Immediate Response to Tornadoes

This installment of the SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) focuses on the disaster behavioral health impacts of tornadoes. Topics covered include but are not limited to the following:

  • Ways to protect your physical and behavioral health during and after a tornado
  • Considerations specific to children, older adults, and people with disabilities and other access and functional needs
  • Guidance for first responders

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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This is a pocket guide that provides first responders with information on signs and symptoms of stress and offers simple, practical techniques for minimizing stress responses prior to and during disaster response.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (HHS, ACF)

The ACF is responsible for Federal programs that promote the economic and social wellbeing of families, children, individuals, and communities.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This tip sheet offers ways for parents to help their children heal after experiencing a tornado. It helps parents identify behaviors that may indicate trauma, and lists specific steps they can use to promote healing.

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

AARP is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for older adults. AARP promotes positive social change and provides its members with information, advocacy, and services.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)

This guide provides recommendations for local governments and agencies to help them create disaster preparedness and response programs that account for the needs of people with disabilities, which will bring these programs into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It suggests ways to handle planning, notification, and evacuation; make sure shelters are accessible; and train staff to deal with service animals, medications, and communication.

American Red Cross

This fact sheet explains normal reactions to a disaster, what a survivor should do to cope, and where to seek additional help if needed.

American Red Cross

This checklist offers preparedness ideas and safety concerns before, during, and after a tornado.

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS)

This tip sheet contains information for a couple reuniting after a member returns home from deployment. The authors list common relationship concerns and provide suggestions for "building a shared sense of purpose and stronger family."

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

This section of the AAP website on how to address disaster preparedness for children provides information on hurricanes, tornadoes, and other storms, and links to websites and other resources for families.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HHS, CDC)

This section of the CDC website provides information on COCA, which prepares clinicians to respond to emerging health threats and public health emergencies by communicating relevant and timely information on disease outbreaks, terrorism events, and disaster response.

Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project (CFAP)

This website provides information and resources related to compassion fatigue, a condition common among individuals who work directly with trauma victims, such as nurses and first responders.

Disabled-World.com

Disabled-World.com is an independent health and disability website that provides information on topics related to seniors and disability. This section of the website provides links to resources specific to disasters and emergency planning for seniors and people with disabilities.

Pennsylvania State University, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC-RERC)

This checklist and tip sheet provides general steps that emergency responders should take to prepare to meet the needs of individuals with limited speech. The tip sheet reviews different methods of augmentative and alternative communication, including speech generating devices and personal communication displays.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for PTSD (VA, PTSD)

This online article explains the different stressors that affect disaster response workers and provides tips on how to cope with stress during and after a disaster, and upon returning home from a disaster. [Authors: Young, B. H., Ford, J. D., and Watson, P. J.]

Disaster Survival Resources

This website provides information and resources related to disaster preparedness, and provides tools that may assist with survival and recovery.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging (HHS, AOA)

Through the Eldercare Locator, users can find services for older adults and their families in locations across the country, in areas running the gamut from behavioral health to financial assistance to insurance to food and nutrition. Those who cannot use the online locator can access services toll-free at 1-800-677-1116. The Eldercare Locator site provides links to information and materials for older adults and families on a variety of aging-related topics.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HHS, CDC)

This web page provides information on emergency wound care after a natural disaster, including basic steps that healthcare providers can use to asses and manage wounds and rashes.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)

FEMA is the U.S. Government's principal agency charged with building and supporting the Nation's emergency management system.

New Jersey Disaster Critical Incident Stress Response (NJDCISR)

This online program covers how first responders can deal with the stress they feel while helping their communities respond to and recover from a disaster, how they can prepare for the pressure they face, and how they can help their families.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This tip sheet offers ways for children to help themselves and others recover from emotional reactions after a tornado.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This tip sheet offers children ways to cope with their feelings right after a tornado.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This resource from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network was developed for parents and caregivers to give insight on how and why children grieve, and what you can do to help.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This tip sheet offers ways for teens to help themselves and others recover from emotional reactions after a tornado.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This tip sheet offers teens ways to cope with their feelings right after a tornado.

