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Coping After Severe Weather, Wildfires and Other Disasters

The Oklahoma State Department of Health offers the following recommendations for coping with severe weather, wildfires or other disasters. For more detailed information click on the links accompanying each section.

Children's Needs

After severe weather, wildfires or other disasters, children may be afraid the disaster will come back again and they will be injured or left alone. Children may even interpret disasters as punishment for real or imagined misdeeds. Explain that these are natural events.

Children will be less likely to experience prolonged fear or anxiety if they know what to expect after a tornado. Here are some suggestions:

  • Talk about your own experiences with severe storms, or read aloud a book about tornadoes.
  • Encourage your child to express feelings of fear. Listen carefully and show understanding.
  • Offer reassurance. Tell your child that the situation is not permanent, and provide physical reassurance through time spent together and displays of affection.
  • Include your child in clean-up activities. It is comforting to children to watch the household begin to return to normal and to have a job to do.

After the Disaster: Helping Children and Families Cope  (booklet, 105k .pdf)
Designed to assist families to help their children cope through the “storm” of any disastrous or traumatic situation.

Coping with Disaster: A Family Guide (29K. pdf)
An abbreviated 1 page version of the above booklet.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Wildfires
Parent Guidelines for Helping Children Impacted by Wildfires (.pdf) En Español (.pdf)
Wildfires: Tips for Parents on Media Coverage (2007) (.pdf) En Español (.pdf)

After A Tornado Occurs

Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado, or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings.
 Other common causes of injury included falling objects and heavy, rolling objects. Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines, or electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution, or an explosion. Protecting yourself and your family requires promptly treating any injuries suffered during the storm and using extreme care to avoid further hazards.



Water Safety

If you are using water that you think might not be safe to drink or prepare food, you should attempt to vigorously boil the water for at least one minute to prevent potential waterborne illnesses. Safe water would include store-bought bottled water, or uninterrupted city water. EPA Fact Sheet on Emergency Disinfecting of Water: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/pdfs/fs_emergency-disinfection-drinkingwater-2006.pdf

Food Safety

Power outages present problems with food safety as well as with heating. If people at home or those in food establishments have had a loss of power for more than four hours, take the following precautions with refrigerated food products:
· Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
· Discard any potentially hazardous foods such as meats, eggs, dairy products and leftovers that may have exceeded 41 F. When in doubt, throw it out.
· Frozen foods in a freezer can normally be kept up to 48 hours without power. Again, the 41 F rule applies. A frozen product that has thawed should not be refrozen—it should be used immediately or disposed of. Thawed foods that have not reached 41 F can be cooked and consumed.

Keeping Food Safe After A Power Outage: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/foodwater/facts.asp

OSDH Video: Keeping Food Safe In A Power Outage - MOV, 19.3MB,  Script Text (en espanol)

Other Topics

The First 24 Hours - Securing Yourself and The Site http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/atf/first24.shtm

Worker Safety in a Power Outage (This page discussed feedback issues from improperly installed generators and the risk of electrocution) http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/poweroutage/workersafety.asp

Electrical Safety and Generators: Preventing Electrocutions Associated with Portable Generators Plugged Into Household Circuits http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/elecgenerators.asp

Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/chainsaws.asp


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