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After A DisasterItems You May Need After a DisasterHere is a starter list of some things you should buy or look into after a disaster. Emergency and Disaster ServicesHere are links to organizations and resources that provide assistance and information in an emergency or natural disaster.How Social Workers Help Disaster SurvivorsWe interviewed, received advice and gathered ideas from social workers around the country to give you an idea of what social workers do and how they help after a disaster or fire.Dial 2-1-1 for Community HelpYou've heard about 9-1-1 and 4-1-1, now there's 2-1-1, a number dedicated to connecting people with helpful community services and volunteer opportunities.How Disasters Are DeclaredA major disaster could result from a hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado or major fire. The event must be clearly more than state or local governments can handle alone. Temporary Housing Data SheetDepending upon the damage, you may be staying in your home, a friend's home, a hotel, or a shelter. Should you need temporary housing, here is a brief form for you to write down your temporary housing details.FEMA Disaster Recovery CentersDisaster Recovery Centers are temporary centers set up in a federal disaster area, helping local residents through the federal assistance application process and also offer recovery advice.Water Quality and Safety PrecautionsWhen it comes to food and water, err on the side of contamination until you know better. (In other words, guilty until proven innocent.)Federal Food Safety GuidelinesHas your fridge or freezer turned off and the food is still inside? Apply the golden rule for food safety: "If In Doubt, Throw It Out." Below are general food safety and cleaning tips from the government's food safety guidelines.Contacting Others After a Disaster or TraumaThe most important thing to realize is that you are safe. Now, let others know how you are — and where you are.Disaster Assistance TimelineHere is a timeline breaking down how your local emergency management services, first responders and other organizations will respond after a natural disaster. Disaster Relief Financial Assistance OptionsExperts we've interviewed say that the severity of a natural disaster affects the time it takes to receive financial assistance.Handling Emotional and Physical Stress After a DisasterNatural disasters cause emotional and physical stress — and a host of reactions including anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, sadness, anger, fatigue, hopelessness, irrational fears, and nightmares.FEMA Common Misconceptions about Disaster AidHere are some common misconceptions about FEMA from FEMA.FEMA Questions to AskAs with an insurance agent, these questions for FEMA officials may confirm what you already know, or may help you understand what processes, timelines and what federal aid is available.FEMA Types of Disaster AidThe following information is from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).Filing for Federal Disaster ReliefFederal Disaster Relief is available after the President issues a disaster declaration for your area. Visit FEMA's (Federal Emergency Management Agency) site, to see if a disaster declaration has been made in your area.Helping Others Hit by DisasterImmediately or soon after an emergency or natural disaster, many people want to help. Here are some tips to help you help others. Review these, be safe, be smart.About the American Red CrossThe American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, with a mission to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.In the News How to Get Disaster InformationMedia web sites are good resources for local information, breaking news and weather updates during and after natural disasters. Here are some ways to use the media to your best advantage.In the News Reporting on DisastersAfter a major disaster — fire, natural disaster or other catastrophe — the media will mostly like arrive on the scene. Here's what to know.Tax Tips After a DisasterAfter a disaster, fire or other major loss, bills and expenses can pile up quickly. Luckily, there are some IRS forms you can complete to receive immediate help and possibly get additional tax relief over the next few years. Who Will Help You After a Disaster?After a storm, local and regional authorities — such as police officers, firefighters, ambulance services and state or municipal service workers — may be dispatched to severely affected areas. Here's what to know.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, with a mission to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.

A nonprofit organization, it provides for immediate needs such as food, water, clothing and shelter. The Red Cross doesn't turn away those who are insured — they will help you with your immediate needs whether you have insurance or not.

If they cannot assist you, you may be referred to another local agency or organization that may be able to help you with other items such as: groceries, new clothes, rent, emergency home repairs, transportation, household items, medicines, and occupational tools.

The Red Cross is NOT part of the government nor does it receive any government funding. The Red Cross runs solely on donations from the American public.

The Red Cross works closely with:

Government agencies (Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security and FEMA)

Faith-based organizations (Salvation Army, Catholic Charities)

Civic organizations (American Legion, VFW, Lions Clubs)

Below is a general guide to the inner workings of the American Red Cross. If you have questions about available Red Cross services or current operations in your area, please contact your local chapter.

