Experiencing a natural disaster (e.g., flood, fire, tornado) or an emergency (e.g., health epidemic or man-made disaster) can be stressful. It can also affect how you feel, think, and act because these events often occur with little or no warning and can have a huge impact on your personal safety and well-being. These types of events can bring about a lot of change in your life and it can be hard to adjust to new places, routines, or situations.
Connecting with others, taking care of yourself, and preparing early are just 3 ways to build emotional wellness. Your ability to cope with, respond to, and recover from a disaster or emergency will depend upon the planning and preparation you do today.
Have Emergency Supplies on Hand and Have a ‘Go-Bag’ Ready.
When a disaster or emergency occurs, your neighbours will most likely be the first people to come to your aid. It is important to know your neighbours and be familiar with supports in your building and neighbourhood. Develop connections with people around you and make time to chat with people in the hall or your neighbours on the street. Form a ‘buddy system’ where you exchange phone numbers with someone who lives close to you. Let your neighbours know if you have any special needs or considerations and get to know theirs. Call or stop by to check-in on each other regularly to see that everything is okay. This way you can watch out for each other. Additionally, you may want to give someone you trust a key to your home to be used only in the case of emergencies. However, do this only if you feel comfortable with this idea.
Being actively involved with the people in your community is good for your emotional well-being and health—whether it’s your neighbourhood or the building you live in. Having regular contact with people in your community is also a good way to build a healthy support network.
Communication is important during a disaster or emergency. Create an emergency communication plan with the people in your support network.
If you own a cell phone, know how to make, and receive a call. It’s also a good idea to know how to text.
Having a disaster or emergency communication plan in place before an event occurs is very important and even more important if you have special needs, take medicine, or have challenges communicating.
During an emergency you might not be able to make a call, but you may be able to text other people who have cell phones. This is a very simple and easy way to stay in contact with family and friends. If you don’t own a cell phone, find out which of your neighbours has one. Talk to this person about your emergency communication plan. Ask this person if he or she would be comfortable if you were to give his or her phone number to 2 people (let this person know who) in your support network to use only in case of emergencies. Let your family and friends know that your neighbour or friend’s cell phone number is for emergency situations only.
Join your local community association or committees in your building or complex. Current disaster literature indicates that positive social supports are important to recovery after a disaster or emergency. People who have a strong social support network in their lives will recover more easily from these experiences and are better prepared to face future challenges as they’re recovering from a disaster or emergency.
Current as of: October 19, 2021
Author: Mental Health Promotion & Illness Prevention, Alberta Health Services
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