Living on campus at a college or university can be a shock: Being away from home for the first time; cooking your own meals; handling laundry; cohabitating with roommates.
So the thought of a disaster or crisis hitting campus—and what to do if it does—may not cross your mind.
But the reality is that many colleges and universities across the U.S. are in disaster-prone areas. Mississippi is no exception: it is more frequently dealing with climate change effects like extreme weather that cause flooding, storms, tornadoes, water shortages, or prolonged power outages.
When a disaster hits, finding the right information and reacting quickly is often difficult and overwhelming, especially in an unfamiliar place. Being properly equipped to prepare, respond, and recover can help students across the state.
This guide was created by Halle Coleman, a 2022 community reporting fellow. Download the PDF (with clickable links!) below.
READ Q&A WITH A RESIDENT ASSISTANT ABOUT disaster response
‘We are not immune’: Q&A with Jackson student leader on disasters while navigating college
Jackson State University resident assistant Kayla Carter is responsible for disseminating information to fellow students during disaster events. She says out-of-state students, whose families are further away, tend to be more anxious during emergencies.
From meal assistance to additional clothing, we’ve compiled information from nonprofits, mutual aid, and other resources you may need to receive direct help. Read here.
University disaster plans
Each community college, college, and university should have a disaster plan to ensure safety. Find yours here.
Prioritizing mental health
Disasters cause feelings of fear, anxiety, grief, and stress. The loss of personal belongings, disruption of daily routines, and the uncertainty of the future can amplify these emotions.
Mental health is a crucial aspect of overall health and well-being, and it’s essential to prioritize during times of stress and adversity, such as disasters. College students are vulnerable in these events; many students are from out of state and the distance from home can add to the feelings of isolation.
In this video, psychiatrist and mental health advocate Annelle B. Primm talks about the impact of disasters and how we can all maximize mental health in marginalized communities.
This video below discusses the term “psychological first aid.”
“After psychological trauma, swift care and support are vital for healing. Providing the right care and support during a time of suffering can make a big difference. Everyone can learn how to provide psychological first aid.”
Transparency and self-advocacy
As a student, you deserve transparency and honesty from your administration on the state of a disaster as it affects your campus and plans to accommodate students. You don’t need a position or a title to request a change or document an issue. Use or edit the template below to email to your school’s administration and staff about questions or concerns.
I am [insert name], a [insert classification and major, i.e., “senior biology major”] here at our university, and a resident of [insert residence hall]. I am emailing regarding the latest [insert disaster] that has struck our campus.
As a result of the [insert disaster], my fellow residents/classmates/colleagues and I are suffering from [describe the current circumstances in as much detail as possible, i.e., unclean water, above or below average room temperatures, lack of food available, etc. include pictures if you have them]
As students, we deserve to have accessible and effective resources available to help us in our time of need. This includes the immediate need for [be direct and insert your demands/requests in as much detail as possible]. Without these, [insert the disaster’s effects on you, i.e., mental, physical, emotional, financial].
I would love to talk more about the issues included in this email and how you plan to respond. I can be reached directly at [insert phone number] or via this email. Thank you for your time and attention to this vital issue.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Sharing your experiences
State and university officials should know the needs of students across the state. This survey aims to gather data on how disasters affect students in different ways, how often students experience them, what universities do to respond and assist, and to connect students across the state.
Are you a student at a Mississippi college or university?