((Don't be content with only a teaser of this post; read more of this musing.))
Easy Does It
Jeffrey T. Mitchell, PhD, CTS
ICISF President Emeritus
It happens in almost every disaster and it is happening on the Gulf Coast now. Some folks just cannot resist the temptation to self-deploy. Truthfully, some independent responders have been helpful under certain circumstances in the past. Freelance responders, however, are more likely to inadvertently generate further problems for people already in the disaster zone.
Because self-deployed people do not always have the "big picture" in mind, they may end up in areas where they are not needed or where their services compete with organized response programs. Independent responders usually run out of supplies quickly and lack the benefit of an organized supply system. Frequently they request additional supplies from already strained stockpiles of disaster relief goods that organizations have shipped into the area to do their work. Needless to say, feelings of resentment on all sides can be easily stimulated under such circumstances.
Unfortunately, some people, who attempt to function in disaster areas on their own, find more trouble than they anticipated. They experience numerous difficulties finding food and water; they have no real base of operations and no dependable lodging. Often they lack communications and have no liaison with organizations such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the National Organization of Victim Assistance and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.
In the past, a few people with fragile health self-deployed to disaster zones. They became sick and needed to be rescued. That, of course, further strained already overworked rescue and healthcare services. Others, who chose to work in areas where civil order was not yet restored, have become victims of robbery, violence and sexual assault. In summary, independent response adds further pressure to the rescue, health care, security and recovery systems that are attempting to restore order and reduce chaos.
Please, rather than self-deploying, we urge all of you to join with existing appropriate non-profit disaster response organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, National Organization of Victim Assistance and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. If you are not able to go to a disaster zone, your donations to any of those organizations helps more than you can imagine. Joining up or donating funds or volunteer time enhances the possibility that your resources and skills will be used in the most effective manner. There are huge benefits when our response to a disaster is part of an organized, comprehensive, integrated, systematic and multi-component approach. Please, do not freelance in a disaster. Thank you!
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The following articles by George S. Everly, Jr., PhD, F.A.P.M., are being distributed with the permission of Chevron Publishing.
"Toward a Model of Psychological Triage: Who Will Most Need Assistance?"
"Early Psychological Intervention: A Word of Caution"