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Before and After Steps and Resources for Disasters

emergency checklist and safety items

It’s crucial to understand the steps to take before and after a natural or man-made disaster strikes. As many of us are personally affected by such events, either directly or with family or friends, it’s important to be prepared.

Here are some steps to take, as well as resources to rely on should one occur.

Get prepared before disaster strikes

Military OneSource offers you guidance on what you should know to prepare for any kind of emergency. Learn how to create a family emergency plan, put together a disaster kit, sign up for installation emergency alerts and more. Also, follow these additional steps so a disaster does not overtake you and your family:

Start a conversation with your family. Planning ahead for a disaster often starts with having a conversation with your family. Establish some basic rules so everyone will know how to communicate and where to meet up before or after the event. You can also create a family emergency plan. Learn more and find helpful checklists at

Know how to evacuate when disaster strikes. Evacuations occur more frequently than most people realize. Know what protective measures to take before, during and after an evacuation. It is essential to have an emergency plan in place and your disaster kit — with several days’ worth of supplies — ready in order to be prepared for an evacuation of any type.

Find out about your installation’s emergency management plan. All military installations are required to create and maintain an Emergency Family Assistance plan to help protect military families and other Defense Department personnel. Your installation’s assistance plan makes sure your environment is safe and mission ready so you can be ready. Here are more federal disaster preparedness resources to help you and your family get organized.

Check in with your command

Following certain catastrophic events, the secretary of defense will direct all Defense Department-affiliated personnel in an affected area to check in with their command. It is mandatory.

This allows your component to know your and your family’s status, location and needs and to provide you with important safety information, aide and resources as soon as possible.

Check in online with your service branch’s Personnel Accountability and Assessment System:

You can also check in over the phone:

  • Call 800-833-6622 for the Army.
  • Call 816-394-7232 for the Marine Corps.
  • Call 877-414-5358 for the Navy.
  • Call 800-435-9941 for the Department of the Air Force.

For additional resources, refer to the DOD’s Emergency Preparedness Guide and the Combatant Commands Component Emergency Contact Information.

What comes after a disaster

The DOD and other federal officials offer the following advice for people after a disaster strikes:

Find a safe place to stay and check in with your command. Your safety is what is most important. Check out Steps to Take After a Flood, Fire or Other Natural Disaster to find safe places to stay after such an event and account for yourself through your emergency contact.

Understand the steps to take when returning lets you know the safe steps to take upon returning home and has tools and resources related to finding family and friends after a disaster, along with replacing lost or destroyed vital documents.

You can also look to volunteers from the American Red Cross, an organization that helps provide shelter for people in disaster situations.

If your home has been damaged, power and gas lines may have sustained damage as well. Be sure to do the following:

  • Turn off your gas and electricity if you can do so safely.
  • Report any downed power lines or broken gas lines immediately.
  • Avoid puddles and other standing water outside because you could get a shock from underground or downed power lines.
  • If you see any wires on the ground, including cable TV lines, assume they are dangerous.
  • Watch out for gas lines and propane containers that are leaking, gas that has leaked from vehicles and lighter fluid or paint thinner that has spilled.

When you’re outside, stay alert. Damaged structures that are still standing may fall in on you or collapse under you.

Provide ventilation for fuel-burning devices. If you are using kerosene lamps, wood stoves, fireplaces, gas-powered pumps or generators, provide plenty of ventilation in the area so that carbon monoxide does not build up. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas, and it can be deadly. It is best not to use certain carbon monoxide-producing devices indoors. But, if you have no other choice, be sure and watch people around you for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which include:

  • Mild headaches that persist or get worse
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritability
  • Poor judgment
  • Memory loss
  • Rapid fatigue

If you or the people around you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention.

Read safety tips, up-to-date info, rumor control and more from FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also provides housing assistance if your home was damaged or destroyed, and offers ways you can help victims of recent disasters. Call 800-621-3362 for help.

Stay informed. Depending on the disaster, radio and TV reports may provide news through the Emergency Alert System. This system, along with news or government agencies’ social media sites, can provide information about what to do, where to go and how to contact local disaster relief services.

Apply for disaster assistance. The quickest way to apply for assistance is online at If you don’t have access to the internet, you can apply by phone. Call 800-621-3362.

Reach out to your service relief organization. Service relief organizations offer emergency financial assistance, at times, in response to natural disasters and emergencies. Army Emergency Relief, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the Air Force Aid Society are available to help. Depending on the circumstances, these organizations can provide help with interest-free loans, grants or a combination of loans and grants.

Understand your protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This act provides financial and legal protection for active-duty service members, including National Guard and reserve members and their families.

Weathering the storm

Stress during times of disaster can be immense, so it’s important to practice ways you can help keep your family strong and resilient during disasters, deployments and the other demands of military life.

Learn to recognize the signs of stress in children after a disaster. Even the most well-adjusted children may experience stress after a traumatic event. It’s important to understand how to recognize and address signs of stress so you can help your children cope.

Reach out to Military OneSource online or by phone at 800-342-9647 if you or someone in your family is facing disaster-related issues. OCONUS/International? View calling options.

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