped shaking, survivors had to deal with damage to major infrastructures, destroyed homes, and no water or power access.
On August 18, 2020, a tornado devastated a Florida community. Here is a report from The Daytona Beach News-Journal weeks later: “It only took 12 minutes for more than 10,000 residents to lose power, for roofs to be torn from houses, and for cars and power lines to be flipped and scrambled […] when a tornado ripped through north DeLand. Now, residents are working to recover one day at a time.” With many trees downed, residents could not safely navigate the town, which meant they were forced to shelter in place without power.
Hurricanes can be catastrophic to communities because they combine high winds, tornados, and flooding. For example, Hurricane Isaias brought all three to Pennsylvania this August. Here is a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Five confirmed tornadoes and 600,000 power outages later, the mess that Isaias made throughout the region was evident on a splendidly tranquil Wednesday from the Jersey Shore to Quakertown. Tens of thousands of utility customers remained without lights, and might have to live without them for days; Isaias evidently outdid Hurricane Sandy for plunging Long Beach Island into darkness. The Vine Street Expressway, one of the region’s most important highway links, remained closed. And countless residents of low-lying properties were left to bail out water and discard water-ruined possessions.”
As these examples show, dealing with a disaster’s aftermath is just as challenging as the disaster itself.
When we prepare, we are preparing to survive during the days, weeks, and months when we will have to cope with our losses and live differently.
Physical and emotional trauma
Disasters do more than damage homes. They can ruin lives. In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, it is unlikely that first responders will be able to reach you. This is especially true if the roads are blocked by floodwaters or broken highways from earthquakes.
For example, when hurricanes or flooding impacts the Southern United States, a group known as the “Cajun Army” deploys with boats to get to the inaccessible. This is just one reason you must own a first aid kit and know how to perform basic first aid. There is a significant chance that you will need to use it to help a family member or neighbor following a disaster.
As with any other injury, it takes time to heal. For example, the Thompson family survived an E3 tornado that literally lifted their home off the foundation and rolled it around. According to The Times and Democrat, “Amanda suffered a severe concussion with bleeding on the brain and continues to struggle with headaches and memory loss. She needs to be with someone all the time. Amanda, who is a nurse, will be out six months to a year.” In addition to dealing with their physical injuries, they are also having to process the ordeal while living in someone else’s home.
Additionally, following a major disaster, it is common for survivors to experience emotional trauma and PTSD. According to Psychiatric Times, “Although suicide rates vary depending on the location and population studied, we see that suicidal behavior increases following natural disasters. […] Findings indicate PTSD prevalence among direct victims of disasters of 30% to 40% compared with a prevalence of 5% to 19% in the general population.”
This is important to know before a disaster happens because a key to survival is having a survival mindset. There are countless stories of survivors who told themselves they would survive when faced with hopeless circumstances.
Lack of electricity, water, and food
Natural disasters can wreak havoc on public utilities. It is common for those who survive these types of events to be without access to electricity, water, and food for several days or even weeks.
Unfortunately, these three tend to go together. For example, if the power is out, you may have water – at first. However, you will quickly run out of hot water, and your plumbing will begin to suffer. If you have food but no electricity, your food will spoil and have to be thrown out. Your local grocery store will also struggle with these issues and not be able to receive new shipments. Besides, even if you have water, there is a huge possibility that it is unsafe to drink following a natural disaster as it may be contaminated.
My Patriot Supply offers a variety of tools and gear to help you avoid these scenarios. We offer emergency survival food, power generation and lighting supplies, cooking supplies and tools, and water filtration systems.
Once the area is deemed safe to reenter, the massive cleanup begins. The word massive may even be an understatement. Since many natural disasters involve more than one event, there tend to be multiple restoration projects necessary. For example, after a major flood event, homeowners will not only have to extract the water from their homes, but then they will also have to perform mold remediation. Trash has to be hauled, tree limbs have to be removed, and homes have to be rebuilt.
Entire communities disrupted
Disasters of this magnitude affect entire communities and have a domino effect. With roads blocked, it is difficult to get resources into the area. Without electricity, hospitals must send patients to different cities for care. When schools are damaged, they close and transfer kids to other schools nearby. And, when homes are destroyed, people move.
In Smithsonian Magazine’s “These Communities Decided Not To Rebuild After Disaster,” they discuss several communities where the devastation was simply too much to overcome. For example, “In 2011, a series of tornadoes destroyed the town of Cordova, Alabama. Today, the town looks largely the same as it did just after the tornadoes hit. Buildings haven’t been rebuilt, the downtown area is closed, and there’s shattered glass everywhere.”
Therefore, one of the most significant issues after a disaster is deciding whether to rebuild or relocate.
Start cultivating a survival mindset by stocking up on disaster gear today, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply