In a catastrophe, it will be necessary to deal with many disaster victims simultaneously. It is unrealistic and not always practical to provide individual support.

Human beings are pack animals; they seek support in their group. Divide affected individuals into natural groups, such as families, friends, colleagues, by hometown, age etc.

How to manage challenges when dealing with groups:

  • Assess the situation, gather information and observe affected individuals before making decisions about who needs help first. It is important to divide people into groups early so that they can support each other. This gives personnel a better overview and makes it possible to care for the group as a whole.
  • Use opportunities to speak to groups – this is more efficient and makes a greater number of people feel acknowledged and cared for. All personnel have a responsibility to take the lead as required, establishing a secure and clear framework. Take initiative and provide relevant information to groups of people, even when you are not a leader. Sharing of practical information, organisation and decision-making is within the responsibilities of all personnel when appropriate – solve tasks at the lowest level possible.
  • It is important to regularly share information with co-workers – have short meetings for updates as you go. Gather and share expert knowledge, such as language, organisational skills and emergency medicine experience. Use this information to delegate responsibility based on competence.
  • Try to promote calmness and prevent panic. Panic rarely occurs, but can spread when it does. It is therefore sensible to shield individuals with panic reactions from the rest of the group. In groups where many people are distressed or panicked, it can be smart to subdivide into smaller groups. Personnel can intervene in different ways, for example by providing distractions to help those panicking think about something else.
  • Personnel can meet pre-existing groups (school class trip), or groups that have spontaneously formed because of the incident (survivors after a bus accident). Mobilise the natural leaders of these groups, for example teachers. This can promote a sense of safety and achievement in both the leader and the group. People in a leadership role should receive care and support first, in the same way that parents in crisis need support themselves before they can care for their children.
  • Families of survivors have unique needs, as do the families of injured, missing persons or deceased. They should be followed up separately as soon as the situation is clarified.