AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Dealing with Natural Disasters

When a natural disaster occurs, the entire community is affected. The event can change the way students, parents, educators and the community live and function every day. According to the PsySTART Triage System, an incident management strategy for large-scale disaster and terrorism events developed by the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters, children may exhibit the following behavior after a natural disaster:

  • Decreased concentration or attention (in school or home)
  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Frequent changes in mood
  • Sadness or depression
  • Increased irritability, increased anger outburst or temper tantrums
  • Changes in activities (may not want to do things they used to)
  • Withdrawal from family members, peers or activities
  • Changes in school performance 

The school crisis response team should be prepared in the case of a natural disaster. Many students will be in shock so proper psychiatric services should be offered to members of the community. Furthermore, members of the crisis team should be very clear on the specific and residual changes resulting from the crisis. In very severe cases, schools should hire a larger-scale crisis team, such as the American Red Cross, to deal with large-scale effects like long-term school closings or school relocations. This will help ease many concerns and provide parents with an ample amount of people to answer questions.

Resources 

The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center 

OVC Bulletin: School Crisis and Response Initiative, U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime

Prepare Your School and Students, the American Red Cross

School Safety and Crisis Resources, National Association of School Psychologists

Emergency Planning, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools