Building Team Belay
Bernstein, Catherine P.
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Disaster responders are exposed to continuous periods of intense stress, and as a consequence, some suffer mental or emotional adverse effects. In recognition of critical stress as a valid concern, many emergency service providers have attempted, organizationally, to provide their responders with access to traditional critical stress interventions. But when a catastrophic event occurs and mutual aid is invoked, disaster workers and volunteers will respond from diverse jurisdictions, frequently without immediate access to the psychosocial assistance provided by their home agencies. It is incumbent upon incident commanders to be accountable for the psychosocial well-being of the disaster responders, just as it is their duty to ensure the physical safety of the responders under their command. However, our uniform organizational structure for disaster response, the National Incident Management System (NIMS), does not speak directly to the mental/emotional well-being of disaster responders. This thesis proposes interpreting NIMS and its supporting training modules so as to require a component to address disaster responder psychosocial resources. It further suggests that by leveraging precepts of social identity theory and concepts of swift trust, emergency operational team leaders may prime multi-jurisdictional responders to informal exchanges, fostering peer social support, and enhancing responder resiliency to critical stress.
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