About Disaster Response Services
Natural disasters can change people’s lives in a matter of minutes. They can destroy communities, cause emotional, physical and financial harm, and significantly disrupt the routines of everyday life.
Fortunately, the United States has a robust disaster response network to help Americans through any natural crisis.
Natural disasters are a global problem, which is why there are experienced disaster response organizations in communities throughout the world. Public, private and local emergency response teams are prepared to help after a disaster and assist families through trying times.
Among many government and non-profit organizations, some of the most well-known disaster response services include:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- American Red Cross
- Salvation Army
Many organizations practice emergency drills, including inter-agency evacuations, so they are prepared to help when the real event occurs. They are ready to overcome unexpected hazards during a disaster, including carbon monoxide poisoning, confined spaces, electrical hazards, extreme temperatures, hazardous materials.
Some of the immediate and short-term services that disaster response organizations offer include:
- Providing food and water
- Facilitating access to medicine and healthcare
- Getting families into safe shelter
- Other resources needed to recover fully
After the immediate threat of a disaster passes, disaster management teams help families get back on their feet.
Types of Disaster Response Services
Disaster response services keep people safe during natural disasters. From warning and evacuation initiatives to providing emergency relief, survivor counseling and home reconstruction, disaster response services help families get through challenging times.
Most disaster response organizations focus their efforts on one or more types of disaster. This focus allows organizations to help families with the issues they are most likely to encounter after a particular type of disaster. Disaster relief organizations can also help businesses revitalize the community and local economy.
Disaster relief services are often categorized into fire response and recovery, storm and flood disaster relief and home recovery and cleanup.
Storm and Flood Disaster Relief
Storms and floods can quickly devastate entire communities and require large-scale disaster relief efforts. Hurricanes, tornadoes, storm surges and violent thunderstorms are capable of destroying modern buildings, posing an immediate threat to anyone and anything in their path.
Storm and flood relief services focus on the necessities of life and provide food, water, shelter and health services during any natural disaster.
Storms themselves aren’t the only threat, and many events have long-lasting impacts. Damaged power lines present an electrocution risk, while power outages leave vulnerable populations to freeze. Powerful winds toss furniture and debris, floodwaters rise quickly without warning, and ruined homes can be financially devastating.
Several organizations are dedicated to helping communities during and after storms and floods, including:
- Red Cross
- Direct Relief
These organizations often help a community for days, weeks or even months after a disaster, until the community is ready to stand on its own again.
Fire Response and Recovery
Wildfires burn fast and mercilessly and are capable of destroying entire communities in a matter of hours. Fortunately, when wildfire response is done correctly, the loss of life and property is minimal.
Fire response efforts typically begin with evacuation orders. While firefighters work to control the fires and steer them away from residential areas, members of the community are asked to relocate for their own safety.
Families are typically given enough warning to pack up pets and a few personal belongings, helping ease the immediate burden of the fire. Fire response teams then help people find shelter in a nearby area, often coordinating with hotels, schools and recreation facilities.
Disaster response teams focus on community recovery and address hazards that arise after a fire:
- Electrical hazards
- Unsafe structures
- Dangers to pets and wildlife
- Respiratory concerns
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Asbestos contamination
Despite the subsequent hazards, many people find themselves lucky and can return home after a wildfire. Those who cannot return home may work with fire restoration teams to explore their options and find a new path forward.
Natural disasters create quite a mess, both inside and outside the home. Homeowners often find themselves responsible for cleaning up their property after a natural disaster, and ensuring it’s safe for family, friends and neighbors.
Disaster restoration contractors help alleviate this burden by assisting with property and contents cleanup tasks such as:
- Removing standing water
- Cleaning up and disposing of debris
- Salvaging personal belongings
- Clearing away safety hazards
Disaster responders can also refer you to home restoration services if required for more in-depth reconstruction needs.
Many companies that specialize in contents cleanup are available 24/7. However, these companies can book up quickly after a storm, as entire communities are suddenly in need of their services. Call for these services as soon as possible, and try to be patient with any delays.
