Friday, August 2, 2013

Psychosocial Support and Disasters: Recovery begins in the Shelters

Psychosocial Support and Disasters: Recovery begins in the Shelters: RECOVERY BEGINS IN THE SHELTER A recent report entitled “Resilience in the wake of Superstorm Sandy” (2013) produced...

Recovery begins in the Shelters


A recent report entitled “Resilience in the wake of Superstorm Sandy” (2013) produced by the Associated Press and NORC provides some insights regarding recovery after a major catastrophe. There are some insights that we should consider in developing strategies for recovery:

1.        Sandy generated extensive impacts beyond the physical damage, including prolonged effects on daily living and social relationships.

2.        While stable communities (resource rich) saw altruistic behaviors amongst its neighbors that resulted in a more resilient community.   Communities that had diverse culturally and linguistic members, migrants, elderly, and people with limited financial resources (in other words functional disabled people with limited incomes) reported the challenges of secondary stressors in recovery. This means that this segment off the affected communities will be faced with similar situations in the future.

3.        Some of the challenges faced by the second groups above include: (1) school and child care closings, (2) longer commutes, (3) missed time at work and (4) the relocation of friends and neighbors. This cohort remained more time in shelter, although they turned to friends, family and neighbors for assistance.

4.        Only 4% of the respondents turned to the ARC for assistance (p.6).  First responders provided a lot of support in the first 14 days of the response. Longer-term faith based groups and relief organizations provided longer-term support.  This period was characterized by reports of looting or stealing and hoarding of food and water.

Action moving forward into recovery

1.      Initiate resilience activities in the shelters focusing of “Community group meetings” every evening that focus on challenges, solutions and sharing good news.

2.      ARC in conjunction with NVOAD and faith based organization develop a tool kit for neighbors as a preparation activity that focuses on Psychological First Aid and activities that generate calmness in adversity and reduces negative behaviors.  

3.      Over reliance in social media may not be the best for “low resource populations” low-tech methods should be identified and practiced in at risk communities.

4.      Psychosocial support activities that address secondary stressors should be defined and develop into a tool kit (no more than a trifold) in several languages.

How do we know this works

1.    All DAT teams and volunteer responders familiar with resilience tool kits.

2.    Preparedness activities are developed and practiced with faith based and community groups in ZIP codes with low SES, linguistically and culturally diverse populations and people with functional needs.

3.    Schools become the conduits for information to the communities.

4.    In the next major disaster the percentage of reports of looting, stealing, hoarding of food and water will be reduced to less than 10%.

5.    Finally, the majority of the people asked randomly, in the potentially affected ZIP codes, will respond that they feel safe and secure of their response in the event of a major disaster.