Natural disasters are sudden destructive events caused by natural geological, atmospheric or hydrological processes that threaten people’s lives and can damage infrastructure and property. The yearly death toll of natural disasters worldwide is horrifying – over 90 000 people killed and 160 million more are affected. The most devastating natural disasters are earthquakes with tsunami, typhoons, and hurricanes. These extremely dangerous events cannot be avoided so it is important to be informed and prepared for immediate action in case a disaster happens.
Disaster Management Plan
Preparedness for a natural disaster is the most crucial stage of disaster management. It is vital to be aware of what cataclysms may occur in your area. Schools often have their local disaster management plans aimed at preparing students for calamities. For example, California State University, Northridge gives detailed information on what should be included in an emergency kit, how to follow the emergency plan and how to stay informed in case of a calamity. Another important aspect of preparation for a natural disaster is embraced by the University of Montana that stresses community action and encourages students to build emergency teams on campus. The Emergency Preparedness webpage of the City University of New York informs students on all the emergency alerts, weather conditions, travel, and health notifications and provides links to helpful smartphone apps and social media to keep them updated on the current threats. You can also check out the disaster management plan of your institution on the website in the section of emergency management.
What to Do Right After a Disaster
If a natural disaster occurs, it is important to keep focused and follow the emergency plan precisely. There are 7 important things to do immediately after a natural disaster ends:
- Examine yourself and people nearby for injuries - If you or people around have scratches or cuts you need to clean the wound and cover it with a medical plaster to prevent infection. If there is a serious trauma the first thing to do is to call the emergency and follow the instructions given over the phone while waiting for the ambulance.
- Check the surroundings for hazards - If you are inside, look around to see if there is broken glass, spilled chemicals, fire, damaged electrical wires, falling debris or any other potential source of harm. Be very careful and use a flashlight if it is dark. If there are serious hazards around try to get to a safe place or neutralize them.
- Turn on the radio or TV - In case of emergency, mass media communication tools will be used to inform people about the situation. If you are not sure whether the danger has passed they will let you know what to do next.
- Stay in the shelter - It may be dangerous to go outside. If the place you are in is safe, stay there waiting for the rescue team. If the entrance to the building is blocked or there are hazards around call the emergency.
- Save water, food, and energy - For some time, you might have to stay in the shelter so it is important to keep enough supplies unit the danger is gone.
- Notify family and friends - Your close people may worry about you. Call them and tell where you are and that you are safe.
- Go to the emergency shelter and register as safe - If your home has been damaged or you do not have water or food supplies they will provide you all the essentials, you need. You can also get the information about missing people there or you can let them know that you cannot contact or find someone.
Issues with College Application due to a Natural Disaster
A natural disaster can complicate and delay the application process. If due to a calamity you face issues with the application, do not worry since most of the schools try to be flexible and design policies to assist students affected by a natural disaster in the application process.
For students who cannot comply with the deadline of the early action or even the general admission, the college may offer the extension. You simply need to contact them and explain the situation.
- College applicants who face a personal crisis due to a natural disaster can ask the prospective institution for an extension. Colleges recognize that the top priority of applicants is their health and emotional wellbeing so asking for an extension when the emotions are high is acceptable.
- If your standardized testing is delayed or the test scores are postponed, you need to contact the admission office of the prospective college and explain the issue.
- If you face financial hardships due to damage from a natural disaster and you cannot pay the application fee or the tuition fees, there are several possible solutions such as fee waiver and financial aid offered by the school or aid from the organizations dealing with the consequences of a natural disaster.
- Students whose grades have dropped due to a calamity can contact the intended college and explain the issue. It will sound more solid if the school administration also contacts the college to confirm this information.
- School administration, your employer or other referees who cannot provide recommendations or some other requested materials on time can also contact the admission office of the prospective institution to ask for an extension.
Aid for Students Affected by a Disaster
A natural disaster may be a horrifying experience that can cause emotional distress, and may even lead to serious psychological conditions. Common emotional responses to natural disasters can be unpredictable feelings, strained relationships with friends and family. This reaction is normal and the recovery process may take time. A profound guide to emotional recovery can be found here.
