“If I am involved in a emergency, how will I ever make it through? How will I get everything back to normal?” These are questions, that we may ask ourselves when thinking about the potential damage or uncertainty that an unknown emergency may bring to our lives. If you were involved in an emergency, would you know how to cope with this or how to return to “normal”?
Everyone can be affected by an emergency, which could be a natural disaster such as a tornado or an involvement in a car accident, in some form or another. One doesn¡¦t have to experience physical damage from an emergency, but still could feel the fear, confusion, and the insecurity it could place on someone’s life and their surroundings. Most individuals are able to recover from an emergency or difficult time, but others are affected greatly by the stress that it may cause.
After an emergency, such as Hurricane Katrina, one should reduce stress by taking the following steps:
*Avoid watching extended news coverage of the incident. Be sure to listen for announcements from public health officials.
* Increase your physical activity; take more walks, bike, and even doing housecleaning can help.
* Talk with your friends, relatives, teachers, or leaders from your faith community about your reaction and feelings of the incident.
* Eat healthy and get plenty of rest.
* Recognize the stress you may be feeling and avoid use of or abuse alcohol, drugs, or tobacco. It only will make things worse.
* Try to return to your normal routines, like school, or work; as soon as possible. This is especially important for children.
* Be certain to ask for help if you need it.

If you would continue to experience stress symptoms, not sleeping regularly, nervousness, getting tired easily, and losing interest in things you once thought were important, you need to seek medical help.

Children need to be monitored in these critical times also. They will look to see how adults or parents behave in response to these emergency situations.

Take these steps to help children cope with an emergency as well:
* Reduce the amount of exposure to TV, computer, and radio coverage of the situation
* Listen to their concerns and answer their questions appropriately, don’t just brush them aside
* Share the facts briefly and put it in language easy enough for them to understand
* Encourage them to paint or draw as a way to express their feelings.
* Hook them back into their daily routine as soon as possible, it helps to stabilize things. Let them go back to school or other daily activities so they can be with their peers.

This information is from the pamphlet, “Protect Iowa Health”, that has been distributed by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The guide is available for the public if interested at our agency, Winneshiek County Public Health or one may order the guide online at www.protectiowahealth.org

In the back of this pamphlet, there is available space to put emergency contact numbers and resources. It is important to keep these numbers and resources up to date and in a designated space in the event of an emergency for others in your family to locate. It is an endeavor of public health to help our residents improve the level of preparedness one may have in order to be ready for a public health emergency.

Be prepared! Help your family and you to keep safe in the event of an emergency. You can make a difference for all.