The emotional toll of disaster, and how to cope

Image after image capturing the tornado devastation in East Texas can be an extremely emotional experience. Whether you are personally impacted, know someone or just feel for those affected, it is normal for this to take an emotional toll.

With more storms in the forecast, the American Red Cross wants to ensure you are prepared for both, the weather and the emotional toll it may take.

Wednesday Storms

Preparing for Storms:

  1. Stay weather aware, listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Download the Red Cross Emergency app for weather alerts. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind. If you are working at your home that was already affected by a storm or tornado, it is especially important to stay weather aware and make plans to get to the nearest storm shelter as quickly and safely as possible. 
  2. If Home, pick a safe room. Choose a central room on the lowest level of your house that does not have any windows to gather in case of a tornado. Avoid using electrical equipment, telephones, and plumbing.
  3. If Driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity on the outside the vehicle.
  4. If Outside WITH shelter near, take shelter in a substantial building if a severe weather warning is issued. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over or be swept away by severe weather. Shut shutter-windows, close outside doors security, and keep away from windows.  
  5. If Outside WITHOUT a shelter near, avoid water, tall, isolated trees, and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.


Preparing for the Emotional Toll:

  1. Take care of your safety. Find a safe place to stay and ensure your physical health is being managed. The more prepared you are, the less stress you will feel as a result.
  2. Eat healthy. During times of stress, it is important that you maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
  3. Get rest. With so much to do, it may be difficult to have enough time to rest or get adequate sleep. Giving your body and mind a break can boost your ability to cope with the stress you may be experiencing.
  4. Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and getting support is one of the most important things you can do. Check “Safe and Well” on your Red Cross Emergency app after the storm has passed.
  5. Be patient with yourself and those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need some time to put their feelings and thoughts in order.
  6. Set Priorities. Tackle tasks in small steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed. 
  7. Gather information about assistance and resources that will help you and your family members meet your disaster-related needs. Additional resources can be found at
  8. Stay positive. Remind yourself of how you’ve successfully gotten through difficult times in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.

If you or a family member are in need of help for Disaster Relief, please call 1-800-Red-Cross or connect online at

To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746.

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