It may be tempting to take a DIY approach to home cleanup, but this isn’t always safe. Additionally, some insurance companies require homeowners to work with cleanup professionals, rather than undertake restoration services on their own. If you want to assist with the cleanup process, be sure to check with your insurance company first.
What to Do After a Natural Disaster
Safety is paramount after a natural disaster. Some hazards, like unstable structures, electrical damage and carbon monoxide, can be difficult to detect. Homeowners and their families need to carefully assess property damage and stay away from potential hazards.
If you suspect a hazard may be present, stay clear of the area until a professional can assess the situation.
Wear Protective Equipment
Once the property is clear of hazards, you can prepare for clean up by wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Basic PPE requirements for disaster cleanup include:
- Hard hats
- Work gloves
- Steel toe boots
- Hearing protection
- N95 masks
Consider other potential health concerns, such as water hygiene issues and the COVID-19 pandemic, and prepare for those as well.
If floodwater is present, you must take extra precautions to prevent bacterial infections from contaminated water. Wear rubber boots and gloves, as well as eye protection, and ensure you clean your hands with hot, soapy water regularly.
Begin Clean Up
After your personal safety has been taken care of, you can begin the clean up process. Start by clearing debris from roads to make way for emergency vehicles. Be sure to also remove debris from sidewalks, walkways and entry paths to ensure accessibility to your home.
Next, address any standing water to prevent mold and bacterial growth, which can set in in a matter of hours.
Here are some tips on preventing mold growth after a storm or flood:
- Remove water with buckets or a shop vacuum
- Sanitize your belongings with hot water and laundry soap or a bleach solution
- Open your doors and windows to allow for air circulation
If you have a backup generator, and it is safe to do so, run fans after you’ve removed the standing water to help speed up the drying process.
Discard Unsalvageable Items
Sort through your belongings and determine what can be salvaged. Toss out anything that can’t be cleaned or dried quickly, including carpets, mattresses, furniture, books, stuffed animals and papers.
Finally, don’t over-exert yourself. It can be tempting to rush through a cleanup project, but it’s important to take regular breaks and rest as needed.
Emergency Preparedness Tips
Nobody can fully prepare for the devastation of a natural disaster, but some simple disaster preparedness tips can make it easier to cope.
1. Have A Plan
Be aware of the types of natural disasters that are likely to hit in your area and have a plan in place. Consider where you can go, how you will get there and what you will need to take with you.
You should also decide how to communicate with other family members and where to meet if you get separated. If you have kids that go to school or daycare, find out how to retrieve them during an emergency.
2. Make an Emergency Kit
A basic emergency disaster supplies kit can help provide peace of mind during a disaster. An emergency kit should always have enough food and water for 72 hours for everyone in your family, as well as basic medical and shelter supplies.
Ideally, your emergency kit will also include:
- A change of clothes for everyone
- Prescription medications and eyeglasses
- Personal hygiene items
- Pet food
- Copies of important documents such as passports and insurance policies
3. Maintain Your Home
Routine home maintenance can help your home endure many natural disasters. Pay special attention to vulnerable areas of your home, including windows, doors and aging roofs.
Keep your yard clean and clear and always take care of dying trees and bushes. If your home is maintained well, it’s more likely to survive a natural disaster.
What to Know About Disaster Response Services
Disaster response services unite many different people under a common cause. Paid workers, volunteers and community members often come together after a disaster to work towards one goal—helping each other out.
Disaster response times vary, but emergency responders arrive as soon as possible. In many cases, disaster management workers are available before a storm hits, thanks to the advanced warning of weather monitoring systems. At other times, disaster response teams respond as quickly as possible after a disaster strikes.
During and immediately after a natural disaster, emergency operations centers and relief organizations are available to help with shelter, food, water, medical and mental health needs. Public health and private sector workers may be on the scene, ready to assist in any way possible.
Immediate relief activities are typically funded through donations and government agencies.
Once the immediate threat has passed, recovery efforts begin. Community members work with their family, friends and neighbors to rebuild the community. Volunteers may be on the scene, and private cleanup companies are available to hire. Insurance companies typically cover some of the costs of repairing damaged homes, although policy coverage varies.
Natural disasters are overwhelming and frightening, but nobody has to go through one alone.