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Disaster Psychology Preparedness

Disaster Psychology Preparedness

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When disaster strikes, physical assistance may not be only part of what survivors need. Psychological First Aid" for disaster-induced stress and trauma will help the survivors.

Disaster-induced stress and trauma are "normal reactions" to an "abnormal" event.

Emotional reactions will vary and may be influenced by:
  • Prior experience with the same or similar event
  • The intensity and length of the event
  • Pre-incident stressors
  • The length of time since the event
  • Loss of loved ones, housing etc. . .

    Emotional reactions can vary depending upon the phase of the event

    • Before the event, as concern escalates and information is made available through the media and the authorities
    • During the event's impact - responding to the immediate effects of the disaster
    • Immediately after the event's impact when rescue may be needed
    • Immediately after the event when an inventory is made of losses - personal and material
    • Well after the event during recovery

    Traumatic Stress Reactions
    A traumatic stress reaction is an emotional aftershock of a disaster or other significantly stressful event. Symptoms may occur immediately after the event or weeks after the event is over.

    Some common signs/symptoms of emotional reactions to a disaster:

    Physical

    • Nausea and/or upset stomach
    • Dizziness
    • Headache
    • Restlessness
    • Difficulty sleeping


    Emotional

    • Anxiety and/or fear
    • Guilt
    • Grief and/or depression
    • Anger

    Cognitive

    • Nightmares
    • Confusion and/or disorientation
    • Difficulty concentrating

    Behavioral

    • Avoidance and/or withdrawing
    • Emotional outbursts
    • Erratic behavior

    Taking care of yourself following a traumatic event . . .

    • Try to rest a bit more
    • Contact friends and talk
    • Reestablish your normal schedule as soon as possible
    • Fight against boredom
    • Physical activity can be helpful
    • Eat well-balanced and regular meals (even when you don't feel like it)
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs taken without physician recommendation/prescription
    • Recurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks are normal - don't try to fight them - they'll decrease over time and be less painful
    • Seek out professional help if the feelings become prolonged or intense

    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

    Get further assistance if . . .

    • The person is having life-threatening symptoms
    • The person is suicidal or homicidal
    • The person is out of control
    Emergency Contacts
    Emotional emergencies or information 24 hours a day
    in Bergen: 262-HELP (201-262-4357)
    Physical emergencies - dial 9-1-1(police, fire & EMS)