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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Recovery for Individuals and Communities

Disasters can strike anytime in our homes and in our communities. They come in the places where we live, work, learn and play.  Our ability to recover, as individuals and as communities, from the health and social services impacts of disasters begins in the pre-disaster preparedness phase and it includes a wide range of recovery planning activities.  The more that we understand about the challenges that are common in disaster recovery, and even some of the opportunities that recovery affords us, the better able we are to put the plans and partnerships in place before a disaster strikes that promote a strong recovery.

For Individuals

  • Food, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Information for Use Before and After a Disaster or Emergency:  Food may not be safe to eat during and after an emergency. Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Hygiene is also especially important in an emergency such as a flood, hurricane, or earthquake, but finding clean, safe running water can sometimes be difficult.  Learn what you can do to prepare and how to determine if food or water has become contaminated.  Listen to state and local officials regarding following a disaster to learn about issues related to your community's water supply.
  • Coping with Disasters:  When disaster strikes, often people react with increased anxiety, worry and anger. With support from community and family, most of us bounce back. However, some may need extra assistance to cope with unfolding events and uncertainties. Learn about ways to cope and where to go if you need help before a disaster strikes.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline:  The Disaster Distress Helpline is a national hotline dedicated to providing year-round immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Mold:  In the aftermath of natural disasters like floods, tornadoes or hurricanes, moisture and standing water can lead to growth of mold in homes and buildings. Learn what you can do to safely manage mold following a disaster.
  • Mosquitoes and Vector-Borne Diseases: Since 1999, more than 30,000 people in the United States have been reported as getting sick with West Nile virus. Natural disasters, especially hurricanes and floods, often cause conditions where mosquitoes and other animals that carry disease can breed. Infected mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus that can cause serious, life altering disease.
  • Preparedness, Response and Recovery for Older Adults:  Disasters can be particularly disruptive to the daily living of older adults and their caregivers.  Chronic conditions that exist prior to an emergency can be exacerbated, equipment damaged or lost, and services or treatments interrupted, causing additional harm or stress. 
  •  If you are impacted by a disaster, find out about assistance that may be available to you and the people in your area.

For Communities

  • Healthy, Resilient, and Sustainable Communities After Disasters: Strategies, Opportunities, and Planning for Recovery:Exit Icon   In the devastation that follows a major disaster, there is a need for multiple sectors to unite and devote new resources to support the rebuilding of infrastructure, the provision of health and social services, the restoration of care delivery systems, and other critical recovery needs.
  • Health in All Policies: A Guide for State and Local Governments: Exit Icon Health in All Policies was created by the American Public Health Association, Public Health Institute and the California Department of Public health, in response to growing interest in using collaborative approaches to improve population health by embedding health considerations into decision-making processes across a broad array of sectors.
  • HHS Response and Recovery Compendium:  HHS Response and Recovery Resources Compendium Project is an easy to navigate, comprehensive web-based repository of HHS resources and capabilities available to Federal, State, local, territorial and tribal stakeholders before, during, and after public health and medical incidents. Each topic contains a list of the major HHS capabilities, products and services that support that function, a brief description of each and information on accessing them.
  • Community Health Resilience (CHR): Community Health Resilience is the ability of a community to use its assets to strengthen public health and healthcare systems and to improve the community’s physical, behavioral, and social health to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity.  Learn why it is important and strategies for making your community more resilient.
  • SAMSHA Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC):  DTAC helps prepare states, territories, tribes, and local entities to deliver an effective mental health and substance misuse response to disasters.
  • Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approach:  This document aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the coordination necessary to reunify unaccompanied monors with their parents or legal guardians following a large scale disaster.
  • Response and Recovery Worker Safety: Following a disaster, response and recovery workers often face special challenges to their health and safety.  Learn how to prevent injury and avoid common risks.

  • This page last reviewed: February 09, 2018