Responding to Disasters Is Stressful

Going on location to disasters can be a new and harrowing experience for some Extension personnel. Not only are there physical hazards, but mental and social hazards may be part of the turf too.

You may ask yourself if you are doing the right thing. You could begin to doubt if you are putting in enough time relative to the overwhelming needs. You might attend a town hall meeting in which the situation turns ugly. Your family may miss you and you may miss them. And least of all, but not unimportant, you may wonder if you are ever going to get the yard mowed.

Because responding to disaster is new to some in Extension and not new to others, I bet we all have some tips to share. One is having someone close to talk about what you are going through. Another is having a great team of educators and specialists who help with the response. And, my final tip for this blog is to be on the same page with your boss and administrators. At a risk of going on a tangent in this blog, some will argue that Extension doesn’t have a place in direct response. I have found that education is well received in the response phase of a disaster, especially if you’ve made the upfront efforts and contacts.

Recently, FEMA provided a very clear list of hazards associated with flood and cleanups, which range from fatigue to snakes. It is available on the EDEN Floods and Flooding page at

What other tips might be useful? Please share so we can all respond smarter.

Steve Cain – Purdue University Extension