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Specific Victims in a Disaster: How Can We Help Them Cope?

Specific Victims in a Disaster: How Can We Help Them Cope?

Who would’ve wished to be on that catastrophic situation that all you can do is to hopelessly cry and tremble out of jitters? Perhaps being on this unfortunate life-turning event is one that we less expected but would tightly cross our fingers of not ever letting it exist EVER in a specific circumstance.

All those mishaps headlined around the world news might have happened out by nature and the worst would be by human error.

The devastating 7.0 magnitude of Haiti earthquake in 2010, the deadliest hurricane Katrina that hit the United States of America in 2005, the heinous 9.0 magnitude quake that hit the East coast of Japan and then later on followed by an unanticipated tsunami in 2011, the 2011 East Africa Drought: these are just a few of the worst disasters ever recorded around the world.

You can just imagine how many thousands of billion innocent lives that were at stake and wiped out because of these tragic circumstances. However, despite all the statistics shown to be victims of these terrible occurrences, there are still means and ways of keeping every individual secured when in times of the events mentioned above.

Every individual demand to be kept ensured to safety yet, there is some type of individual that requires an extra care during such unfortunate happening.

 Here listed the kinds of victims and/ or individuals that should also be put into consideration with and it’s accompanied with the ways and means of keeping them protected by your own manner of giving aid to them.

Children in Disasters

Catastrophes, commonly by nature, affect children differently than they do with adults. Tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, or violent acts can be very scary for children and could be traumatic at some point. Youngsters may freeze, cry, or scream; this would give us a hint that they  don’t fully understand how to keep themselves safe.

With that being said, children demands help from adults in an emergency. Their bodies are totally different from ours, as adults, they are more likely to get sick or severely injured. This is where the tender loving care as a parent/ guardian will arise!

They may not be able to explain what hurts or bothers them but it is pretty much essential for them to experience that candid and soothing care from their parents, caregiver, or you as a person that dwells on taking good welfare for this innocent soul. In fact, laws require an adult to make medical decisions for a child.  You can ask their healthcare provider for advice and referral to someone who can help.

Following a disaster, people may develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is a set of symptoms that can result from experiencing, witnessing, or participating in an overwhelmingly traumatic (frightening) event. Children with this disorder have repeated episodes in which they re-experience the traumatic event. Children often relive the trauma through repetitive play. In young children, upsetting dreams of the traumatic event may change into nightmares of monsters, of rescuing others, or of threats to self or others. PTSD rarely appears during the trauma itself. Though the effects can happen soon after the event, the disorder often surfaces several months or even years later.

Specific Victims in a Disaster: How Can We Help Them Cope?

After a disaster, parents should be alert to these changes in a child's behavior:

  • Refusal to return to school and "clinging" behavior, including shadowing the mother or father around the house
  • Continuing fears about the event (such as fears about being permanently separated from parents)
  • Sleep disturbances such as nightmares, screaming during sleep and bedwetting, persisting more than several days after the event
  • Loss of concentration and irritability
  • Jumpiness or being startled easily
  • Behavior problems, for example, misbehaving in school or at home in ways that are not usual for the child
  • Physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches, dizziness) for which a physical cause cannot be found
  • Withdrawal from family and friends, sadness, listlessness, decreased activity, and preoccupation with the events of the disaster

Professional advice or treatment for children affected by a disaster--especially those who have witnessed destruction, injury or death--can help prevent or minimize PTSD. Parents who are concerned about their children can ask their pediatrician or family doctor to refer them to a child and adolescent psychiatrist for an evaluation.

Pregnant Women in Disasters

Women are encouraged to seek mental health services, and access other services set up to help them through agencies; such as Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), WIC, Red Cross, March of Dimes, etc. Local organizations, including churches and shelters, in communities, can often help provide basic needs (i.e., shelter, food, water, diapers). Pregnant women are urged to talk with a healthcare provider, if available, about any pregnancy questions or concerns.

