Help is Just a Call, Click or Page Away: Federal Disaster Helplines & Emergency Medical Resources

Sadly, most adults in this country can remember some disaster or tragedy that’s happened to them or one of their loved ones in recent history. Most people in my office have their own exit strategy story from 9/11.  We all remember how we tried to cope, and we feel deep sympathy for fellow citizens in similar situations.

After the horrific events at the Boston Marathon and the Texas fertilizer factory explosion this past week, many Americans are again in the unfortunate position of needing assistance in the face of life-changing events. Your Federal government is here to help both the injured citizens and the local medical personnel who rush to their aid, both during and after the disaster occurs.Complementary Federal and local disaster response

Image credit: Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department of Emergency Preparedness  

I. Federal Disaster Resources for Civilians

The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is, in the words of their own staff,

“…the first 24/7, year-round national crisis hotline exclusively dedicated to providing free, immediate and confidential crisis counseling and support to people in distress related to any natural or man-made disaster, such as the explosions in Boston. We offer this counseling 24/7/365 through phone (1-800-985-5990) and through SMS/text messaging (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) – and DDH is for those affected, family member and loved ones, as well as for responders.”


Operated by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Disaster Distress Helpline’s Web page also has a section devoted to incidents of mass violence.

If you are suffering from trauma related to the Boston Marathon attack, or similar events, reach out to the Disaster Distress Helpline. Get help, get some shelter. You’re going to wake up tomorrow, and the day after that. Make your day bearable; as Malcolm X said, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

Additional Federal disaster and emergency resources for civilians include:

GPO is helping in its own way; you can find the catalog record about the Disaster Distress Hotline in GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications or your local federal depository library.

II. Federal Disaster Resources for First Responders and Civilian Medical Personnel

With the tragic terrorist bombings in Boston,  fertilizer factory explosion in Texas, mass shootings in Sandy Hook, and other recent disasters, medical personnel, civilian first responders and mental health personnel have had to learn to deal with injuries both physical and mental that are usually only experienced on the battlefield.

With the experience gained in treating the wounded and traumatized in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and mass violence and disasters in the US, the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, and Transportation–

including FEMA, US Fire Administration, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, US Special Operations Command, and particularly the Army’s Office of the Surgeon General, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, USAMRIID- US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, and the Borden Institute

— have produced a number of outstanding resources and publications which are of extreme value to emergency medical personnel, including EMTs and surgeons, mental health counselors, fire and rescue personnel, and first responders of all kinds.

[UPDATE 4/30/2013] One great resource for first responders is the Public Health Emergency website maintained by the US Department of Health and Human Services. This is meant to be a one-stop resource for all of the federal medical resources and information for emergency response. The military version, the Department of Defense Force Health Protection and Readiness National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Page, is here.

[UPDATE 4/26/2013] One of the best resources we have seen was provided by one of our readers, a Regional Emergency Coordinator with the Department of Health and Human Services. It is a one-stop site for all emergency medical resources called the WMD, Emergency Management, and Medical Web Sites List. The author says it is updated every six months to keep it accurate, and it “is intended to provide an extremely “comprehensive list of internet sites of use for emergency planning and in particular Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and medical emergency planning.

boston-marathon-emergency-medical-responseImage: First responders at the Boston Marathon bombings, including fire and rescue and emergency medical personnel. Image credit: EMSWorld

All of these Federal publications below can help civilian emergency response and medical personnel quickly learn from these Federal and military experts on how to respond to disasters and how to treat gunshot and blast wounds (such as from bombs and IEDs), amputations, and other combat-style injuries both in the field as well as the rehabilitation and psychological factors afterwards, including post-traumatic stress.

Some of the more pertinent disaster response and treatment publications that can be found on the U.S. Government Bookstore include:

About the Authors

Part I: Excerpted from a post on the FDLP Community Blog on April 18, 2013, by guest blogger Jennifer Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP) who wrote about the Disaster Distress Helpline.

Part II: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram writes about the disaster and emergency response publications that can help civilian personnel respond to disasters with combat-style injuries. Ms. Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore ( and promoting Federal government content to the public.

14 Responses to Help is Just a Call, Click or Page Away: Federal Disaster Helplines & Emergency Medical Resources

  1. Carlo says:

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    But think of if you added some great visuals or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”!
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    this website could certainly be one of the greatest in its
    field. Wonderful blog!


  2. […] For additional information about Federal mental and medical emergency resources, read our previous blog post: “Help is Just a Call, Click or Page Away: Federal Disaster Helplines & Emergency Medical Resourc….” […]


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  6. securities arbitration attorney says:

    This is a topic which is near to my heart… Cheers!
    Where are your contact details though?


  7. armansyahardanis says:

    Traumas In U.S. – Paranoids Worldwide……..!

    Dilemma. Our goal to making this planet peace-loving more and more is so far. The gaps are also widening. Intrigue and hatred are rising in their hearts, seems no hoping to become friendly relation…!


  8. Government Mykolaiv says:

    Good article. I want to watch the Aunt’s video when I have a better connection. Another important thing to realize is the diversity of the religious Muslims in Chechnya and Dagestan. You have the radical Salafis, but also a rich tradition of Sufism, particularly of the Qadiri and Naqshbandi orders in both places. The former mufti there supported the first rebellion which briefly earned Chechnya independence. That was a struggle for their rights and to have their own state, it wasn’t for Islamic fundamentalism. The mufti changed his position during the second rebellion when foreign “mujahideen” fighters flooded the country. He was assassinated via a bomb by the extremists. A leading sheikh in Dagestan was killed a suicide bomber in August as well. A lot of Muslims in Chechnya and Dagestan are active in trying to stop the extremists. They face prejudice from the Arabs that go there to fight. This is part of what makes this situation sad. I hope my fellow Americans don’t start attacking Chechens. As the uncle [of the Boston bombers] said, Chechens really do have a peaceful culture.


    • Elizabeth Hatcher says:

      At the very bottom of this page is the statement, “Theme: Customized Contempt by Vault9. . . . Surely not.


      • GPOBookstore says:

        Glad you noticed! The blog was built before I arrived, but from the office stories, it was decided to use a WordPress theme purely for the looks. I’m not sure the irony was recognized at the time that the theme’s name was “Contempt”, nor was it realized that WordPress automatically adds the name of the theme to the footer of the blog, making it visible for all to see. Now we just chuckle and shake our heads, and let all of you kind readers in on the joke and another gentle irony of the digital age. Ah, well… 🙂


  9. Greg Banner says:

    Interesting collection of resources. One item which should/could be corrected. You have a posting to the web site but you label it as the “National Disaster Medical System” NDMS is one component but by no means the “senior” system out there. So your description and label are incorrect. Please contact me if you need more information.


    • GPOBookstore says:

      Greg- Thanks for your post. The current info was taken right off their website. I sent you an email directly last week to provide any recommended changes to us; we’d be delighted to post them! This is definitely an important topic that needs all the right resources listed.


  10. […] After a week of tragic incidents including the Boston Marathon bombings and Texas fertilizer factory fire and explosion, plus the December mass shooting in Newtown, on our Government Book Talk blog this week, we list valuable Federal disaster and emergency response hotlines, websites and publications can help you save (and recover from) the day:… […]


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