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Disasters
Basic Information

Disasters

The Wikipedia defines the term disaster quite nicely:

"A disaster is a natural or man-made event that negatively affects life, property, livelihood or industry often resulting in permanent changes to human societies, ecosystems and environment."

As the definition suggests, disasters are highly disruptive events that cause suffering, deprivation, hardship, injury and even death, as a result of direct injury, disease, the interruption of commerce and business, and the partial or total destruction of critical infrastructure such as homes, hospitals, and other buildings, roads, bridges, power lines, etc. Disasters can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, or tornadoes, or they can be due to man-made events, either accidental (such as an accidental toxic spill or nuclear power plant event), or deliberately caused (such as various terrorist bombings and poisonings).

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Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What types of disasters should I be aware of?

  • A disaster is a natural or man-made event that negatively affects life, property, livelihood or industry often resulting in permanent changes to human societies, ecosystems and environment.
  • Certain types of natural disasters are more likely to occur in particular parts of the world.
  • It may be impossible to avoid disasters, but it isn't impossible to plan ahead of time so as to minimize the impact that any given disaster might have on you or your family's health, safety and property.
  • Floods are the most common and widespread of all natural disasters, except fire. Most communities in the United States have experienced some kind of flooding, after spring rains, heavy thunderstorms, or winter snow thaws.
  • A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of 74 miles per hour or more.
  • An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the Earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the Earth's surface.
  • Fire is the fourth largest accidental killer in the United States and is the disaster that families are mostly likely to experience.

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How can employers help employees cope with a natural disaster?

  • Acknowledge the event as tragic and, at this point in time, perhaps ongoing.
  • Provide those employees who are affected with an opportunity to talk about their fear, horror, helplessness and grief.
  • Allow them to talk about what they saw, felt, and experienced, including physical reactions in response to this tragic event (such as nausea, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite).
  • Let employees know that it is completely normal to be experiencing such a wide range of reactions in response to this event.
  • Encourage employees to do all that they need to do to feel safe, while at the same time acknowledging and talking about the traumatic nature of the event.
  • Remind employees to work towards normalizing and focusing on their daily experience as much as possible.
  • Encourage employees to stay in close contact with loved ones, and keep close communication with their children.
  • Provide employees with written information acknowledging the nature of the event, and what kind of services may be available to help them.
  • Encourage employees to call, as needed, and speak with an EAP counselor.
  • Provide written information, in the form of handouts, concerning what they can do to help themselves and one another cope and recover from the traumatic impact of this event.

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