hurricane

Some may consider the annual ritual of talking about emergency preparedness b-o-r-i-n-g! Considering that South Florida has not been directly affected by a major storm since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the dangers of  complacency are real, but the need to be prepared is important and not just media hype.

It is now May (already) and Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 25-31, precedes the start of the 2014 Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1 through November 30. So, once again, it’s time to pull out and dust off your family’s hurricane plan as we are reminded each year, no matter what the forecast is for number of hurricanes, that “it only takes one.”

If you've created a plan in previous years, chances are, when you read through the hurricane guide and shopping guide and refresh your family plan, not much will need to be changed. However, one area that is often overlooked is mental preparation.

Disaster relief professionals and mental health counselors report that the emotional toll after a disaster can be even more devastating than the financial strains of damage and loss of home, business or personal property.

Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is affected by it in some way and will respond differently, according to the counselors at the County’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Joseph Farone and Charmaine Weatherly. “Children and older adults should be of special concern in the aftermath of disasters. Even individuals who experience a disaster ‘second hand’ through exposure to extensive media coverage can be affected.”

Counselors agree that it is normal to feel anxious about one’s safety and that of family and close friends and that it is quite normal for one to experience profound sadness, grief and anger following a disaster. Anyone experiencing these feelings should first acknowledge them, and then focus on their strengths and abilities to help them heal. They can also recognize that accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.

Some of the symptoms to look for are:

Anyone experiencing these feelings should talk with someone and seek professional help for disaster-related stress. Suggestions to cope include:

Ensure you are ready for future events by maintaining and updating your family survival plan and restoring the supplies in your shopping guide. Knowing that you are current on these items can be comforting. “Preparation helps. When people feel prepared, they cope better,” the counselors said. So, pull out and dust off your family’s plans and let’s hope for a boring hurricane season.

For more information on disaster preparedness, visit Broward.org/Hurricane.