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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.

Disaster Assistance Timeline

Here is a timeline breaking down how your local emergency management services, first responders and other organizations will respond after a natural disaster. The response time and services available will depend on the location, scale and size of the disaster.

In The First Few Hours

Within minutes of a disaster, local and regional authorities may be dispatched to severely affected areas, including law enforcement (sheriff or police officers), firefighters, emergency medical technicians (ambulance) and state or municipal service workers.

First responders will immediately go to top priority calls – injuries and life hazards (downed trees and power lines).

WHN Tip: Pay close attention to instructions from emergency management and law enforcement agencies. There may be curfews in place for looting control and safety. Hazardous areas may also be restricted.

Media will be doing their best to keep local, state and federal information coming to you. Listen to your radio for the latest updates.

WHN Tip: Can't get any local media stations?
If you have the chance, use your cell phone and call a relative away from the disaster zone and ask them what the news stations are reporting about your situation.

What You Can Do

Contact your friends and family to let them know you are okay.

Find temporary housing if you can't return to your home.

WHN Tip: More Information
Read our articles In the News: Reporting on Disasters and In the News: How to Get Disaster Information to learn more about the media's role in disaster situations.

The local Red Cross will also be working on gathering disaster response teams to assess the location and scale of damage. If the damage is widespread and affects many homes, they will set up temporary shelters in a predetermined location (i.e. community center, school, church).

WHN Tip: Read our article About the American Red Cross to learn how the Red Cross assists individuals and families after disasters.

The Next 72 Hours

Local law enforcement and agencies will be redirecting traffic, securing areas and homes and still be providing first responder emergency services.

Your state governor will decide whether this disaster is a state emergency or not. If the governor declares a state of emergency, this will allow all government agencies to utilize and employ state personnel, equipment and facilities in order to help with the disaster.

The National Guard in your state may also be deployed to assist with the efforts.

NOTE: If the disaster was forecasted, such as a hurricane, a state of emergency may have been declared before the storm arrived.

Media will continue with updates. Your newspaper may list local phone numbers and people to contact.

The media might also be visiting your town and your neighborhood to take pictures, live shots and conduct interviews. Remember, it is your choice whether or not to grant an interview. It is OK to pause and reflect for a moment on your and your family's welfare before you decide whether to answer their questions.

Volunteers from many organizations and from the general public will begin to arrive to help assist with the cleanup effort.

What You Can Do

If you can safely return home, begin documenting the damage of the storm for insurance purposes.

Contact your insurance company to begin the claims process.

If necessary, purchase supplies to secure your home — board up windows and doors and place tarps on roofs. If the damage is extensive, you may need to hire professionals.

WHN Tip: Read our articles Securing a Damaged Home and How to Choose a Contractor or Restorer for more tips and advice.

WHN Tip: Contractors and Restorers
Understand that contractors and restorers may be busy due to high demand. Don't just hire the first contractor available – they may be available for a very good reason! Check their references or contact the Better Business Bureau before going ahead with their services.

After 72 Hours

Depending on the extent of damage, the Red Cross may cease to assist with immediate needs such as food, clothing or shelter. You may be referred to other services or organizations for assistance.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the President will decide whether this disaster should be a federally declared disaster or not. They may take days, weeks or even months on this decision. Read our article How Disasters Are Declared to learn more.

Volunteers may still be assisting with cleanup efforts or they may no longer be needed.

WHN Tip: Want to help others? Read our article Helping Others Hit by Disaster to learn more.

If your area has been declared a federal disaster area, head to FEMA online to apply for assistance. FEMA may also set up offices in your local area to help with questions regarding assistance. (Go to FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers for more information and links.)

WHN Tip: Read our Filing for Federal Disaster Relief and Disaster Relief Financial Assistance Options articles for more information.

What You Can Do

You may have received a claim check from your insurance company by this time. You can use this money to meet your immediate needs.

You may need to start calling more companies for assistance with repairs, rebuilding and other contract work.

If they have not declared your disaster eligible for federal relief, be patient. In the meantime, turn to your insurance company, Red Cross and other local organizations for assistance.

Other related articles:

Who Will Help You After a Disaster?

How Social Workers Help Disaster Survivors

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.