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Types of Disasters

You've heard the word "disaster," but what exactly does it mean? Your mom may have called your room a disaster ("clean it up!"), but a real disaster is serious.

There are natural disasters, like tornadoes and hurricanes, and there are manmade disasters, such as the oil spill that affected the Gulf Coast of the United States in 2010.

Nature, including the weather, can cause big problems, such as a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, typhoon, or tsunami a (big surge of water from the ocean).

People also can cause disasters, like when the oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, or when someone — on purpose or accidentally — starts a fire in the woods that becomes a forest fire.

You might wonder: What if that happened in my town? Depending on where a person lives, there's more risk of certain kinds of natural disasters. For instance, a tsunami only affects areas along coasts.

Be Prepared

Wherever you live, it's good to be prepared for an emergency. You've probably already experienced something like this — maybe the power went out for a long time or there was a big snowstorm.

Families can take simple steps like having a battery-powered radio, flashlights, bottled water, and extra food on hand.

Knowing your family has a plan can help you feel more safe and secure. Grownups are in charge of these plans, but you can ask your parents if they have a plan and an emergency kit.

Some preparations are the same for everyone (flashlights, etc.) but other plans will be different depending on which kind of problem might affect your area. For instance, if you live where there are tornadoes sometimes, the plan means knowing to listen to the radio for tornado warnings and to go to the safest part of the house until it passes.

If your family wants to know more about being prepared, organizations like the American Red Cross can help.

You might feel upset about a disaster even if you're not directly affected and there's little chance of it ever happening in your town. It's important to remember that lots of people are looking out for you. In a bad storm or other problem, that would include parents, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and other people who are trained to handle emergencies. When a disaster happens, you'll see these people on the news helping people.

What You Can Do

Seeing these people being taken care of can make us feel a little better. But what else should you do if you're feeling worried, upset, or just curious?

Here are some suggestions:

Talk about your feelings.

It's good to be able to share what you're feeling with a parent or another trusted adult. It's OK to ask questions and wonder about why this happened. It's also OK to feel sad, even if you don't live in the affected area. Get a few extra hugs from your mom or dad, too.

Be creative.

It may sound funny, but drawing a picture or writing a poem can be helpful in sad times. Why? Because you get to express how you're feeling.

Limit Internet and TV.

It can be hard to avoid Internet and TV reports about what's happening. But too much of it isn't good for kids or grownups. Remind your mom and dad about this, too.

What can you do instead? Anything — go outside, read a book, make a craft.

You also might just count your blessings. That means taking a look around and noticing all the good stuff — sunshine, your family, your favorite song on the radio, your best friend, and your lovable pet.

Help others.

It's a great idea to find a way to get involved. Not only will you help people who need food, clothes, and shelter, but you'll feel better because you're lending a hand.

You might raise money or gather supplies through your church, school, or by giving to a relief organization, such as:
[Please note: By clicking on these links, you will be leaving our site.]

Know that healing will happen.

Now you know it's normal to feel sad about disasters, even if you're fine and live far away. You should also know that the sad feelings you have will get better over time.

And hard as it is to believe, even people who lost the most in a disaster will feel better someday. It will take a long time, but they will slowly heal thanks to the people who care for them.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Red Cross The American Red Cross helps prepare communities for emergencies and works to keep people safe every day. The website has information on first aid, safety, and more.
Web SiteVolunteerMatch VolunteerMatch is dedicated to putting you in touch with volunteer organizations in your area. You can enter the name of a group you'd like to know more about, search by your ZIP code, or browse all the available opportunities.
Web SiteSERVEnet This site contains information on volunteering and community service opportunities.
Web SiteYouth Venture Youth Venture helps young people develop their own opportunities for leadership through community service organizations, small business ventures, or after-school clubs.
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Web SiteSave the Children This non-profit organization works to create positive, lasting change for disadvantaged children in the United States and 41 other nations.
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