Disaster Assistance

For 24/7 disaster crisis counseling, call Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985.

The Iowa Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team (DBHRT) is a trained team of volunteers who will respond to the mental health needs of Iowa residents following disasters and critical incidents.  The team provides services for community providers based on local area needs and may be delivered at a disaster site in an affected community or statewide.  Services may include:
  • Behavioral health needs assessment following a disaster
  • Psychological First Aid
  • Brief crisis counseling and intervention
  • Community outreach
  • Public information and education
  • Critical incident stress debriefing
  • Behavioral health consultation for providers, communities and individuals
  • Screening and referral for those affected by a disaster or critical event

Local authorities may request DBHRT assistance in order to meet the behavioral health needs of communities in crisis by contacting the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Duty Officer.  The duty officer is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 515-725-3231.  For more information go to http://www.iowadbhrt.org/.

Six regional Disaster Behavioral Health Response teams can be deployed anywhere in Iowa.  Please click here for more information: http://www.iowadbhrt.org/If you would like information on the Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team, please contact:

Karen Hyatt, Emergency Mental Health Specialist
Iowa Department of Human Services
Division of Mental Health and Disability Services
Bureau of Community Services & Planning
1305 E. Walnut Street, 5th Floor SE
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0114
Phone: 515-281-3128
Fax: 515-564-4166
Email: khyatt@dhs.state.ia.us


Children, Teens, Parents and Educators

This website is run by the National Association of School Psychologists and provides recommendations for parents and school personnel on helping children cope with a crisis, primarily by reestablishing a sense of safety and security. The website provides suggestions for what adults, parents, and schools can do following a crisis event. 

The goal of this 60-minute podcast is to assist disaster behavioral health responders in providing culturally aware and appropriate disaster behavioral health services for children, youth, and families impacted by natural and human-caused disasters. Featured speakers include April Naturale, Ph.D., of SAMHSA DTAC and Russell T. Jones, Ph.D., of Virginia Tech University. 

The American Red Cross offers suggestions for parents and other caretakers to consider on things they can do and say to help children (of all ages) recover from a disaster. Tips for family disaster preparedness are also included.

The authors of this fact sheet explain how media coverage of a traumatic event may affect children and provide strategies to help parents address these effects.

The mission of NASP is to empower school psychologists by advancing effective practices to improve students learning, behavior, and mental health. NASPs School Safety and Crisis Resources webpage provides resources to promote the ability of children and youth to cope with traumatic or unsettling events. 

The mission of NCTSN is to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for traumatized children and their families and caregivers. They host a Tornadoes page on their site that provides helpful resources for parents and caregivers to use before, during, and after a tornado.

This table lists possible reactions, suggested responses, and examples of things parents can do and say to children affected by a disaster.

This table lists possible reactions, how to understand them, and suggestions that can help parents of infants and toddlers cope with their emotions after a disaster.

This table lists possible reactions, suggested responses, and examples of things parents can do and say to preschool-age children affected by a disaster.

This table lists possible reactions, suggested responses, and examples of things parents can do and say to school-age children after a disaster.

This page, hosted by the National Center for Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) includes information about the emotional impact that tornadoes can have on children and families. Included under the Recovery tab are links to a series of fact sheets and tips for parents and other caregivers on how to help children and teens cope with emotional reactions after a tornado.

This packet contains information on helping children cope after a stressful event, highlighting common reactions and coping techniques.

This packet contains information on helping children cope after a stressful event, highlighting common reactions and coping techniques. 

This selection of factsheets from NCTSN explains common post-tornado reactions experienced by children and teens, and provides guidelines for helping them recover from the traumatic effects of a tornado.

The author discusses the cognitive response to danger as it relates to traumatic experiences or traumatic stress throughout all developmental stages, particularly in children. The document includes an overview of post-traumatic stress responses and their severity and duration, as well as post-traumatic stress after chronic or repeated trauma.

The anxiety and fear followed by a disaster can be especially troubling for surviving children. This article has tips for parents to help alleviate emotional effects of trauma and how to know when it is time to get professional help. 

Floods bring special stress to children. These suggestions are for helping children through this stress.

Disasters or traumatic events affect children as much as adults. This article talks about how to help your child understand and cope with the experience.

How parents or other adults react to a child following any traumatic event can help children recover more quickly and more completely. This one-pager contains six primary action items to help you in this task.

This 2-page article discusses the significant emotional and physical changes that children experience as a result of a disaster.

This article provides information on how children of different age groups react to disaster and helpful tips on how to help them cope.

This one-page document provides tips on how teens can deal with their feelings post disaster.

Disaster, Man-made and Natural

Look After Your Mental Health During Coronavirus

Many people are worried about Coronavirus, or COVID-19. If you feel like this, you need to look after your mental health. Download this page as a PDF.

This fact sheet from the American Red Cross explains normal reactions to a disaster, what a survivor can do to cope with these emotions, and where to seek additional help if needed.

The CDC's mission is to collaborate to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health. The CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response website provides information on a host of hazards, including tornadoes.