Offers Classes

The American Red Cross offers classes to help you prepare for life's unexpected events. Classes will range in length and cost $30-50, and may be available in different languages at local chapters.

Available classes vary from chapter to chapter but common classes include:

CPR

First Aid

WHN Expert Tip: At Least One Per Household
The Red Cross recommends that each household have at least one member trained in CPR and First Aid. If you can't attend classes, perhaps another family member can.

AED (Automatic Electric Defibrillator)

Pet First Aid

Babysitting

HIV/AIDS training

Disaster Response Team Training

NOTE: Local Red Cross chapters also offer other services such as blood collection, language translation, transportation, food shelves and more. Check with your local chapter to see what is offered in your area.

Accepts and Trains Volunteers

The Red Cross is a primarily run by volunteers. In fact, ninety-seven percent of the American Red Cross staff are volunteers.

Volunteers must:

  • Complete an application and undergo a background check (matches individuals with their Social Security Number and checks their criminal record).
  • May also need to list references, skills and complete an interview in order to match the volunteer with the best position for their attributes.
  • Those who are on the disaster response teams at local chapters undergo training before assisting on a disaster. The Red Cross also has volunteer opportunities for youth involvement.

Assists After a Fire

The Red Cross responds to over 80,000 disasters each year. Over 90% of these disasters are single-family fires.

If you have lost your home to a fire, the Red Cross will be contacted by your local fire department. If your fire department hasn't contacted the Red Cross for assistance, ask for their contact details (there may be a 24-hour hotline number if the fire happens at night).

The Red Cross will come and assess your immediate needs.

If the fire department allows you to remain in your home, the Red Cross might provide immediate need items such as food, clothing, cleanup supplies, etc.

If the fire department decides you must evacuate your home, the Red Cross can help you with your immediate needs and also arrange shelter for up to three days (usually by providing hotel vouchers).

Since losses vary case-by-case, the Red Cross may also assign a caseworker to help you with your immediate needs and act as your primary contact should you need referrals to other organizations for additional assistance.

Assists During or After a Natural Disaster

Natural disasters require different forms of assistance than single-family fires. However, the Red Cross' main mission is to help people after a disaster by providing immediate needs such as food, water, clothing and shelter.

The nearly 1,300 Red Cross chapters across the country are required to respond with services to an incident within two hours of being notified. These local chapters conduct disaster training as well as planning and preparedness, to help them respond quickly and effectively when a disaster occurs.

Provides Phone Bank

After a disaster you may need to contact the Red Cross to receive assistance. The local chapter will be broadcasting a 24-hour hotline number for you to call for immediate assistance (check your local media – newspapers, radio, or TV for the number).

If you are calling to ask for assistance, be sure to have your current contact details (especially important if you have evacuated your home) on hand and be able to list your immediate needs (food, clothing, clean-up kit, shelter, etc.).

Establishes Shelters

Since a natural disaster can affect a large number of people, the local Red Cross chapter will open up public shelters in the affected or forecasted area.

After a disaster, the organization also sends out "disaster assessment teams." These action teams help the Red Cross determine which areas are in the greatest need for assistance and also where to open a shelter.

The Red Cross will also work closely with the local fire, police and sheriff departments as well as the local city and county emergency management officials when opening a shelter. These public shelter locations are predetermined and usually a contractual agreement will have been put in place to use that facility in such a case (i.e. a local church, community center, school, etc.).

At the shelter, the Red Cross will provide food, clothing, bathrooms, showers, kitchen facilities, cots and other supplies. The availability of certain items will vary depending on the item and level of disaster.

A nurse will be on staff at the shelter and mental services staff members may also be helping out at the shelter. All Red Cross disaster health services workers must have a current license or certificate in their field of expertise.

Based on a person's needs, the Red Cross may also help pay for certain medical needs, including prescription medicines, medical supplies, and emergency medical treatment.

The length of an individual's stay in the public shelter will depend on the nature of the disaster and their immediate needs.

Assigns Caseworkers

Since losses vary case-by-case, the Red Cross may also assign a caseworker to help you with your immediate needs and act as your primary contact for up to a year after a disaster, should you need referrals to other organizations for additional assistance.

