After a Disaster

Get answers to common questions after a disaster has occurred.

Donate Blood

Donating blood is a simple way to help save a life. If you're a first time donor, let the organization know when you make your appointment and ask: 

  • Is there is something you need to do ahead of time to prepare? 
  • What are some of the potential adverse reactions to the procedure? 

The government monitors blood and blood products to make sure blood is handled properly and that you're safe as a donor or as a transfusion recipient. Learn more about blood monitoring for safety.

Where You Can Donate

The American Red Cross and the United Blood Services are nationwide organizations that manage blood donations. They are not part of the federal government.

The Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) is the official blood program for the U.S. military. It is part of the federal government. Most blood products are for ill or injured service members, veterans and military families worldwide.

Register to Donate

  • Call the American Red Cross blood donation hotline at 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit their website for local blood drives and Red Cross regions.
  • Visit the United Blood Services website for local blood drives and donor centers. 
  • Civilians can donate blood at an ASBP blood donor center on a military installation only. Restrictions apply on who can donate. See the ASBP website for a list of military donor centers.

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Find Family After a Disaster

If a family member—child or adult—is missing, first call your local law enforcement agency for help. You can also check the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, which provides a variety of resources, including the ability to print missing persons posters and receive free biometric collection and testing assistance.

In addition, if your child is missing, or you are caring for a lost child, you can call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). NCMEC maintains the Unaccompanied Minors Registry. 

To register information about your own status and well-being—as well as search for a missing child or adult—visit:

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Find Shelter or Rental Housing after a Disaster

If you need immediate shelter because of a natural disaster or emergency, visit DisasterAssistance.gov to find a safe place to go.

You also may search for open shelters near you by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362). Example: SHELTER 01234. (Standard text message rates apply.)

Learn more about short term shelters.

If you are looking for rental housing due to a disaster, the FEMA Housing Portal can help you find rental housing in your area.

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Gas Price Gouging

After an emergency, such as a hurricane or tornado, gas stations may raise gas prices to levels that are very high, unreasonable, and unfair. This is called price gouging and it is illegal. If you believe that you are a victim of price gouging, contact your state attorney general.

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Help Survivors of a Natural Disaster

After a disaster, many generous people want to volunteer their services or donate money or goods. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides information and tips on volunteering and donating responsibly after a natural disaster.  

The following groups and organizations also provide information on helping survivors of natural disasters:

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Radiation Exposure and Emergencies

Radioactive contamination and radiation exposure can occur if radioactive materials are released into the environment as the result of an accident, an event in nature, or an act of terrorism. Such a release could expose people and contaminate their surroundings and personal property.

Radiation Emergencies call the National Response Center's hotline at 1-800-424-8802 to report radiation emergencies.

For more information, visit the following links:

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How to Replace Your Lost or Destroyed Vital Documents

Replacing all vital documents that were lost or destroyed in a flood, fire, or other disaster can be overwhelming. Although the process varies state to state, these general steps can help you get started.

  1. Replace your birth certificate. Find the vital records office in the state where you were born. Check to find out if you can obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate without any identification and follow the instructions. A few states don’t require a government-issued photo ID, or accept other solutions like a sworn statement of your identity. Some states allow your mother or father whose name is on the birth certificate to submit a notarized letter with a copy of their photo ID. If you do need your own government-issued photo ID to get a copy of your birth certificate, start with step 2.

  2. Replace your driver’s license. Get this first if you cannot get your birth certificate. This task varies state to state. In some states, you can do it online.

  3. Replace your marriage certificate. You’ll need a certified copy as proof if you changed your name when you got married. Contact the vital records office in the state where you were married.

  4. Replace your Social Security card. You will need a government-issued photo ID. Getting a replacement card is free.

  5. Replace your passport. Report your lost or destroyed passport to the Department of State. To apply for a new passport, you’ll need to fill out a form DS-11 and go to a passport acceptance facility or agency. You’ll need your birth certificate or a certified copy, and a government-issued photo ID.

  6. Replace other important documents. Your state or local election office can tell you how to replace your voter registration card. Contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to find out how to replace naturalization or citizenship documents. Learn how to replace other documents including Medicare and Medicaid cards and military and federal employee IDs.

Government agencies usually mail replacement vital documents. But if your home was destroyed in a disaster, you might not be able to get your mail. Contact your local post office and ask if you can pick up your mail there or request to have your mail forwarded to a temporary location.

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Return Home After a Natural Disaster

Returning home can be both physically and mentally challenging. Above all, use caution. You may be anxious to see your property, but wait until local officials have declared that the area is safe.

Natural disasters can cause damage to records and heirloom treasures such as family papers, books, photographs, and other media. Find guidelines for saving family treasures and what to do with wet documents. 

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Last Updated: May 22, 2017

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