The effects of a disaster can range from minor to devastating. Before, during, or after the event people might be forced to leave their homes. It can be a scary and stressful time, especially for pregnant women. A person's response to a traumatic event may vary. Women, who are often the caretakers of the family, are at risk for depression, due to grief over lost family members, friends, and material possessions. Pregnant women are even more vulnerable.

Specific Victims in a Disaster: How Can We Help Them Cope?

During and Just After a Disaster

  • Drink plenty of water and rest often.
  • Make sure your baby gets plenty of breast milk or formula.
  • Seek prenatal care even if it is not with your usual provider.
  • Make sure health care providers know about any special needs or health problems that you have, as well as any medicines you might be taking (both over- the-counter and prescription).
  • If checking into a shelter or temporary housing, tell the staff you are pregnant or if you think you might be pregnant. Tell the staff if you know of any special needs or health problems you or your family have.
  • If you have your prenatal vitamins or other medicines with you, take them as directed. If your young infant needs the prescription or over-the-counter medicine, and you have them, give them as directed.
  • If you don't have your prescription medicines with you, ask the staff at the shelter for assistance in getting them.
  • If you are pregnant or might be pregnant, be especially careful to avoid infections or toxins that may be in the environment. You can lessen the chance of getting an infection by washing your hands often and encouraging others to cover their coughs.
  • Preparing for and recovering from a disaster can be stressful. You may be taking care of loved ones, but it is especially important for pregnant women to find healthy ways to reduce the stress they feel. If you are feeling stressed or sad because of the disaster, talk to others and share your thoughts and feelings… know you are not alone.
  • If you have any signs of preterm labor, call your healthcare provider or 911 or go to the hospital immediately.

Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in Disasters

Emergency, or disaster, planning includes preparing organizations and staff to deal with natural and manmade disasters; to support people with disabilities in preparing for a disaster; and to provide education and information to ensure local and statewide emergency officials are fully prepared to address the needs of people with disabilities in the event of an emergency. Often the needs of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness are unaddressed or plans are not well coordinated, leaving individuals with disabilities unnecessarily vulnerable in the event of an emergency.

The critical needs of individuals with disabilities during an emergency include the evacuation of transit systems, getting to safe shelter in the event of a natural disaster, and full access to transportation systems when there is a need to evacuate a particular location.

If you or someone close to you has a disability or a special need, you may have to take additional steps to protect yourself and your family in an emergency.

Specific Victims in a Disaster: How Can We Help Them Cope?

Below are the steps for individuals with a disability and special needs in the event of an emergency.

1. Visually impaired 

May be extremely reluctant to leave familiar surroundings when the request for evacuation comes from a stranger. A guide dog could become confused or disoriented in a disaster. People who are blind or partially sighted may have to depend on others to lead them, as well as their dog, to safety during a disaster.

2. Hearing impaired

May need to make special arrangements to receive warnings.

3. Mobility impaired

May need special assistance to get to a shelter.

4. People with intellectual disabilities

May need help to respond to emergencies and getting to a shelter.

5. People with dementia

Should be registered in the Alzheimer's Association Safe Return Program


This phase refers to the aftermath of a disaster, crisis or emergency in which the emphasis is placed on restoring conditions to normal and recovering from damage and disruption. This may be a slow process that lasts years and requires a lengthy period of living with temporary arrangements.

Governments and public administrators should seek to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against in the planning, design or assignment of temporary post-disaster shelter, which must be accessible and functional according to their needs. Moreover, people with disabilities should not be discriminated against in the provision of post-disaster employment opportunities, or in the assignment of the permanently rebuilt housing.

As in the emergency phase, every effort should be made to accommodate working animals, such as guide dogs for the blind. People with disabilities should not suffer higher levels of post-disaster risk than do the general population. The presence of discrimination in any of the ways outlined here should be monitored regularly and, if it occurs, measures should be taken promptly to stop it and discipline or re-educate any staff who are guilty of exhibiting discriminatory attitudes or behaviors, or making decisions that cause discrimination.


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