After the event occurs you will likely be the only help that is in the immediate area. Offering aid until rescuers can come could make a life-saving difference. Here are some things to be aware of when seeking to be helpful after emergency strikes.
1. Planning ahead
Preparing in advance for a natural disaster may feel like you are basing plans off a giant “what if?” But instituting a plan of action for your family and community before a natural disaster strikes can make all the difference in the long-run. Being organized and having a strategy with your neighbors, incase tragedy strikes, will save everyone from confusion and wasting critical time.
2. Prioritize yourself first
This sounds selfish, given that you would like to help your community if disaster strikes, but you need to make sure that you are alright and able, before you try helping others. If you are injured and try to help regardless, not only will you be putting yourself in more danger but you could jeopardize someone's life even more. Evaluate yourself and your family's well-being before moving on to help others.
3. Establish a line of communication
Before you go blazing into the wreckage, try contacting emergency responders to notify them of the situation and figure out their estimated time of arrival. They will be able to thoroughly advise on what is in your ability to do and possible dangers of attempting rescue. For instance with disasters such as tornados, floods, and earthquakes, power lines might be knocked down. If you aren't cautious you could be electrocuted by an active line.
4. Stay organized
Dealing with the aftermath of a disaster can prove even more stressful than the disaster itself. Staying organized with your neighbors can relieve a lot of the stress and confusion. Be sure that you keep track of peoples' locations and designate a meeting spot to rendezvous once the search and rescue arrive.
Be Aware of Possible Hazards:
No matter the disaster, there will be unforeseen dangers among the wreckage. Whether you are scavenging for the remains of your belongings, or attempting rescue, be sure to be aware of these possible hazards.
- Downed Power Lines: Keep away from downed power lines as they may still be active. If you see a power line down, contact your utility company so they may properly take care of the situation.
- Deteriorated Buildings: When approaching buildings that have been damaged or smashed, wait for emergency responders to indicate whether it is safe to enter the building or not. Loose rubble could shift and fall when you try to enter the building, which might cause it to collapse on top of you. Always proceed with caution when the structural integrity of a building is in question.
- Gas Leak: If the inside of your home smells like fumes or gas, leave immediately. Do not try to find the source of the leak, rather alert emergency personnel and wait until the issue is resolved.
- Wires: If you see frayed wires or sparks, turn off the electricity right away. Damaged wires pose the risk of causing a fire or electrocution.
- Debris: When leaving your house after a disaster, be sure that you are wearing appropriate clothing. The ground will be covered in debris and it is important that you protect yourself through the use of good footwear and gloves. It is suggested that children remain inside and animals stay on a leash.
- Animals: In the case of flooding, animals (like snakes) may have been pushed into your home by flood waters. Be aware and try to avoid them if possible.
Ultimately, the most important thing to keep in mind after a disaster is to remain calm. You will have undergone a traumatic experience, so try not to overextend yourself. The recovery process is long and arduous so do not attempt to conquer it in one day.