5 go-to university extension programs for disaster preparedness advice

Hurricane Katrina. Japan's tsunami. The Haiti earthquake. You do not need to be an expert to know that natural disasters can strike anywhere, anytime, and that even a brief event can be devastating, if not deadly. Even survivors can pay dearly -- and not just in lost property. According to the American Psychological Association (apa.org), natural disasters can carry serious emotional tolls that can last a lifetime. Losing access to power, food or clean water; losing contact with loved ones; and not knowing where to go for help can only make a bad situation worse. On the other hand, being prepared can help you forge a safe and speedy recovery.

Not sure where to start? Knowing which disasters you are geographically most susceptible to helps, but savvy emergency management experts plan for almost anything, including man-made events. No, you probably won't ever endure a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion, but it would help to know what to do in the event of a medical outbreak or a terrorist attack. Hint: A cache of bottled waters, canned peaches and flashlights may not be enough. Fortunately a number of universities -- and their highly qualified expert staffs -- are one step ahead of the game. The following university extension programs are just a few of those dedicated to helping anyone, anywhere prepare for, manage and recover from catastrophe.

5 go-to programs for disaster preparedness advice

  • Colorado State University Extension. The CSU Extension teaches the community how to prepare for sudden natural disasters, like fire and flood, but also longer-term events, like drought. Web visitors will find detailed prevention and recovery information in a number of specialized topics, like livestock, water management and food safety. Its Markets & Weather center offers a directory of weather- and climate-related agencies that can offer short- and long-term forecasts. Visitors can also find links to key government and relief agencies -- like the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Center for Disease Control -- and other university disaster relief extensions.
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension. The NC State and A&T State University Cooperative Extension, staffed by specialists at NC State University and NC A&T State University, knows how to best weather a myriad of natural disasters, but especially tornadoes, floods and their aftermath. The group's Disaster Information Center provides detailed information about how to best prepare for these disasters, and how to recover from them quickly and safely. Learn how to create your own home disaster kit, how to ensure you have access to safe food following a storm, and how to protect your pets and valuables. The site also offers advice on how to recover from the event, both psychologically and financially. You can visit the Extension's website to download its Guide to Preparing for Emergencies, or phone the center directly.
  • University of Idaho Extension. The UI Cooperative Extension is truly a one-stop-shop for disaster preparedness -- including those that are man-made. Natural disaster topics include: tornadoes, fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes and even blizzards. Not-so-natural disaster guides cover hazardous material incidents, radiation accidents and even terrorist attacks. The General Preparedness section can help visitors put together disaster kits and establish evacuation plans, but those looking for more information may want to check out its directory of disaster-related agencies and resources, both in and out of Idaho. The UI Extension even offers advice for homeowners recovering from a disaster, which it says can become "ripe pickings" for fraudsters and thieves.
  • University of Illinois Extension. The University of Illinois Extension's Disaster Resources website serves as a one-stop-shop for those who want to learn how to prepare for and recover from natural disasters, especially severe storms and earthquakes. Website visitors can check current conditions, find contact information for key disaster agencies and organizations, and browse guides and other resources. The group's Ten Steps to Preparing for a Disaster -- a step-by-step guide for preparing your home, office and loved ones for the unthinkable -- is an excellent place to start. The UI Extension also maintains a special section called Children, Stress and Natural Disasters, which serves as a resource for teachers and parents who want to teach children what to do in an emergency.
  • University of Minnesota Extension. The UM Extension serves as what might be one of the most thorough disaster preparedness resources featured on our list. Its website lets visitors who need immediate assistance find resources listed on the UME website, including the group's AnswerLine, which answers basic questions about disaster recovery. UME offers specialized guides and resources for children, seniors, farmers and disaster professionals, and its Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit has won both the Consumer Financial Information Award and the Florence Hall Award. The group even offers free, up-to-date resources and materials for professionals and others who want to help their communities prepare for and recover from natural disasters via Disaster Recovery Resource Fairs.

The best laid plans…

All of these resources offer advice for managing the unthinkable, but let's face it: if disaster does strike, you may be too panicked to follow it. Consider printing off some of the most important information and putting it somewhere safe but accessible. Periodically review the information with your loved ones, including evacuation points. When working with children, keep your instructions simple and on point, and, if possible, present it in a fun way to minimize unnecessary fear or concern. It might also be a good idea to save website links and phone numbers for the above programs in your smartphone for easy access, especially since many of them have disaster hotlines and emergency management professionals on staff who can help.


Source list:

"Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disasters and other traumatic events," apa.org. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/recovering-disasters.aspx