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (USUHS, CSTS)

This 2-page tip sheet explains how notification of families that their relatives are missing or deceased typically works after a natural disaster, and it emphasizes the importance of working with local authorities on notification of families in a sensitive, appropriate way. It offers dos and don'ts for disaster responders helping local and national authorities to make families aware that their relatives are missing or dead following a disaster.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

The goal of this 50-minute podcast is to help parents, caregivers, teachers, and other school staff to identify common reactions of children and youth to disaster and trauma. It can also help adults determine when a child or youth exposed to a disaster may need mental health services. The PDF version of the podcast presentation is available at https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/podcasts-children-trauma-pres....

U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (DOC, NOAA)

This web page provides information on the major hazards associated with hurricanes, including tornadoes.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)

This part of FEMA's Ready.gov website provides information and tools to help people with disabilities and access and functional needs and their families to plan and prepare for disasters. General tips and tools are included, as well as information specifically for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or blind; people with speech or mobility disabilities; and people with service animals.

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (USUHS, CSTS)

This fact sheet provides tips for team leaders on how to monitor and minimize their stress when managing teams during traumatic events.

American Psychological Association (APA)

This web page offers information for the general public on how to manage traumatic stress after a tornado.

International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS)

This resource describes what survivors might expect after experiencing a trauma or disaster, and offers strategies to achieve the best possible recovery from disaster stress. It also identifies warning signs for when to seek professional help.

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (USUHS, CSTS)

This tip sheet is intended to help managers and supervisors limit officer stress resulting from disaster response.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)

ODIC provides information and resources on emergency preparedness and disaster response that is inclusive of people with disabilities and others with access or functional needs.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (HHS, ASPR)

ASPR serves as the HHS Secretary's principal advisory staff on matters related to bioterrorism and other public health emergencies and disasters. It also coordinates interagency activities responsible for emergency preparedness, planning, and the protection of the civilian population from acts of bioterrorism and other public health emergencies.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This tip sheet offers parents guidance on helping their children after a tornado. It describes how tornadoes often affect families and children, common reactions children may have, and how parents can help their children. The tip sheet also provides self-care tips for parents after a tornado.

National Organization on Disability (NOD)

This brochure provides disaster readiness tips for people who have sensory-related disabilities or limitations.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Mental Health Disaster Preparedness and Response

This tip sheet provides information on how to apply PFA during and in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This guide provides the details of Psychological First Aid (PFA), which it explains is "an evidence-informed modular approach to help children, adolescents, adults, and families in the immediate aftermath of disaster and terrorism." PFA can be used by a range of people responding to disaster, including those who are not mental health professionals. The guide is available in Spanish, Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese, and Norwegian. [Authors: Brymer, M., Jacobs, A., Layne, C., Pynoos, R., Ruzek, J., Steinberg, A., Vernberg, E., and Watson, P.]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This pamphlet provides a brief explanation of Psychological First Aid for first responders and information for working in the field.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This 79-page guide provides information on PFS-S, an adaptation of the PFA evidence-based intervention for school personnel. It provides information on how to use PFA-S to support child and adolescent students, adults, and families in the aftermath of a school crisis, disaster, or terrorism event. [Authors: Brymer, M., Taylor, M., Escudero, P., Jacobs, A., Kronenberg, M., Macy, R., Mock, L., Payne, L., Pynoos, R., and Vogel, J.]

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

Psychological First Aid (PFA) online is an interactive course in which the participant learns about PFA by taking on the role of a provider after a disaster. The course includes expert tips, videos, activities, and access to an online learning community.

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (USUHS, CSTS)

This brief tip sheet provides an overview of Psychological First Aid (PFA), an approach to assisting disaster survivors in meeting their needs. It presents key principles of PFA and then lists dos and don'ts in keeping with the approach to help survivors to reconnect with important people in their lives, activate their resilience, and move toward greater adjustment and well-being after a disaster. Also available in Chinese at https://www.cstsonline.org/resources/resource-master-list/psychological-....

