After the accident, I put a note on the door that said “No visitors”. Curled up in a foetal position and flooding with tears I didn’t realise what I needed and couldn’t face the outside world. In retrospect, I wish the crisis response team had torn that note to pieces and been more persistent – I was screaming for professional help.
In a disaster, the number of people in need of help exceeds the available resources. Care and support is therefore challenging and involves difficult priorities and many factors to take into consideration. Complex tasks require personnel with experience, insight, overview and competence.
Personnel are challenged by the scarcity of time and resources, confronting scenes and a sense of helplessness.
Nils Petter Reinholdt – Special Adviser, RVTS East
In a disaster, personnel are faced with tasks that differ from both the work they do on a daily basis and work in other crisis situations. Working within a disaster presents unique challenges that must be approached with specific strategies and interventions:
Psychological first aid
Most people experience stress reactions following traumatic incidents. The reactions vary – and are a natural consequence of the incident. By providing early care and support, mental health problems can be prevented and good health can be promoted.
Providing help to many simultaneously
In a disaster, personnel who usually work with individuals or families are suddenly required to deal with a high number of people in need of help.
Notification of death
The worst message we can receive is the death of a loved one. This is particularly painful when it happens abruptly, such as in suicide, accidents and catastrophes.
Caring for children and adolescents
Nine young people who survived the 2011 Norway terror attacks currently participate in an advisory panel established by the Norwegian Ombudsman for Children, called The Expert Group. They have first hand experience of how schools and support services manage children and adolescents following a disaster, making them the experts in this.
Relief work requires co-operation and self-regulation
Disaster relief work requires personnel and leaders from many different agencies to co-operate. Good teamwork and calm personnel, who are conscious of their own reactions, are central to the reassurance and support of disaster victims.