The psychological impact of disaster on survivors and communities is just as great, if not greater, than the medical impact. Exposure to disaster, terrorism, and post-event adversities is often accompanied by a loss of hope. Furthermore, since disasters are confusing, disorienting, and overwhelming, survivors are at risk for losing their sense of competence. Thus, in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, providing survivors with practical information and guidance can significantly help relieve stress and thus aid survivor resilience and recovery.
The recommended procedure to be used with disaster survivors is termed Psychological First Aid (PFA). PFA is an evidence-informed modular intervention methodology developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Center for PTSD. Psychological First Aid intervention is intended to assist children, adolescents, adults and families in coping with the stress they experience following a catastrophic event, and to help foster adaptive functioning. This technique is being adapted and taught by numerous organizations, including the American Red Cross, the Medical Reserve Corps, and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
PFA is made up of eight core actions. These are:
- Contact & Engagement
- Safety & Comfort
- Information Gathering
- Practical Assistance
- Connection with Social Supports
- Information on Coping
- Linkage with Collaborative Services
Over the last ten years, members of SRT, Inc. have trained over a thousand disaster volunteers in this technique.
Learn more about disaster psychology, stress reactions and strategies for working with people under pressure during a disaster, including the needs of disaster workers, by watching this FEMA-produced video.