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Disasters

Types of Disasters

You've heard the word "disaster," but what exactly does it mean? Your mom may have called your room a disaster ("clean it up!"), but a real disaster is serious.

There are natural disasters, such as a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, or tsunami (a big surge of water from the ocean), that happen because of the weather or other natural conditions. People also can cause disasters, like causing an oil spill that pollutes the environment or starting a forest fire.

You might wonder: What if that happened in my town? Depending on where a person lives, some kinds of natural disasters are more likely to happen than in other places. For instance, hurricanes happen in areas along coasts.

Be Prepared

Wherever you live, it's good to be prepared for an emergency. You've probably already experienced something like this — maybe the power went out for a long time or there was a big snowstorm.

Families can take simple steps to be prepared for an emergency, like having a battery-powered radio, flashlights, bottled water, and extra food on hand.

Knowing your family has a plan can help you feel more safe and secure. Grownups are in charge of these plans, but you can ask your parents if they have a plan and an emergency kit.

Some preparations are the same for everyone (flashlights, etc.), but other plans will be different depending on which kind of problem might affect your area. For instance, if you live where there are tornadoes sometimes, the plan means knowing to listen to the radio for tornado warnings and to go to the safest part of the house until it passes.

If your family wants to know more about being prepared, organizations like the American Red Cross can help.

In a bad storm or serious disaster, it's important to remember that lots of people are looking out for you, including parents, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and other people who are trained to handle emergencies. When a disaster happens, you'll see these people on the news helping people.

What You Can Do

Seeing that people in a disaster are being taken care of can make us feel a little better. But what else could you do if you're feeling worried, upset, or just curious?

Here are some ideas:

Talk about your feelings.

It's good to share what you're feeling with a parent or another trusted adult. It's OK to ask questions and wonder about why this happened. It's also OK to feel sad, even if you don't live near where the disaster happened. Get a few extra hugs from your mom or dad too.

Be creative.

It may sound funny, but drawing a picture or writing a poem can be helpful in sad times. Why? Because you get to express how you're feeling.

Limit radio, Internet, and TV reports.

It can be hard to avoid news about what's happening. But too much of it isn't good for kids or grownups. Remind your mom and dad about this too.

What can you do instead? Anything that makes you feel good — go outside, read a book, make a craft.

Help others.

It's a great idea to find a way to get involved. Not only will you help people who need food, clothes, and shelter, but you'll feel better because you're lending a hand.

You might raise money or gather supplies through your church or school, or by giving to a disaster relief organization, such as:
[Please note: By clicking on these links, you will be leaving our site.]

Know that healing will happen.

Now you know it's normal to feel sad about disasters, even if you're fine and live far away. You should also know that the sad feelings you have will get better over time.

And hard as it is to believe, even people who lost the most in a disaster will feel better someday. It will take a long time, but they will slowly heal thanks to the people who help and care for them.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2017

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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