American Psychological Association advises on how to cope with emotions after a disaster but also warns that if the emotional state aggravates, one might need to seek professional help. Red Cross gives a list of symptoms that signal the need for psychological assistance.
It is vital to get the required emotional support after a disaster, especially when the calamity had extreme consequences. For example, one can use the Disaster Distress Helpline or seek help at Mental Health America.
After a severe disaster one might physical support such as shelter and food. There are numerous organizations in the US that aid the affected populations after a disaster.
All Hands Volunteers is a US non-profit organization that assists survivors of calamities worldwide. They provide a quick response to emergencies by supplying the affected communities with food, shelter and other services.
Catholic Charities USA has local agencies for disaster relief and recovery. Apart from supplying people after a natural disaster with essentials they also offer counseling and financial aid.
American Red Cross volunteers provide relief to survivors of natural disasters. They offer medical help from certified medical staff, food, clothing, and other services for the victims. The organization also educates people the emergency management and first aid.
American Logistics Aid Network is a humanitarian organization that aims to connect logistics professionals who want to assist in disaster relief. The organization is primarily concerned with the distribution of foods, equipment, and providing transportation services.
Feeding America is an organization that creates food banks and aids the victims of natural disasters with food and items of personal care. Through their extensive network of food banks across the country they ensure prompt delivery of fresh products to communities affected by calamities.
Natural disasters can severely damage housing and property. Students and their families in need after a disaster can seek help from the organizations that provide financial aid.
Hope Coalition America is a program that supports survivors of natural disasters in recovering financially. They do not offer direct financial aid but provide financial guidance to victims of disasters. In collaboration with banking, insurance professionals Hope Coalition America helps individuals and business owners to recover financially after the disaster.
Federal Student Aid is the official governmental website that assists the currently enrolled students who are loan-borrowers affected by natural disasters. It provides information and guidance on financial issues faced by the students and the ways to resolve them.
Institute of International Education has an emergency Student Fund program and offers financial help for students who are the victims of natural disasters. They also have different support programs and Emergency Grants.
Scholarship America is a non-profit organization that aids students financially including those, who have been affected by natural disasters. This organization has already provided help to more than 2.6 million students across the country and has distributed over $4.3 billion among them.
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators offers information regarding financial aid for students who are victims of natural disasters. They provide information on the waivers and modifications to student loans already taken by eligible students and current programs that offer financial aid.
When the immediate consequences of a natural disaster are resolved, you can find out what damage can be compensated by your insurance. Insurance can replace damaged items or reimburse the cost of property loss due to a natural disaster.
Insurance Information Institute is a good source to start with since they provide detailed instruction on how to deal with insurance after a disaster. They give tips regarding settling insurance claims, the needed documents, and steps to follow.
FEMA is a federal agency that deals with natural disasters and may provide compensation and help to people affected. They also can help repair the damaged property.
Homeowners and renter’s insurance typically cover some of the natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions or fire but for insurance against mudslide, landslide, floods or earthquakes one needs to buy separate special plans often offered by most insurance companies.
Car insurance typically can be of two types – collision coverage that insures the car against accidents when you are driving and comprehensive coverage that also accounts for natural disasters. If you have comprehensive coverage you can keep compensation for damage from your insurance company.
Electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones that are of utmost importance for modern students can be separately insured against natural disasters.
Organizations That Provide Disaster Relief
Habitat for Humanity is the organization aimed at rebuilding destroyed areas. With the help of volunteers and the community, they participate in rebuild homes and neighborhoods.
Salvation Army is an international organization that focuses on various areas of relief after the disaster. Their help includes not only financial aid but also emotional and spiritual care, reconstruction of the damaged areas.
International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. works in the area of relieving stress after natural disasters. They offer help from professionals that includes consultations and education of the victims on stress and emergency management. In collaboration with partners, they also work on the reconstruction of the community and homes.