Note: As I write this in September of 2017, myself and millions of other people have been affected by Hurricane Irma. This post will focus on my experience as a native Floridian who has dealt with many hurricanes and similar storms but it can likely work for other natural disasters.
This is my experience and I don’t speak for all Floridians or people who have been through natural disasters. With anything, take what you need and leave what you don’t.
I don’t know what it is about natural disasters but they make people lose their minds. And not even talking about the people who are affected by these storms but….those on the outside! Hopefully, some of these tips will help you navigate how to support your loved ones.
Some of y’all are flailing and failing and while my irritation level is high, I’m okay with sharing how things could be done a little bit better.
Do trust your people
You have intelligent friends that have critical thinking skills, don’t you? Good. Me too! They aren’t dummies. If they tell you they’re going to be okay, listen to them. If they told you they’ve tried everything they can, trust them.
Do ask if you can help with anything
Feeling helpless? Don’t know what to do? Just ask what would be helpful.
Do send supplies via Amazon Prime
With impending hurricanes, supplies run out VERY quickly. You’d be loved forever if you sent water, non-perishable items and emergency supplies via Amazon Prime.
Do support even if you don’t understand
Not sure why your friend isn’t evacuating? Think it’s pointless for your cousins to evacuate considering the storm is far from them? You aren’t there. And even if are, you may be not be aware of their unique circumstances. Support them anyway. You don’t have to get it to be respectful and supportive. Their comfort is more important than your understanding.
Do ask for contact numbers of other friends/family members
Ask your loved ones for at least 5 phone numbers including their neighbors, rental companies/landlords/landladies, coworkers, parents, spouses and anyone who they think would need to be contacted should they lose power.
Do connect friends
Got several loved ones in an area that a hurricane is rolling through? Start a Facebook chat with all of them to see if they can help each other hunt down supplies, board up homes or just be another support person.
Do look at a map
I’m not being a jerk when I say this but seriously…look at a freaking map. Check out where your people live. Check out where the hurricane is going and determine if you really need to be concerned.
Do watch a video on Hurricanes 101
Because understanding how hurricanes work may ease your mind a bit.
Don’t become an overnight meteorologist
So you watched that video on Hurricanes 101 on YouTube and now you think you’re some kind of professional? No. No, you are not.
Don’t watch national news
They will all tell you that this hurricane will kill us. We know they tell you this because we get phone calls and texts from you telling us we will die and that we need to GET OUT NOW. Stop watching, please. To get the most accurate information, please find a reputable local station and stick to that.
Don’t spew fluffy cliche comments unless you think they’re needed
We know what they are, don’t we?
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“You are stronger than you think.”
“The Lord won’t put more on you than you can bear.”
They make YOU feel good by saying them but are they helping the person you’re telling these things to? Sometimes those kind of comments are well…they’re annoying. And not helpful. When it doubt, ASK.
Don’t share outdated information
Check the date before you press Share. You’re panicking over a hurricane model from 2004. That’s not helpful for anyone, now is it?
Don’t share unreliable information
You guys, stop this. I know this sounds crazy but everything on the internet is not true. Check your sources. Be a critical thinker. Take your time and read. So because Brian from high school said the storm was a Category 8 (hint: there is no Category 8), you’re freaking out? Come on, boss. You’re smarter than this.
Don’t assume an evacuation is an option
I don’t have much to say about this one other than a screenshot.
Close your mouth about peoples’ evacuation plans. You.don’t.know.nothin’. You don’t. You don’t know if they are in flood zones. You don’t know the structures of their homes. You don’t know if they were told to stay put. You don’t know if they have the money to evacuate. You don’t know what the highways are looking like and you don’t know if they even have the ability to evacuate. I know you think you know, but unless you are in the trenches with them while preparing for the storm, you know nothing. Trust they will make the right decision and only make suggestions if they ask for them. I know it’s scary for you but guess what? It’s scarier for them. Evacuating and not evacuating are equally chaotic and nerve-racking. You beating them over the head over the decision they made is not helpful.
Don’t obsessively ask “What are you going to do?”
WE DON’T KNOW! Remember when you watched that Hurricanes 101 video and learned that the tracks of hurricanes can change from day to day? Yeah? Well then…no need to ask what peoples’ game plan is. They will likely change from day to day, also. It kinda sucks. Worse than that? People constantly asking what you’re going to do. You care. Thank you but please…give us some time.
Don’t tell people how to feel
Think your Mom is overreacting because a Cat 1 hurricane is heading her way? Support her anyway. Not sure why your Uncle seems so chill even though a Cat 5 hurricane is down the street from his house? Support him anyway even though you don’t get it. Let people be in THEIR feelings. Don’t try to scare them or question why they aren’t panicking. As with everything, we all deal with thangs differently.
Don’t keep sending updates
We know how to be informed. We get the text messages and constant alerts. We know you care but blowing up our phones telling us the hurricane went from a Cat 3 to a Cat 4 is annoying. Only do this if you have a loved one who you think needs to be regularly updated.
Don’t open up your home unless you can comfortably accommodate
Do I sound like a terrible person? I don’t even care but guess what? So many people offer their homes up but don’t even have a way to accommodate folx. That’s so sweet of you but…where are we going to sleep? How are we going to get there? I live in Florida and you live in California…does this seem like a reasonable option when a hurricane is 2 days away? You have a 1-bedroom apartment and your oldest brother is currently sleeping on your couch but you invite my family of 4 over? Yeah no. Your heart is there and I’m grateful but it probably isn’t the best situation for everyone.
ETAs from other folx:
Don’t tell horror stories of what happened during Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, etc. Telling folx what happened back in the day only drives anxiety up.
Don’t publicly ask people what their evacuation plans are. Not everyone is comfortable letting the world know they are leaving their homes.
Natural disasters are terrifying and devastating. They’re expensive (before, during and especially after) and emotionally-draining for those going through it and those who are worried about those going through it. Still. Practice empathy. Be supportive without being demanding. ASK what your loved ones need. We can get through this together.
But let’s stop it with the pushy behavior, okay, family? Please do better.
Did I leave anything out? Please let me know and share this post with anyone you think needs to do better in the support department.