SAMHSA Resources for Specific Populations During Disaster

In response to the winter storm events that have affected the Northeast, SAMHSA has distributed a robust catalog of resources detailing concerns and available tools for managing specific populations in response disaster. These populations include behavioral and mental health concerns, children and caregivers, older adults, individuals with disabilities, and disaster responders.

(Excerpted from an email to State Behavioral Health Coordinators from Erik Hierholzer, Captain, U.S. Public Health Service, Lead Public Health Advisor, Emergency Mental Health and Traumatic Stress Services Branch Center for Mental Health Services)

Disaster Response and Recovery Information

  • SAMHSA behavioral health disaster appThe SAMHSA Disaster App allows disaster behavioral health responders to navigate resources related to pre-deployment preparation, on-the-ground assistance, and post-deployment resources. Users can also share resources from the app via text message or email, and quickly identify local behavioral health services.
  • How to cope with sheltering inplace – This SAMHSA tip sheet provides strategies for coping with sheltering in place. Explains reactions people often feel when sheltering in place; suggests ways to care for oneself and the family, such as making a plan and staying connected; and provides additional helpful resources.


  • Tips for survivors of a disaster or other traumatic event: Managing stress This SAMHSA tip sheet gives stress prevention and management tips for dealing with the effects of trauma, mass violence, or terrorism. Lists tips to relieve stress, describes how to know when to seek professional help, and provides accompanying resources.

(Spanish Version)

  • Be Red Cross ready: Taking care of your emotional health after a disasterThis fact sheet from the American Red Cross explains normal reactions to a disaster, what a survivor can do to cope with these emotions, and where to seek additional help if needed.
  • Coping with shelter-in-place emergencies –The American Red Cross discusses how to cope emotionally with this type of emergency by understanding it and identifying and addressing typical reactions.


  • Manage flood-related distress by building resilience– This tip sheet provides simple and effective ways to strengthen resilience and thereby manage flood-related stress.


Resources for Teachers, Families, and Caregivers to Help Children and Youth

  • Children and youth—SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) installmentThis SAMHSA DTAC DBHIS installment focuses on the reactions and mental health needs of children and youth after a disaster and contains resources from both the child trauma and disaster behavioral health fields. The collection includes an annotated bibliography and a section with helpful links to organizations, agencies, and other resources that address disaster preparedness and response issues surrounding children and youth.
  • Helping children after a natural disaster- This information sheet provides parents and teachers a guide to help children recover from after a natural disaster.





Resources Focused on Older Adults

  • Psychosocial issues for older adults in disastersThis booklet contains tools for mental health professionals, emergency response workers, and caregivers to use when providing disaster mental health and recovery support to older adults.  The authors explore the nature of disasters and older adults' reactions to them.
  • What you need to know about helping the elderly recover from the emotional aftermath of a disasterThis one-page fact sheet lists common reactions older adults may have after a disaster and warning signs that someone may need extra help, as well as strategies to help older adults with their special needs.


Resources Focused on People with Disabilities


  • Functional needs of people with disabilities: A guide for emergency managers, planners and responders - This guide includes information for emergency planners, managers, and first responders to address the needs of individuals with disabilities, from disaster preparedness and planning to the rescue and recovery phases. It highlights lessons learned from previous major disasters and provides additional tools and resources for functional needs emergency planning.
  • Tips for first responders — The authors of this 28-page booklet offer tips disaster and other first responders can use during emergencies and routine encounters to accommodate and communicate with people with disabilities.  The booklet is divided into sections that focus on the following populations: older adults, people with service animals, mobility impairments, autism, multiple chemical sensitivities, or cognitive disabilities; and people who are hearing or visually impaired.



Resources Focused on Substance Abuse Concerns

  • Substance Use Disorders and Disasters — This SAMHSA DTAC DBHIS installment provides resources on the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders that can be used to help plan for, respond to, and recover from disasters. The installment includes tip sheets, guides, and other downloadable resources that can be used to help people with substance use disorders to recover from disaster events and find treatment.

