Responding to a Disaster: A Prevention Toolkit


“Don’t let one disaster lead to another” – such a simple yet powerful statement. While acknowledging a painful past, it urges the present to create a more positive future. As a society, we typically don’t grasp the impact of such a simple statement, but as a result of what began at 5:41 p.m. on May 22, 2011, it eventually became our organization’s mantra. That was when one of the deadliest EF-5 tornadoes in recorded history touched down and ripped through Joplin, Missouri (population 50,150), cutting a 7-mile path of destruction through the city. Thousands of structures were demolished, including St. John’s Regional Medical Center. As much as a third of the available housing stock was rendered uninhabitable (6,954 homes were destroyed), and an estimated 9,400 jobs were lost.  Tragically, the tornado resulted in over 3,300 injuries and 162 deaths.

But people are resilient, and life goes on in Joplin…it’s just a different life now.

The purpose of this toolkit is to provide a foundation of knowledge for preparing for, and responding to, future major disasters. We hope it will help you better understand the unique prevention needs a community faces following a disaster and how to collaborate in the community to address those needs, thus reducing the risk of substance abuse and violence-related consequences. While treatment is a critical component to recovery after a disaster, this toolkit focuses only on prevention strategies.

Tackling the myriad of substance abuse and violence issues that can occur after a disaster is indeed a challenge – issues that may seem so overwhelming that you don’t know how or where to start or feel incapable of mounting an effective campaign. Or, you may be hoping to decrease the impact of these issues if your community has experienced a disaster. In either case, you are to be commended. The first step is recognizing that all communities are at risk of experiencing these issues after a disaster.

The problems resulting from a community disaster can cross all ethnic, financial, and social barriers. A disaster can cause problems in the suburbs, small communities, large cities, and rural America—every segment of society can be affected by a disaster and its aftermath. Our world cannot prevent every disaster from occurring; floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural and man-made disasters will always occur. However, you have the power to make a difference in what happens in your community after a disaster.

Cities and leaders across the nation are making the building of safe and healthy communities a high priority. By focusing on policies and practices which include prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery, communities can become better prepared for the unique substance abuse and violence issues that arise after a disaster. Purposeful preparation and follow up will increase the number of youth and adults in your community who overcome the turmoil created by disaster, providing them an opportunity to reach their full potential in life.

This toolkit can help you prepare for a disaster as well as decrease the negative consequences caused if a disaster occurs in your community.

Below is a downloadable version of the toolkit, minus the resources. 

Responding to a Disaster: A Prevention Toolkit

If you would like to use any of the resources listed in your community, please request a copy of the Resource Disc which includes all toolkit materials and editable templates for billboards, ads, posters, radio, tv, etc.  *Please note that you will need Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign to edit these files.  **There may be a small fee to cover the cost of duplication and shipping.

Disaster Toolkit Request

*Please note there may be a small fee for duplication and shipping of the resource disc.