How to prepare – physically and emotionally – for disasters


It seems there is never a shortage of tragedy. When the news is full of hurricanes, wildfires and mass shootings, you may feel powerless. But there are steps you can take to help you and your family prepare, stay safe and cope with the stress and anxiety that come with tragedy.

Developing resiliency

Sometimes we can have too much of a good thing. A 24-hour news cycle means we are never without information. But sometimes we – and especially our children – need a break from bad news, which can cultivate feelings of powerlessness. At these times, focus on the positive things you can do, like providing help and support.

Assisting those in need, directly or indirectly, can be empowering. You can support relief efforts through donations of:

  • Blood. Your blood donation may or may not reach those involved with a current tragedy, but donating blood today will help “pay it forward” for the next need. The UCLA Blood and Platelet Center is always in need of blood and platelet donations.
  • Money. The American Red Cross helps patients affected by disaster. But there are other organizations active in disaster work as well. To learn more about organizations that help when disaster strikes, visit the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
  • Goods. More than half of donated goods are not needed. If you can’t donate money, contact the National Donations Management Network. This searchable database can put you in touch with nonprofit organizations in the area that have posted a need for specific items.
  • Time. Be sure to coordinate with an agency who can identify where your help is needed and what you’ll be doing.

Prepare for tragedy close to home

If you are in an area where a natural disaster can strike, an emergency preparedness plan for your family can put you at ease. Include in your plan:

  • How you will communicate with other family members
  • Where you will meet up
  • How to care for family pets

Then, create a first aid and survival kit. You can use the supplies at home, or take it with you if you need to evacuate. The Red Cross recommends:

  • One gallon of water per person per day
  • Nonperishable food items
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Hand-crank radio
  • Cell phones (remember to program emergency contact information) and chargers
  • Personal documents like passports and birth certificates
  • Additional supplies

According to the Red Cross, the majority of disasters they respond to are home fires, which can happen anywhere. Be prepared and take precautions:

  • Use stickers on windows to identify children’s room for firefighters
  • Place a safety ladder in all second-floor bedrooms
  • Ensure smoke detectors are regularly tested

Guidance is available

When you prepare for the unexpected, you’re empowering yourself to handle any event that comes your way. You can conquer the anxiety and fear that can come with the feeling of powerlessness. If you still feel stuck, call on UCLA Health’s primary care practices or mental health professionals for guidance on how to cope with tragic events.