What to do after an emergency
Recovery from a devastating event can be a long and painful process. The information below may be useful in helping you, your family and community through the recovery process.
- Stay safe - avoid entering a dangerous area until the emergency services tell you it’s safe to do so. It may not be possible to return to your home immediately and you may require temporary accommodation. The best option is to see if you can stay with any friends or relatives. However, your local authority may open a rest centre or provide alternative accommodation.
- Let your loved ones know you are safe - a telephone hotline (known as Casualty Bureau) may have been opened and will usually be the best way to trace any missing relatives or friends.
Returning home after an emergency
Beware of new dangers - additional hazards may have been created by the incident, for example:
- If there’s debris – check the exterior of the property for cracks, and if any part of the building looks unstable leave immediately. Debris can be dangerous so wear protective clothing and footwear.
- If you smell gas – open a window if you can and leave the property immediately. Call National Grid on 0800 111 999 and remember not to smoke or use any naked flames until you’re sure there’s no leaking gas present.
- If electrical appliances have got wet - turn off the electricity at the fuse box, allow appliances to dry out and have a qualified professional check them before turning them on.
- If your water is discoloured, cloudy or smells - check with your water supply company before drinking or using water to make baby formula or brush your teeth as it may be contaminated.
Call your insurance provider – take pictures of any damage which has occurred and keep records of repairs and cleaning costs, as this may help your insurance claim.
Stay healthy – make sure you drink plenty of water, eat well and get enough rest. Also be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water especially if in contact with floodwater, which will likely have been contaminated.
Contact your local authority or emergency services – report any hazards to health and safety, such as damaged power lines, washed out roads, gas leaks, dead animals or chemical releases.
Looking after yourself and others
- Look for signs of stress – being involved in an emergency can be mentally and emotionally difficult. You may be able to access support through your GP service, or through sites such as the counselling directory.
- Help others – if you know of friends, family or neighbours who have particular vulnerabilities (either through age, ill health or disability) then consider how you could help them. It might be as simple as contacting their loved ones for them, or ensuring they have food and water.
- Pay particular attention to children – children may feel especially insecure, confused and frightened even if they haven’t been directly involved in an emergency. These reactions can become evident sometime after the event.
Longer-term recovery issues
Recovering from a major emergency can take many years. You may find it helpful to consider the following aspects of longer-term recovery:
- Join support groups – these are often set up by people involved in an incident so they can share their experiences and feelings. Support groups can be a useful way of dealing with stress, and gaining advice on how to deal with practical issues.
- Mark anniversaries – whilst they can be a difficult time, you might like to consider how you wish to mark the anniversary of an event, either alone or with other people.