The Vicious Cycle of Disaster Survival

Let’s take a minuet to consider the phases of living through a natural disaster, for example, the Louisiana Flood of August 2016. In this case, many people were completely unaware of what was in store for them. The scope of the storm and magnitude of rainfall was vastly underestimated. Though many are grateful to get out alive, emotional breakdown is eminent after a tragic event.

Phase One: Evacuation and Emotional Response

During the flood, many people evacuated but just as many had to be rescued as they watched their home become devastated with rancid water. You struggle to save what you can, but you can’t bring everything. Once adrenaline subsides, exhaustion takes hold as people realize their stability is destroyed. Many ruthless emotions take hold: worry, fear, anxiety, sleeplessness, pessimism.

Phase two: Displacement or Waiting in Chaos

After escaping with your life (and possibly just the clothes on your back), where do you go if your home got 4–8 feet of water? Maybe victims stay with friends or family, but that can’t last forever. No one wants to be a burden, and it’s hard to ever really be at ease in someone else’s home. Renting and hotels are options, but it also costs money (which, if you need to rebuild, is a huge concern). This is extremely taxing for anyone who has lost everything.

Another option is to move back into a flooded, half-finished home. But then health issues start to surface because of unsanitary conditions and family stress. And yes, some people receive a trailer or help from FEMA, but many do not financially qualify.

Phase three: Hopelessness in the Aftermath

Once people have been displaced for a while, they begin to lose hope that assistance will come. A disaster can be far worse than the amount of allotted help (like the Louisiana flood) and many people don’t know where to turn. So as people wait, they get used to living in their current situations. To make day-to-day life work, emotions and concerns are put on the backburner.

Phase four: Taking Action

When the day comes to pick yourself up and make a move, there is another bout of chaos that ensues. Some people try to rebuild themselves, some hire a contractor, some sell the home they’ve lived in forever. Many, though, do not have enough money (even after insurance), or experience, to smoothly reestablish their homes. Rebuilding a house rekindles chaos and stress on a family. Walls are incomplete, there are tools everywhere, no decent bathroom or appliances, and money is tight. Suppressed emotions being to resurface. This is where everyone needs support (emotionally and physically). The people who begin to rebuild are fortunate compared to many elderly or disabled who cannot help themselves. There must be a better system in place to help people who have lost everything. Traumatic disasters take great tolls on individuals, some of who cannot rebound alone.