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress is dedicated to advancing trauma-informed knowledge, leadership, and methodologies. The center's work addresses a wide scope of trauma exposure from the consequences of combat, operations other than war, terrorism, natural and human-caused disasters, and public health threats.

Developed by the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), this publication provides information regarding expected reactions to out-of-the ordinary situations. It includes descriptions of common traumatic stress reactions, problematic stress responses, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder.

This section of the Hurricane Preparedness website shares information about tornadoes produced by hurricanes and tips for staying safe at work, at home, on the road, or on the water.

This SAMHSA Disaster Behavioral Health Information Series (DBHIS) installment focuses on the disaster behavioral health impact of tornadoes. The collection includes direct links to tornado-specific materials and resources for special populations (e.g., children, older adults, persons with disabilities) and first responders. It also includes a section with helpful links to organizations, agencies, and other resources that address disaster preparedness and response after a tornado.

This web page from the American Psychological Association offers information for the general public on managing traumatic stress after a tornado.

This page includes safety information, tornado facts, and helpful tips on what to do before, during, and after a tornado.

This fact sheet from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health highlights the physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that first responders may experience after a disaster. The Institute provides tips and links to additional resources that can help responders take care of their own emotional health.

This booklet from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies highlights the relationship between substance use and trauma.

It is common for people who have experienced traumatic situations to have very strong emotional reactions.  Understanding normal responses to these abnormal events can aid you in coping effectively with your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and help you along the path to recovery. This article will help you recognize the signs of stress, how to relieve stress and know when to get help.

This is a comprehensive 8-page Self-Help Guide. It may give you guidance to relieve some disaster-related symptoms and share some simple and safe things you can do to help yourself heal from the effects of trauma.

The different phases of disaster recovery are distinct with some phases emerging long after the actual disaster.  This one-pager helps to explain these common phases.

Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. This article gives tips on how to prepare for a flood and advice on what to do if your home is damaged.

This one-pager provides tips for dealing with the range of emotions you may experience as a flood survivor.


This website provides recommendations for reducing or eliminating common barriers to access that many people with disabilities experience after disasters.

This website was developed by the Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the American Association of Retired People, the American Red Cross, and the National Organization on Disability. It provides recommendations for people with disabilities to consider when creating a disaster supply kit.

The authors of this 28-page booklet offer tips disaster and other first responders can use during emergencies and routine encounters to accommodate and communicate with people with disabilities. The booklet is divided into sections that focus on the following populations: older adults, people with service animals, mobility impairments, autism, multiple chemical sensitivities, or cognitive disabilities; and people who are hearing or visually impaired.

Older Adults

This guide from the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation can help older adults, their family members, and their caregivers prepare for and respond to disasters. The webpage describes factors that contribute to vulnerability, lists actions that can be taken before and after a disaster strikes, and provides a list of resources for additional support.

This booklet contains tool for mental health professionals, emergency response workers, and caregivers to use when providing disaster mental health and recovery support to older adults. The authors explore the nature of disasters and older adults' reactions to them.

This one-page fact sheet lists common reactions older adults may have after a disaster and warning signs that someone may need extra help, as well as strategies to help older adults with their special needs.

This document talks about understanding some of the common reactions in older adults, and ways we can better offer support and assistance where appropriate to help them recover from a catastrophic event.

Home Repairs

This 56-page book gives detailed, step-by-step advice you can use to clean up, rebuild, and get help after a flood.

This brochure provides some tips on residential cleanup and gives an overview of those materials that can be salvaged and those that cannot and how to make some decisions.

Response Personnel

The institutes website offers links to podcasts, handouts, self-care assessments, and online trainings for psychological and spiritual support for community caregivers.

The SAMHSA Disaster App allows disaster behavioral health responders to navigate resources related to pre-deployment preparation, on-the-ground assistance, and post-deployment resources. Users can also share resources from the app via text message or email, and quickly identify local behavioral health services.

In this 60-minute SAMHSA DTAC podcast, disaster behavioral health responders can learn about best practices and tools that could enable them and their supervisors to identify and effectively manage stress and secondary traumatic stress. 

This CDC audio podcast is part of a series that examines sources of stress and what individuals, team leaders, and agency management can do to manage the stress. Tips for reducing stress and lessening its negative impacts are also provided by CDC.

CDCs Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry online course is designed to help all types of first responders be prepared for 21st century disaster events.

This CDC fact sheet outlines symptoms of traumatic incident stress and lists activities emergency response workers can do on site and at home to cope with disaster response.

This SAMHSA DTAC podcast can help disaster behavioral health professionals learn about the positive and negative effects of helping disaster survivors. 

This guide for emergency and disaster response workers provides information on ways to help manage their stress.

Crisis response workers and managers are repeatedly exposed to extraordinarily stressful events. This places them at higher-than-normal risk for developing stress reactions. This 40-page guide to managing stress provides some basic tools that can inspire and spread optimism and point the way to effective stress management.