Disaster Psychology Preparedness

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

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, review the following examples of reactions:

  • 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.

Common Signs/Symptoms of Emotional Reactions

  1. Behavioral
  2. Cognitive
  3. Emotional
  4. Physical
  • Avoidance and/or withdrawing
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Erratic behavior