In the wake of Iselle’s stormy August 7 visit, many of the Big Island’s Puna residents remain without power, water, land line phone service, and internet access. Those who live alone, especially in rural areas; particularly the sick, elderly, or disabled; may need help. They could need food or water, news updates, reorientation, and support services. Such circumstances are not unique to the aftermath of a Hawaii hurricane. They could result from the fallout from any unexpected storm or stress.
We had friends check on us, were able to get a generator after only two days without power, had been able to charge our laptops and iPhones from the AC outlet in our hybrid truck, and managed to weave our way through the fallen trees, downed power lines, and random debris back into civilization within a few days.
After reflecting upon our own experiences, and talking with clients, friends, and neighbors; we identified a few simple things that seemed to help most of us recover from the storm.
- Survival Basics: Do you have food, water, shelter, and medical care?
- News and Information: Do you know what happened, and what is happening now?
- Familiar Routines: In what ways can you jump back in the saddle?.
- Interpreting Reactions: Are you able to factor the stress into your perceptions and responses?
If possible, prepare prior to the event. Secure sufficient food, water, and first aid supplies. It is a good idea to keep these around anyway. Have enough food and water for your household for one week. Familiarize yourself with emergency shelters, usually in high school gyms or community centers. Establish a network of friends who check on each other in times of crisis. Texting is usually best. If, after the situation subsides, you are without survival basics, make this your first priority. Anxiety will lessen when basic needs are met. In the aftermath, first secure your own household, and then expand to those within your sphere of influence. Even if there are those you usually have no contact with, in a time of crisis lend a hand; and then return to your pre-existing boundaries when the emergency is over. Knowing your basic needs are met provides the psychological safety and hope needed to continue the recovery process.
News and Information:
Learning what happened helps us feel connected and know what to do. Use your smart phone, or a battery powered radio to keep track of pre-event, event, and post-event developments. This reduces anxiety and helps focus our action.
After the situation subsides, and when the basics are secured; when you are reconnected with the world, when you know you have endured; find familiar things and do them, to be sure. You may feel totally drained, disoriented, and confused; but when you force yourself to climb back in the saddle, your focus, clarity, and purpose will return. If you are a teacher, prepare for a class, or teach something you love. If you like to cook, drag yourself into the kitchen and create something fun. If gardening is your passion, then force yourself out into the yard. If you like working in the shop or garage, then do it. For me, writing, meditating, and playing music quickly return me to a fully present place. Even though you may feel overwhelmed, and like you can’t do anything; you can. When you do, things will start feeling more normal again.
For most, the stress from such an event will distort perceptions in a negative direction. This is totally normal. Things may temporarily seem worse than they really are. Do your best to understand this, factor it in, and refrain from making life-changing decisions until you have returned to a state of calmness, clarity, and truth.
Although relatively obvious, these are some simple, practical things that helped a lot when recovering from the hurricane. Sometimes we are not able to remember such things when reeling from the rhythms of the storm.