Mental Health Disaster Preparedness

The Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) helps individuals and communities recover from natural and human-caused disasters through community outreach and access to mental health services.

Be Prepared 

Emergencies can happen unexpectedly in communities like ours, to people like us. We’ve seen tornado outbreaks, river floods and flash floods, historic earthquakes, hurricanes, and even water main breaks and power outages in U.S. cities affecting millions of people for days at a time. Police, fire and rescue may not always be able to reach you quickly in an emergency or disaster. The most important step you can take in helping your local responders is being able to take care of yourself and those in your care; the more people who are prepared, the quicker the community will recover. This is especially important if you have an emotional or physical disability. There are three steps in preparing for disasters: Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

Step One - Make an Emergency Supplies Kit

  • Keep enough emergency supplies on hand: water, nonperishable food, first aid, prescriptions, flashlight and battery-powered radio.
  • Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers (plastic totes, duffel bags, etc.).
  • Find a list of items for your kit here.

Step Two - Make a Plan

Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance: how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together; and what you will do in different situations. Read more about Family Communication during an emergency. You should also inquire about emergency plans at places where your family spends time: work, daycare and school, faith organizations, sports events and commuting. If no plans exist, consider volunteering to help create one. Talk to community leaders, your colleagues, neighbors and members of faith or civic organizations about how you can work together in the event of an emergency. It is important to make your plans now if you can't stay in your home after a disaster. Do you go to a hotel or a shelter? What is the evacuation route and how do you get to safe shelter if you do not have a car? If you have a pet, what are your plans for your pet? Some hotels are pet friendly and some public shelters have a pet shelter located beside it.

Step Three - Be Informed

Know what kind of disaster can occur in your community. Most communities may be impacted by several types of hazards during a lifetime. Americans also travel more than ever before; to areas impacted by hazards they may not be at risk of near their homes. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.

Some of the basic protective actions are similar for multiple hazards. For example, safety is necessary when experiencing all hazards, whether this means sheltering or evacuating depends on the specific emergency. Developing a family communications plan or making an emergency supply kit are the same for accidental emergencies, natural disasters and also terrorism. However, there are important differences among potential emergencies that should impact the decisions you make and the actions you take.

Use the links on this page to learn about the potential emergencies that can happen where you live and the appropriate ways to respond to them. When you know what to do, you can plan with your household and prepare in advance to be ready. These links also provide information about how protect your household and begin recovery following the initial disaster.

For more detailed information about developing a disaster plan go to, or

What to Expect Afterward

The days and weeks following a disaster can be hard. Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is affected by it in some way. It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and close friends. Stress is normal after tragic events. Stress will likely go away over a brief period of time. Expect a normal recovery. Children are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters. They want to know who will take care of them and they need to feel safe and secure. Give children the chance to talk about what happened and their feelings about it. Their reactions might be immediate but could also appear much later.

More information about coping after a disaster:

Preparedness Resources

Disaster and Behavioral Health Resources Communications Toolkit
Strengthening Homes and Safeguarding Families
Prepare Plan and Stay Informed
NC DHHS Family Disaster Plan
FEMA Preparedness Page for Kids

Natural Disasters

Disaster and Behavioral Health Resources Communications Toolkit
Responding to Natural Disasters

Special Populations Resources

Intended to assist individuals in special populations prepare for and respond to a disaster.
ADA Community Emergency Preparedness

Coping and Emotional Support Brochures & Handouts

Provided to help citizens with materials needed to cope in the aftermath of a disaster.
Coping with Disaster
What community members can do
National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Guide for Teachers
PupsWorld Disaster Coloring Book
Child Reactions ages 1-5
Child Reactions ages 6-11
Child Reactions ages 12-18
Mister Rogers Helping Children Deal with Traumatic Events in the News
National Association of School Psychologists

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer opportunities are available for people who want to assist their fellow citizens in a disaster.
Citizen Corps
Community Emergency Response Teams
Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters
American Red Cross
International Critical Incident Stress Foundation
Salvation Army