Welcome to Emergency Essentials!

Catalog Request

Preserving Sanity in a Disaster Situation


Emotional needs during and after a disaster are sometimes as important as the physical needs. Everyone from victims to volunteers has emotional feelings in times of crisis. The Red Cross has been known to send psychologists to help people cope with the emotional distress and struggles that accompany a disaster.

A common suggestion is to "stay calm" when an emergency occurs. How can you remain calm when terrible things are happening all around you? When a disaster occurs and your personal belongings are destroyed, most people feel the need to blame someone or something. This reaction is an attempt to gain control of the situation by putting it into an understandable or familiar context. This blame is frequently put on authority figures, such as government officials, because survivors believe the officials could or should have prevented the loss.

When you find out how ill-prepared you are to cope with even minor disruptions in your daily life it can be disturbing. Small things such as the electricity going out or your water service stopping can cause mental stress to you and your family. Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations about how soon their city can get the electricity or water back on, and they can become angry at circumstances that are beyond their control.

It is important to be able to recognize and detect the signs of stress and/or shock during an emergency. Here are several warning signs that you may experience during emergency situations.

Physical signs: fatigue, upset stomach, shakiness, dizziness, heart palpitations, clamminess, disorientation, difficulty thinking, memory loss or loss of appetite.

Emotional signs: anxiety, grief, depression, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, thinking you or your loved ones will be harmed, nightmares or extreme fear.

What can you do now to prevent these symptoms and help yourself and your family to be mentally healthy during and after an emergency? You can start by preparing yourself mentally now, so that in the event of a disaster it will not be such a surprising and confusing event for your family. You can do this by having fire drills, earthquake drills, and discussing with your family the various emergencies that can occur in your area.

When you are prepared, you are less likely to feel helpless and less likely to experience stress related disorders. You will remember what you discussed as a family and apply what you learned from those discussions and drills to help you overcome your situation.

Other things you can do now to help make a disaster less nerve-racking is to pack in your emergency kits items that you use in your everyday life. For your children, you should pack coloring books, crayons, stories, gum, candy, stuffed animals and other useful items. For adults, pack a good book, a brush, razors, soap, playing cards, hard candy, paper and pen, medication, toilet paper and sundry items. These items can provide relief for stress during the times you have to wait for your life to return to normal.

Other stress relieving items are desserts. You should pack gelatin desserts, just-add-water, pudding, cake, muffin, and cookie mixes, candy bars, popcorn, dehydrated fruits and fruit drinks. These items may seem frivolous, but they can really make a difference in helping you feel more comfort and peace in an emergency.

Developing a positive attitude and learning coping and stress relieving methods will help you, not only in times of disaster, but throughout your life. So prepare now--it will be well worth the effort!

4 thoughts on “Preserving Sanity in a Disaster Situation”

  • Linda Sand

    Really? Items that require baking or refrigeration are good emergency food?!!!

    • beprepared

      We make this claim because having familiar foods or comfort foods can go a long way in helping people (especially children) to feel more calm during an emergency. If there's concern about refrigerated or bake items--I know the post talks about gelatin desserts and puddings--you can pack the snack pack versions of them in your emergency kit, and rotate those out. Those items can even be eaten without being cold, but you'll have to rotate them more often in your kit. Also, learning how to use emergency cooking items like dutch ovens or grills can go a long way in helping you with your baking needs if there's no power. There are also MRE desserts (like these http://beprepared.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=MRE+dessert) and Mountain House Raspberry crumble that can act as comfort foods. You can even pop popcorn over a campfire http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-Popcorn-over-a-Campfire/. There are a lot of options for comfort foods, it just depends on what your needs/wants are. So if you plan and think through--and if the emergency is not happening at your home (you need to evacuate)--you could still be able to provide your family with familiar foods even without a fridge or oven.

  • Rob

    What is the best way to pack Jello for long term storage?

    • beprepared

      Hi, Rob.
      If you're storing jell-o that you buy in boxes from the grocery store, pour the contents into a small metallized bag with a small oxygen absorber and seal it with an iron (or flat iron). That will keep them air-tight, and the absorbers will take care of any residual oxygen that may be left inside after you seal them. Then you can write the flavor and the directions onto the bag with a permanent marker.
      Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply
Back to Top