On September 14, 2018, Derna, a coastal city in Libya, was hit by a disastrous flood and dam failure that caused significant loss of life and displacement of thousands of residents. Those who survived the initial threat faced risks of hypothermia (caused by being soaked in water for hours), dehydration, and mental stress due to the traumatic experience.
The disaster showed how vulnerable we all can be, and how important it is to be prepared. This blog post, we will briefly discuss post-disaster hypothermia, dehydration, and mental health.
Being wet for an extended period after a flood can cause hypothermia, a medical emergency that can lead to death. To survive hypothermia, removing wet clothes and drying them up quickly is essential, keeping the body warm with blankets, jackets, or fire. It is also crucial to keep your head, hands, and feet covered and avoid overheating or sweating. Proper hydration (warm liquids preferred) and consumption of high-calorie food can also help.
Post flooding, the absence of clean and safe drinking water can lead to dehydration. Therefore, all consumed water should be either bottled or treated. The best treatment option is to boil water for one minute at elevations under 6500 feet and three minutes at higher elevations. Another option is a commercial filtration device and a disinfectant like iodine or chlorine. A filtration device alone will not cover viruses and, depending on the filter, may not cover some bacteria. Iodine and chlorine alone will not protect against Cryptosporidium and provide only marginal coverage for Giardia.
Seeking Medical Help
In case of medical emergencies such as injuries, infections, or illnesses, it is recommended to seek medical help. Initially, help will come from local medical volunteers who often set up treatment sites where the need is greatest. Other options include established hospitals and clinics, but they are not guaranteed to be adequately staffed. Information on treatment sites is often discovered through social media posts. Eventually, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and aid agencies that can provide medical assistance will arrive. For the survivor, a bug-out bag with a medical kit should be part of their preparedness.
Maintaining Mental Health
Surviving any disaster can be a traumatic experience that can affect one's mental health. Paying attention to your mental health and taking care of yourself is essential. Post-event, talk to friends and family about the experience, seek support from mental health professionals, and practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness. It is also important to practice adequate sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition.
The flood and dam failure in Derna, Libya, was a tragic event that showed the importance of post-disaster preparedness (which occurs before any disaster arrives).
Surviving hypothermia, dehydration, and mental stress take precedence in a disaster setting. We hope these tips will push you to seek more knowledge on post-disaster survival.