~ By Colette
I’ve recently signed off on the “press proof” of our September 2008 issue. The theme of this issue is “Disasters and Youth.” We chose this as a focus after a survey with our readers suggested they wanted more information about disasters. In fact, of the 18 topics we had asked about “Trauma and Disasters” came in among the top three.
While disasters and their effects on youth is a topic that is very relevant for our staff – since our community was the site of one of the infamous school shootings (at Thurston High School in 1998) – I was concerned about how relevant the topic would be for our average reader. Beyond the well-known disasters (Hurricane Katrina, September 11), are community-wide disasters something people commonly experience? How many people experience community-wide disasters in any given year?
In the time since we chose to focus on “Disasters and Youth,” there have been several disasters within the U.S. including a bridge collapse in Minneapolis, wild fires in California which displaced thousands, and flooding in the mid-west. Beyond these well publicized disasters there have been smaller scales ones, such as flooding here in Oregon last winter that caused the small town of Vernonia to be evacuated.
In one of The Prevention Researcher’s recent online polls, 57% of respondents indicated that in the last 10 years their community had experienced a community-wide disaster (21% experienced a nature-caused disaster, 21% a human-caused disaster, and 16% both nature- and human-caused disasters). While our online polls are hardly scientific, I was still surprised by these large numbers.
Possibly one of the most important points brought out in our upcoming issue is that because disasters are usually unpredictable, you need to put effort into becoming prepared. While most people can’t prevent disasters, they can help prevent long-term mental health problems by developing safety plans before a crisis occurs.
There are numerous web sites which could be useful in helping to prepare for a disaster, they include the American Red Cross which provides preparedness information for families, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency which provides information for schools.