Preparing Communities, Families, and Individuals

Help people in your community understand the steps they can take before a disaster to reduce their risks, lessen the damage, and recover more quickly.

Page last updated: 04/04/2023


It is easier for people to recover from a disaster if they are better prepared for it. There are low-cost steps they can take to reduce their risk, lessen disaster-related damage, and equip themselves for a quicker and less stressful recovery. This preparation includes steps to preserve copies of the documents they may need after a disaster for insurance claims, aid applications, child custody disputes, or other legal issues.

Educating Communities

Legal aid organizations can help educate people in the community about these steps. Here are some tips on providing and distributing information and motivating residents to prepare:

  • In communications with the community, portray the steps as empowering, giving people some control over a disaster’s impact on their lives.
  • Provide information in ways that are easy to understand and follow, as with simple sentences, bulleted lists, and checklists.
  • Enlist trusted institutions in the community — such as faith-based organizations, schools, and local nonprofits — to distribute the materials and explain their importance. Make this part of the relationship-building that should be standard practice with organizations like these in your area.
  • Communicate early and often about the importance of preparation, through multiple organizations and methods, to get the message across.
  • Remember that timing can influence the effectiveness of the messaging. For example, audiences may be more receptive and motivated to take action in the month before the hurricane season starts. People also may seek out information when a disaster appears imminent.

It also can be helpful to understand the types of short- and long-term legal issues that commonly arise after a disaster. Residents can become more aware of the types of issues they can get help with through the legal process, and legal aid organizations and other groups can better prepare for the type of assistance people may need in the weeks and months after a disaster.

Disaster survivors’ legal assistance needs include those related to:

  • Access to public education while displaced
  • Bankruptcies
  • Civil and disability rights cases
  • Document replacement
  • Domestic violence issues, including protective orders
  • Emergency custody modifications
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) applications
  • FEMA appeals
  • Foreclosure prevention
  • Guardianships
  • Insurance claim disputes
  • Lease terminations and evictions
  • Parenting order modifications
  • Powers of attorney
  • Price gouging
  • Rent subsidy renewals
  • Repair contractor scams
  • Section 8 portability
  • Security deposits
  • Unemployment applications and appeals
  • Utility shut-offs
  • Wage theft



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