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services (HHS, SAMHSA, CMHS)

This booklet gives mental health professionals, emergency response workers, and other service providers information on how to support the mental health and recovery of older adults in the aftermath of a disaster.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (DO NOT USE; USE ENTRY WITH ACRONYM)

This fact sheet lists questions that parents can ask their children after a tornado to assess for exposure to distressing situations during and after the event. It also describes behaviors to look out for in children and ways to help them cope.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)

Launched in 2003, Ready is a national campaign designed to educate Americans and help them prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural and human-caused disasters. This section of the Ready website features information and games for children, family preparedness tools for parents and other caregivers, and tools and a curriculum for teachers to make schools safer and educate children and teens about emergency preparedness.

American Psychological Association (APA)

This web page discusses normal reactions to a disaster or traumatic event and steps that can be taken to cope and recover.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This guide is intended to assist emergency and disaster response workers with their transition home following deployment. It provides information on how to adjust to life at home and recognize signs of stress, as well as resources. [HHS Publication No. NMH05-0220]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This guide is intended to assist supervisors in transitioning deployed employees back into their regular work situations. It includes a list of potential difficulties faced by employees returning from stressful situations and tips for helping them overcome these challenges. [HHS Publication No. NMH05-0218]

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This fact sheet provides an overview of secondary traumatic stress and its potential impact on professionals involved in the care of traumatized children and their families. It discusses how to identify secondary traumatic stress and presents strategies for preventing and addressing the issue.

SAMHSA Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC)

This 60-minute webcast identifies types and sources of stress that disaster behavioral health responders may face, presents methods of self-care for responders, and notes ways that supervisors and managers of disaster behavioral health responders can support their teams in coping with stress. The slides are available at https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/podcasts-selfcare-dbhresponde....

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (DO NOT USE; USE ENTRY WITH ACRONYM)

This fact sheet explains the reactions children may have after a tornado and what teachers can do to help them recover from such events.

University of New Mexico, Center for Development and Disability

This booklet provides tips for responders during emergencies as well as routine encounters to accommodate and communicate with people with disabilities. A special section focuses on assisting seniors. A Spanish-language version is available at http://cdd.unm.edu/dhpd/tips/tipsspanish.html.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services (HHS, SAMHSA, CMHS)

This fact sheet presents individual and organizational approaches for preventing and managing stress among emergency response and public safety workers. It describes normal reactions to a disaster, signs of the need for stress management, and strategies for handling stress.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

This tip sheet provides information for parents on how to help children understand media coverage of a traumatic event such as a tornado, while limiting their exposure to distressing images.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This tip sheet describes common reactions to disasters and other traumatic events and identifies ways to manage stress. It also lists sources of additional information and support.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (DHS, FEMA)

Launched in 2003, Ready is a national public service advertising campaign designed to educate Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies. This section of the Ready website provides information about what to do before, during, and after a tornado.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (HHS, CDC, NIOSH)

This online fact sheet highlights the physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that emergency responders may experience after a natural or human-caused disaster. It includes tips and resources to assist responders in taking care of their own physical and emotional health.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

HHS is the U.S. Government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The Department of Homeland Security website for first responders provides a portal that allows Federal, State, local, and tribal first responders to easily access and leverage Federal web services; information on resources, products, standards, testing, and evaluation; and best practices in a collaborative environment.

Texas Department of State Health Services

This fact sheet lists common reactions older adults may have after a disaster and warning signs that someone may need extra help. It also provides strategies for helping older adults recover from the emotional aftermath of a disaster.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for PTSD (VA, PTSD)

This article explains why it is important to understand the different types of traumatic stress and the risk of burnout when working with trauma survivors. It describes burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion stress, and compassion fatigue, and suggests ways to mitigate and manage the stress that disaster responders may experience through their work.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

The goal of this 50-minute podcast is to help parents, caregivers, teachers, and other school staff to identify common reactions of Children and Youth DBHIS to disaster and trauma. It can also help adults determine when a child or youth exposed to a disaster may need mental health services. The PDF version of the podcast presentation is available at https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/podcasts-children-trauma-pres....

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (HHS, SAMHSA)

This tip sheet for parents and other caregivers and teachers explains how to help children cope with the emotional aftermath of a disaster and includes information on common reactions according to developmental stage. It is available in Punjabi at https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Tips-for-Talking-to-Children-and-Youth-After-Traumatic-Events-A-Guide-for-Parents-and-Educators-Punjabi-Version-/KEN01-0093PUNJABI.

Last Updated: 10/27/2015