Some of these caseworkers may be paid, others may be volunteers. Their case load will vary depending on demand and the time of year.

Coordinates Neighborhood Assistance

After a disaster, the Red Cross may also send out teams to do neighborhood visits to hand out clean-up kits, help with the clean-up or other needs. Visits depend on need, availability of volunteers and access to the damaged areas. These visits may not always happen after a disaster.

What the American Red Cross Doesn't Do

Accept donations of material goods immediately after a disaster, because there is no way to transport goods to the affected areas

Act as a shelter for the perpetually homeless

Always collect blood – some chapters do, others don't

Directly assist businesses with recovery needs

Help locate missing persons or runaways (unless lost after a disaster)

If you have additional questions about the services offered by the American Red Cross, contact your local chapter.

After A DisasterItems You May Need After a DisasterHere is a starter list of some things you should buy or look into after a disaster. Emergency and Disaster ServicesHere are links to organizations and resources that provide assistance and information in an emergency or natural disaster.How Social Workers Help Disaster SurvivorsWe interviewed, received advice and gathered ideas from social workers around the country to give you an idea of what social workers do and how they help after a disaster or fire.Dial 2-1-1 for Community HelpYou've heard about 9-1-1 and 4-1-1, now there's 2-1-1, a number dedicated to connecting people with helpful community services and volunteer opportunities.How Disasters Are DeclaredA major disaster could result from a hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado or major fire. The event must be clearly more than state or local governments can handle alone. Temporary Housing Data SheetDepending upon the damage, you may be staying in your home, a friend's home, a hotel, or a shelter. Should you need temporary housing, here is a brief form for you to write down your temporary housing details.FEMA Disaster Recovery CentersDisaster Recovery Centers are temporary centers set up in a federal disaster area, helping local residents through the federal assistance application process and also offer recovery advice.Water Quality and Safety PrecautionsWhen it comes to food and water, err on the side of contamination until you know better. (In other words, guilty until proven innocent.)Federal Food Safety GuidelinesHas your fridge or freezer turned off and the food is still inside? Apply the golden rule for food safety: "If In Doubt, Throw It Out." Below are general food safety and cleaning tips from the government's food safety guidelines.Contacting Others After a Disaster or TraumaThe most important thing to realize is that you are safe. Now, let others know how you are — and where you are.Disaster Assistance TimelineHere is a timeline breaking down how your local emergency management services, first responders and other organizations will respond after a natural disaster. Disaster Relief Financial Assistance OptionsExperts we've interviewed say that the severity of a natural disaster affects the time it takes to receive financial assistance.Handling Emotional and Physical Stress After a DisasterNatural disasters cause emotional and physical stress — and a host of reactions including anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, sadness, anger, fatigue, hopelessness, irrational fears, and nightmares.FEMA Common Misconceptions about Disaster AidHere are some common misconceptions about FEMA from FEMA.FEMA Questions to AskAs with an insurance agent, these questions for FEMA officials may confirm what you already know, or may help you understand what processes, timelines and what federal aid is available.FEMA Types of Disaster AidThe following information is from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).Filing for Federal Disaster ReliefFederal Disaster Relief is available after the President issues a disaster declaration for your area. Visit FEMA's (Federal Emergency Management Agency) site, to see if a disaster declaration has been made in your area.Helping Others Hit by DisasterImmediately or soon after an emergency or natural disaster, many people want to help. Here are some tips to help you help others. Review these, be safe, be smart.About the American Red CrossThe American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, with a mission to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.In the News How to Get Disaster InformationMedia web sites are good resources for local information, breaking news and weather updates during and after natural disasters. Here are some ways to use the media to your best advantage.In the News Reporting on DisastersAfter a major disaster — fire, natural disaster or other catastrophe — the media will mostly like arrive on the scene. Here's what to know.Tax Tips After a DisasterAfter a disaster, fire or other major loss, bills and expenses can pile up quickly. Luckily, there are some IRS forms you can complete to receive immediate help and possibly get additional tax relief over the next few years. Who Will Help You After a Disaster?After a storm, local and regional authorities — such as police officers, firefighters, ambulance services and state or municipal service workers — may be dispatched to severely affected areas. Here's what to know.