Low-Attention Disasters

Low-attention disasters are often localized events that do not garner regional or national attention, affecting rural, isolated or small communities.

This March 2019 photo provided by Henry Red Cloud, shows flooding on Cloud’s property on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southern South Dakota.

Disasters you don’t often hear about in the news

Low-attention disasters are most often identified by all or some of the following indicators:

  • Limited national or regional media coverage.
  • Little or no regional or national disaster response.
  • Disproportionally affected marginalized or chronically under-resourced populations.
  • High percentage of damage to housing (25% or more).
  • Insufficient community infrastructure or ability to develop or sustain recovery operations.
  • No FEMA Individual Assistance declaration.

The Midwest Early Recovery Fund has identified five key challenges faced by communities affected by low-attention disasters. 

During early recovery, the transition period from response to recovery, communities often struggle to:

  • Translate the highly complex system of disaster recovery into actionable steps. Coordinate survivor information and ensure equitable distribution of resources from multiple agencies.
  • Identify and secure sufficient resources to address the unmet needs of those most vulnerable to the impact of disasters.
  • Develop and sustain mid- to long-term recovery efforts.   
  • Meet the unique needs of children post-disaster.

Midwest Early Recovery Fund grants have supported organizations working in more than 50 identified low-attention disasters. Here is a sample of those disasters:

  • 2015 DeWitt, Nebraska Flood
  • 2016 Pine Ridge Reservation (South Dakota) Severe Storms
  • 2017 Montana Wildfires
  • 2018 Eureka, Kanasas Tornado
  • 2019 Northwestern Missouri Flood
  • 2019 Yankton Sioux Tribe (South Dakota) Flood
  • 2020 Marshalltown, Iowa Severe Storm (Derecho)
  • 2021 Oklahoma Severe Storm (Winter)

How we address these challenges

To address these challenges, we provide funding and technical assistance to communities, building community capacity to develop long-term recovery assets. We prioritize:

Early Recovery Services

  • Community needs assessment
  • Disaster case management
  • Disaster recovery coordination
  • Volunteer and construction management

Outreach & Education

  • Long-term recovery group development
  • Recovery tools and trainings
  • Community wellness

Children’s Needs

  • Psychosocial Support
  • Childcare recovery

Specialized services for marginalized and chronically underserved populations

  • Language supports
  • Culturally-aligned services
Investing in Communities

We intentionally seek out disaster-affected communities that few others have noticed, let alone invested their time, effort, energy or financial resources in.