Nobody wants to think about, let alone prepare for, having their lives upended by a natural disaster. But the more you can do to prepare, the more quickly you might be able to recover.
“Disaster recovery is an incredibly complex process,” says Kate Bulger, senior director of business development at Money Management International. “We help people with the financial recovery part.”
MMI is a nonprofit organization that helps people struggling financially after a natural disaster, providing free resources, counseling and assistance through Project Porchlight. Bulger’s work with Project Porchlight has made her very familiar with the financial struggles people experience after natural disasters — which is why she was able to help us create this financial guide to disaster preparedness and recovery.
What to expect after a natural disaster
If your community were to experience a natural disaster, you might expect damaged property and downed power lines. But you might not expect to find yourself struggling to find childcare, covering expenses while requesting reimbursements and dealing with emotional trauma.
Here are three ways a natural disaster might affect your life.
“Part of what makes disaster so tremendously difficult to recover from is that you don’t just lose your home,” says Bulger. “Schools are out, so suddenly people have their kids all the time. People’s jobs are often impacted. Transportation is impacted. You may be required to temporarily relocate.”
All of these disruptions add up, and can make natural disasters not only more expensive but also more emotionally costly. “You lose the things within your community that you use to ballast and support your life,” says Bulger.
In addition to the cost of rebuilding after disaster, you’ll need to be prepared for hidden expenses associated with the day-to-day cost of living. If you no longer have access to a kitchen, for example, you may need to purchase more prepared food. You may also find yourself paying extra for hotel rooms, rental cars or laundromats.
All of these costs add up, and not all are covered by insurance. Even with sufficient insurance coverage, you’ll likely need to pay your own expenses before filing a claim for reimbursement. “With disasters people often need to pay out-of-pocket before getting reimbursed,” says Bulger. “And those reimbursements can take a long time.”
Physical and emotional trauma
It’s always a good idea to prioritize your own mental health care — especially when you’re dealing with the physical, financial and emotional burdens associated with a natural disaster. “Disasters are incredibly traumatic experiences,” Bulger explains. “And trauma can make it even more difficult to go through the recovery process.”