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Terrorism and Other Public Health Threats - Responding to a Disaster

Dealing with injuries

In any disaster situation, transportation and communication may be interrupted, and medical services may be overwhelmed. You may need to evaluate or treat minor or major injuries or provide first aid, because medical care may not be immediately available. You may feel more confident when an emergency happens if you know what to do ahead of time and have resources at hand. The following topics discuss emergencies that can occur in a disaster situation:

Emergency procedures you may want to know include:

Injuries related to exposure and sanitation

A natural disaster, industrial accident, or terrorist attack can cause a lot of situations that lead to injury or illness. In some cases your home may need to be evacuated or may be damaged. A disaster may interrupt water supplies, food supplies, sewer and trash services, and heat and electricity. You may be exposed to the elements or have less-than-adequate shelter for a period of time. The following topics can help you avoid or cope with injuries related to food safety, sanitation, and exposure:

The topic Dealing With Emergencies provides more information about how to cope with injuries that can occur during or right after a disaster.

Emotional responses

You may feel overwhelmed after an accident, natural disaster, or terrorist attack. Some people who witness a traumatic event that seemed life-threatening develop a stress reaction known as acute stress disorder, which can last up to a month after the event.

Symptoms include feeling numb, reliving the event through disturbing memories or dreams, and avoiding anything that may be a reminder of the event. Symptoms are so intense that they disrupt daily activities like going to work and interacting with other people.

If the symptoms last more than a month or don't develop until more than a month after the event, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even if you were not injured or in danger, you can still get acute stress disorder or PTSD if you felt physically threatened or witnessed violence. For more information, see the topic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

People who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event often need help from health professionals who are specially trained. If symptoms are severe enough to disrupt your daily life or do not improve after 2 weeks, talk with a doctor.

If you lost a loved one or friend in a disaster or accident (or even a pet, your home, or important possessions), you will need time to cope with feelings of grief and loss. For more information, see the topic Grief and Grieving.

Traumatic events can also cause feelings of depression that may need treatment. For more information, see the topic Depression.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 16, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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