Sunday, April 29, 2007

Anatomy of a Disaster

Anatomy of Disasters

Researchers for the government have been studying “Disaster Psychology” for decades and have collected tons of materials related to the psychological, sociological (and covertly the political) effects of disasters. Below is some of their findings.

“Traumatic events can generate feelings of powerlessness and a perception of being out of control as well as the capacity to impact all aspects of a community's life, regardless of educational background or socio-economic level. “

“Most people pull together and function during and after a disaster, but their effectiveness is diminished. “
Survivors may go through distinct emotional phases following a disaster:
In the impact phase, survivors do not panic and may, in fact, show no emotion. They do what they must to respond to the situation and keep themselves and their families alive.
In the inventory phase, which immediately follows the event, survivors asses damage and try to locate other survivors. During this phase, many discard routine social ties in favor of the more functional relationships required for initial response activities, such as searching out family members and seeking medical assistance.
In the rescue phase, emergency services personnel are responding and survivors take direction from them without protest. They trust that rescuers will address their needs and that they can then put their lives back together quickly.
In the recovery phase, survivors may believe that rescue efforts are not proceeding quickly enough. That feeling, combined with other emotional stressors (for example, dealing with insurance adjustors, or living in temporary accommodations), may cause survivors to pull together AGAINST those who are trying to help them.

Taking care of others following a traumatic event . . .
Listen carefully
Spend time with the traumatized person
Offer your assistance and a listening ear even if they have not asked for help
Help them with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking, caring for children etc . . .
Give them time to be alone
Help them stay away from alcohol and drugs
Keep in mind what they've been through
Don't try to explain it away
Don't tell them that they are lucky it wasn't worse
Don't take their anger, other feelings or outbursts personally
Insurrectory Mutual Aid affinity groups must be flexible, able to adapt to the needs of a changing situation.Part of the organizational challenge following a disaster is to be able to:
◦ Size up the scope and requirements of the situation. The best way to do this is draw heavily on local community groups.◦ Identify resources as they become available. “Disaster areas almost always have resources it is the distribution networks that may no longer be available” (FEMA) ◦ Deploy those resources within already existing social networks (e.g. community centers).As an individual responder, you must be ready to function in various roles perhaps and wear more than one "hat" at a time or "change hats" as the availability of resources changes. You must begin by assessing and managing your own personal situation, then that of the immediately adjacent area (neighborhood), and then join others in forming response teams based on affinity. This type of concentric development results in an evolving self-organizing structure and requires flexibility in its members