States, territories, and tribes across the country experience a wide range of disasters including hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, winter storms, volcanoes, and mass violence. Some areas are prone to multiple types of disasters, creating challenges for planners. Those responsible for preparing communities and individuals to successfully recover from disasters need access to appropriate resources to strengthen their disaster behavioral health (DBH) capacity.
Developing Comprehensive Disaster Behavioral Health Plans
DBH planners and other professionals should be ready to act in the event of a disaster. Successful response to and recovery from a disaster is greatly enhanced by having an emergency preparedness plan with a behavioral health component.
The Promising Practices video and webcast series is available to assist DBH planners with drafting a comprehensive behavioral health emergency response plan.
The Introduction to Promising Practices in Disaster Behavioral Health Planning (Date Recorded: July 10, 2013) (55 minutes) full webcast and abbreviated updated video defines promising practices in DBH planning and provides examples of successful implementation of promising practices in the field. Presenters identify key, National Incident Management System compliant, qualities a DBH plan should have and elements to include in a comprehensive plan:
- Clearly defined collaborations and partnerships
- Clarity of financial and administrative operations
- A mechanism to implement a disaster behavioral health plan
- Range and clarity of services
- A description of logistical support
- Definition of legal, regulatory, or policy authority to assist functioning
- A defined process for maintenance, exercises, and updates
To view other videos and webcasts in the nine-part Promising Practices in Disaster Behavioral Health Planning series, visit the DTAC Webinars and Podcasts page.
Helpful Planning Resources
This website includes information to help with various aspects of DBH planning:
- Planning and preparedness that includes and accounts for people with access and functional needs, older adults, and people experiencing homelessness
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion in DBH planning and response
- A tool to help with DBH planning in light of climate change (PDF | 177 KB)
The site also features newsletters, podcasts, and webcasts you can use in support of your work in DBH planning and preparedness.
Stronger Together: An In-Depth Look at Selected Community-Level Approaches to Disaster Behavioral Health (PDF | 394 KB)
Turn to this issue of the Supplemental Research Bulletin for programs, approaches, and interventions that can be used during and after disasters to support behavioral health.
Disaster Behavioral Health Interventions Inventory (PDF | 811 KB)
This Supplemental Research Bulletin provides planners with DBH interventions that can be used in the early, intermediate, and long-term disaster response phases.
Resiliency in Disaster Behavioral Health is a podcast series that informs local behavioral health agencies about strategies for building resiliency in individuals and communities before, during, and after a disaster.
The Disaster Anniversaries (Date Recorded: August 14, 2015) (35 minutes, 19 seconds) webcast will help listeners understand reactions disaster survivors may experience as the anniversary of the disaster approaches and how to use disaster anniversaries as opportunities to build resilience and enhance recovery among survivors and communities.
In the Behavioral Health Response to Ebola (Date Recorded: July 22, 2015) (55 minutes, 15 seconds) webcast, four providers relate lessons learned during a high-stress situation in which an individual experiencing homelessness in Dallas, Texas, was identified as possibly having been in contact with someone who had Ebola. The individual needed to be quarantined as a result. Providers describe how they collaborated and highlight lessons learned.
The Behavioral Health Response to Mass Violence (Date Recorded: September 11, 2013) (28 minutes, 50 seconds) podcast informs DBH professionals about the psychological responses to mass violence and suggests strategies and interventions to provide immediate support and mitigate long-term negative mental health consequences.
Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) Toolkit
The CCP Toolkit provides all of the necessary resources and information to get your CCP grant established after a disaster and to guide you through the CCP implementation process.
To prepare state and subcontracted local-level organizations for managing a CCP, the online CCP Management Training Course will provide managers with an overview of key concepts and suggestions for program planning as a complement to the CCP Program Guidance and ISP and RSP supplemental instructions.
Before, during, and after any type of disaster, officials should provide information in a timely manner that the public can easily understand and act upon. Messages need to be clear, concise, accurate, and designed to promote a sense of calm in the affected community. The following are suggestions to help officials communicate with the public in the event of a disaster:
- Use simple messages, and provide updates regularly.
- Release information in a timely manner. Late release of crucial information could cause mistrust in the community.
- Be honest and open. Address any rumors.
- Show expertise. It will help reduce anxiety and uncertainty in the community.
- Express empathy to build trust and rapport in the community.
For more information download the SAMHSA DTAC Communicating in a Crisis: Risk Communication Guidelines for Public Officials.
Additional Helpful Resources
Looking for other sources of funding to assist in rebuilding after a disaster? Visit the Disaster-related Funding Opportunities Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) collection.
For free, online disaster behavioral health training opportunities intended for DBH professionals to help them respond to and prepare for disasters in their communities, visit the Online Disaster Behavioral Health Trainings DBHIS collection.
For planning to work with people who take medication, who may be at greater risk during periods of excess heat, check out Tips for People Who Take Medication: Coping With Hot Weather. This tip sheet may also help people who take medication and their loved ones to prepare more effectively for heat waves and hot weather.