  • After a disaster: Self-care tips for dealing with stress- This SAMHSA fact sheet provides information for disaster survivors dealing with stress and helps mitigate the misuse of alcohol and other substances. It includes the signs and symptoms of stress, as well as ways to ease stress.


  • Disaster events and services for persons with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders -This tip sheet discusses the needs of people with co-occurring mental illness and substance use issues after a disaster. It also covers topics for people who interact and work with these populations need to know. Those addressed include families and other concerned nonprofessionals, health care providers, and human service and other community providers.


  • Alcohol, Medication, and Drug Use after Disaster-This handout by NCTSN provides information that disaster survivors can use to avoid increased use of alcohol and misuse of prescription medications and other drugs after a disaster. It also provides tips for survivors to avoid relapse post disaster.


Disaster Response Personnel

  • Preventing and Managing Stress: Tips for First Responders — This SAMHSA tip sheet helps disaster response workers prevent and manage stress. It includes strategies to help responders prepare for their assignment, use stress-reducing precautions during the assignment, and manage stress in the recovery phase of the assignment.

(Spanish Version)


  • Aguide to managing stress in crisis response professionsThis SAMHSA guide provides first responders with information on signs and symptoms of stress and offers simple, practical techniques for minimizing stress responses prior to and during disaster response.
  • Self-care for disaster behavioral health respondersIn this SAMHSA DTAC podcast, disaster behavioral health responders can learn about best practices and tools that could enable them and their supervisors to identify and effectively manage stress and secondary traumatic stress.


  • Understanding compassion fatigue and compassion satisfaction: Tips for disaster respondersThis SAMHSA DTAC podcast can help disaster behavioral health professionals learn about the positive and negative effects of helping disaster survivors.
  • Stress management for emergency responders: What responders can doThis CDC audio podcast is part of a series that examines sources of stress and what individuals, team leaders, and agency management can do to manage the stress. Tips for reducing stress and lessening its negative impacts are also provided by CDC.

  • Psychological First Aid: How you can support well-being in disaster victims -This fact sheet by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network explains how disaster response workers can use psychological first aid to help people in distress after a disaster.


Traumatic Stress and Retraumatization Resources

  • Post-disaster retraumatization: Risk and protective factors – This SAMHSA DTAC webcast informs disaster behavioral health professionals about the concepts and signs of retraumatization and associated risk and protective factors, and highlights promising treatment strategies and tips for avoiding retraumatization.

Links to Organizations and Agencies


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Winter Weather
    The CDC’s mission is to increase the health security of the United States.  The CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response website provides information on a host of hazards, including wildfires.
  • Winter Storms and Extreme Cold
    This federal website offers information on preparing, responding, and staying safe after a winter storm or extremely cold conditions.


  • Winter Storms and Extreme Cold(Kids)
    This federal website offers information geared toward kids on preparing, responding, and staying safe after a winter storm or extremely cold conditions.


This federal website offers information on preparing, responding, and staying safe after a flood.


This federal website offers information geared toward kids on preparing, responding, and staying safe after a flood.

  • American Red Cross: Winter Storm Preparedness

The organization provides tips on how to properly prepare and respond to winter storms in order to remain healthy and safe.



  • Headington Institute
    The institute’s website offers links to podcasts, handouts, self-care assessments, and online trainings for psychological and spiritual support for community caregivers.

A traumatic event such as this is unexpected and often brings out strong emotions.  People can call the Disaster Distress Helpline’s toll-free number (1-800-985-5990) and receive immediate counseling.  This free, confidential, and multilingual crisis support service is also available via SMS (text TalkWithUs to 66746) to anyone experiencing psychological distress as a result of this event.  Callers and texters are connected to trained and caring professionals from crisis counseling centers in the network.  The Helpline staff provides confidential counseling, referrals, and other needed support services.


The SAMHSA Disaster App allows disaster behavioral health responders to navigate resources related to pre-deployment preparation, on-the-ground assistance, and post-deployment resources.  Users can also share resources from the app via text message or e-mail, and quickly identify local behavioral health services.

(End Excerpt)