National Preparedness Month (September 2017)


In support of National Preparedness Monthsponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Securityto honor its Ready Campaign, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is offering disaster preparedness resources to enhance our nation's capacity to prepare for and respond to terrorism, mass violence, and disasters. This year's theme is "Disasters Don't Plan Ahead, You Can. Don't Wait. Communicate."

Disasters and terrorism can have devastating physical and psychological effects on children and families. Children and adolescents are at risk for stress reactions including sleep and eating disturbances, irritability, anger, headaches, and stomachaches. They may also have behavior problems at school, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, avoid friends, or engage in dangerous or risky behaviors.

To significantly improve the emotional well-being of children and families after a disaster, many strategies can be put in place beforehand. "Being prepared for terrorism and disasters reduces anxiety, and promotes confidence and resilience in children and families."

The following materials are designed to help children, families, school personnel, and communities become more educated and prepared in the event of a disaster.

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Featured NCTSN Resources

Building Community Resilience for Children and Families (2007) (PDF)
This guide provides information for mental health and other professionals about building community resilience, and helping communities improve their capacity to respond effectively to disasters and acts of terrorism. It includes a wealth of information, suggestions, and resources for businesses, cultural and faith-based groups and organizations, and first responders. It also offers related information on health care, media, mental health, public health, and school and personal childcare settings.

Coping in Hard Times—Fact Sheet Series
This series discusses challenging financial circumstances and economic hardships that can negatively affect youth, families, and communities. It offers practical ways to address the challenges during economic hardships by improving a sense of safety, calming, self- and community efficacy, connectedness, and hope.


Help Kids Cope (HKC)
This free mobile app is designed to assist parents in talking to their children about what to do Before, During, and After ten natural disaster/extreme weather events. The app includes suggestions of what to say "in the moment" to support their children of all ages, checklists to organize a family's preparedness, tips to care for themselves as they care for their families, and additional resources to address their immediate and long-term needs. Available on the Apple Store and Google Play. The app was developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and Ozark Center with funding by the Missouri Foundation for Health. 
Psychological First Aid (PFA)
PFA is an evidence-informed modular approach for helping survivors of disasters and other emergencies. It was designed to reduce the initial distress caused by disasters, and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping skills. There are several resources on PFA including:

  • Psychological First Aid Field Operations Guide (2nd Edition)
    The PFA guide provides extensive detail on each of the eight PFA core actions and includes survivor handouts. Foreign language versions (Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Norwegian) of the guide are available as well as adaptations for community religious professionals, the Medical Reserve Corps, and schools.
  • Psychological First Aid for Schools® (PFA-S)
    PFA-S is an evidence-informed intervention model to assist students, families, school personnel, and school partners in the immediate aftermath of an emergency. PFA-S is designed to reduce the initial distress caused by emergencies and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. PFA-S assumes that students and staff members may experience a broad range of early reactions (e.g., physical, cognitive, psychological, behavioral, spiritual) following an emergency. Some of these reactions can cause distress that interferes with adaptive coping, but support from informed, compassionate, and caring professionals can help students and staff members recover from these reactions. PFA-S has the potential to mitigate the development of severe mental health problems or long-term difficulties in recovery by identifying individuals who may need additional services and linking them to such services as needed.
  • PFA Mobile® App
    This free downloadable app is designed to assist responders who provide psychological first aid (PFA) as part of an organized response effort to adults, families, and children. The app provides responders with:
    • Summaries of PFA fundamentals
    • PFA interventions matched to specific concerns and needs of survivors
    • Mentor tips for applying PFA in the field
    • A self-assessment tool for determining readiness to conduct PFA
    • A survivors' needs form for simplified data collection and easy referral

The app is available on iTunes and Google Play, and will work on any mobile Apple device (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) and Android devices.

The PFA Mobile App is a joint project  by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD in partnership with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Department of Defense's National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2), and the VA’s Patient Care Services.

  • PFA Online
    This is a free six-hour interactive course in NCTSN's Learning Center for Child and Adolescent Trauma. Participants can play the role of a provider in a postdisaster scenario. Appropriate for both those new to disaster response and seasoned professionals. Features activities, video demonstrations, and tips from trauma experts and survivors. This project was funded by the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), the National Center for PTSD, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Responding to Crisis in the Aftermath of Disasters
This collection of educational vignettes includes sixteen vignettes demonstrating intervention strategies with children and adults in the aftermath of a terrorist or disaster event. Vignettes were produced in partnership with the National Center for PTSD.

Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR)
SPR is an evidence-informed modular intervention that aims to help survivors gain skills to manage distress and cope with post-disaster stress and adversity. SPR is appropriate to use in the Recovery Phase by mental health professionals and other disaster recovery workers. It can be delivered in a variety of settings (e.g., schools, clinics, hospitals, assisted living facilities, houses of worship, community centers, libraries, and homes). SPR has also been used to build skills in children and families prior to a disaster. SPR is not formal mental health treatment, but a secondary prevention model that utilizes skills-building components that have been found helpful in a variety of post-trauma situations. Research suggests that a skills-building approach is more effective than supportive counseling. SPR is appropriate for developmental levels across the lifespan, and is culturally informed. Skills can be taught individually, with families, and in groups.


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For Educators

American Red Cross

  • American Red Cross has preparedness educational resources for schools, staff, and students.  These resources include free emergency and first aid mobile apps, checklists for household preparedness, and preparedness activities for children.  For example, The American Red Cross has a Pillowcase Project sponsored by Disney to teach children in grades 3-5 about personal and family preparedness, potential local emergencies, and ways to cope. After an hour long presentation, children build their own emergency kits with pillowcases.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN)

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center
This website provides information and resources about emergency management to help schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education learn more about developing, implementing, and evaluating school emergency operation plans.


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For Families

American Red Cross

  • Monster Guard
    The first mobile app by the American Red Cross that's designed specifically for kids. Follow Maya, Chad, Olivia and all the monsters as they teach kids (aged 7-11) how to prepare for real-life emergencies-at home plus other environments-in a fun and engaging game. Sponsored by Disney, this free app is available to download on iOS and Android mobile and tablet devices.

A website designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. Advises individuals to: (1) create an emergency supply kit, (2) make a family emergency plan, and (3) become informed about the types of emergencies that could occur and appropriate ways to respond. Offers suggestions, materials, and resources for each. Ready Kids is to help kids, parents, and educators to increase children's preparedness skills.

  • Flat Stanley and Flat Stella
    Flat Stanley and Flat Stella are characters that have been chosen as “ambassadors” in a campaign to promote disaster preparedness among children. Children and their parents can create their own FEMA Flat Stanley or Flat Stella, and then share with other children (individually or in classroom settings) the steps they have taken to support preparedness throughout their homes, schools, and communities.
  • Youth Preparedness
    This website includes resources for youth to become leaders in preparedness efforts and identifies strategies for youth to be active participants in family preparedness.


Sesame Street


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For Policy Makers

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
The FEMA website provide resources, practical information, disaster maps, applications for assistance, links to related news & media archives, and much more. "FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards."

National Commission on Children and Disasters
This website provides findings, recommendations, and resources on: mental health, child physical health, and trauma, emergency medical services and pediatric transport, disaster case management, child care and early education, elementary and secondary education, child welfare and juvenile justice, sheltering, housing, evacuation and reunification, state and local government, and relevant activities in emergency management.

Health & Human Services (HHS)


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For Service Providers/Agencies

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Emergency Preparedness and Response page provides information on myriad emergencies and disasters, with preparedness, response, and planning advice and resources for individuals, businesses, healthcare facilities, states, local communities, and the nation; along with legal information and more.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

  • Let's Get Ready
    This website provides tools and resources on emergency assistance. It encourages individuals and organizations to join the National Preparedness Month activities, and pledge their support to help prepare their families, businesses, and communities for emergencies of all kinds.
  • EMSC Innovation & Improvement Center
    The Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) Pediatric Readiness Project is a multi-phase quality improvement initiative to ensure that all U.S. emergency departments have the essential guidelines and resources in place to provide effective emergency care to children

Disaster Information Management Research Center 

  •  Health Resources in Children in Disasters and Emergencies
    A collection of resources related to medical and public health issues of children in disasters and emergencies. The resources are national/international in scope and they target health providers as well as emergency and community planners who work with or behalf of children. It was developed through a collaborative effort between the National Library of Medicine DIMRC, the Emergency Services for Children National Resource Center, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response Division of At-Risk Individuals, Behavioral Health and Community Resilience.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

  • Disaster Technical Assistance Center (DTAC)
    "Supports SAMHSA's efforts to prepare States, Territories, Tribes and local entities to deliver effective mental health and substance abuse (behavioral health) response to disaster." Includes information and resources on disaster behavioral response planning, assistance, training, experts, tip sheets, publications, and much more.
  • SAMHSA Behavioral Health Disaster Responses App
    This app is a free download app designed to provide behavioral health responders with the resources they need to provide support to disaster survivors. Resources are pre-downloaded to the user’s mobile phone to ensure access in the event of limited Internet connectivity in the field. Resources include tip sheets and the ability to search and map behavioral service providers in the impacted areas. The app is available on iTunes and Google Play. 


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