Life after Irma – Examining the Role of Social Workers in Disaster Situations

Social workers play a key role in providing all types of assistance after an emergency or disaster, barring actual search and rescue, and their role has been greatly enhanced after the recent slew of hurricanes the Florida has endured lately. Let’s examine the role of social workers in disaster situations and their role in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Connections to Social Services

Families that lost their homes due to flooding or wind damage may spend the night in the shelter, but that doesn’t provide longer-term housing if they do not have money for a hotel (assuming there are hotels open) or family to stay with. There are too many cases where a family that lost its home in a disaster is left in a church basement or homeless shelter until they can arrange repairs for their home or find another place to live. Social workers can help those displaced find places to live in the interim, especially those that overburdened charities cannot reach.

Social workers are especially critical when someone relocates to a new area permanently after a disaster. For example, thousands of New Orleans residents evacuated after Hurricane Katrina permanently settled in Houston, since whole neighborhoods were wiped out. Social workers in Houston aided these internal refugees in enrolling their children in Houston schools and signing up for programs in Texas, though their identification documents were often left behind during the evacuation, and advised them on how to start again.

Support Accessing Federal and State Resources

Social workers sometimes provide assistance for those in the aftermath of a disaster so they can connect with state and federal resources. Someone who ran a small business out of their home may be left both homeless and unemployed by a hurricane like Irma. Social workers can help them figure out how to file for unemployment, apply for reimbursement for repair costs under the flood insurance program, and assist with signing up for SNAP or WIC until they are back on their feet. They can help someone on Medicaid find a new primary care physician or a displaced nursing home resident find another facility.

Online MSW programs prepare students to assist the vulnerable in times of need while providing counsel and directing those needing assistance towards the proper resources.

The Personal Aftermath

Social workers truly change the world one person at a time when helping them deal with the personal aftermath of a hurricane like Irma. If you’ve earned an online masters of social work from Rutgers Online or another school, the odds are high you are either qualified as a counselor or frequently deal with those who need such services.

They may provide counseling services directly for those suffering PTSD due to injuries or emotional trauma caused by the hurricane. They often connect clients with counselors of their own background or professionals most qualified to deal with a client, such as a pediatric psychologist to aid a child particularly afflicted.

Social workers are essential to helping people in the days and weeks after a disaster.

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