Understanding the Phases of Disaster
Disasters are any occurrences that involve or potentially involve injuries or harm to many individuals. These situations often overwhelm the available emergency resources and personnel. Disasters can result from either natural (such as hurricanes, windstorm, earthquake, and tornadoes) or man-made origins (such as fires, road crashes, airplane crashes, nuclear disasters, and acts of terrorism and violence).
Disasters are divided into different phases, also called periods, based on how the community or individuals respond to the situation. It is important to know and understand the different periods of disasters so that you can respond appropriately to the immediate needs of people during times of disasters.
1. Warning Period
Disasters such as hurricanes and typhoons often give warning of their approach although some calamities such as earthquake and sudden fires occur without any warning. The warning period should give people some time to prepare and ensure safety. Normally, it should set people to prepare and act but some people are just not able to cope up with the situation. Instead of a period of action, they go into a period of ALARM. These people are often seen ‘helpless’ thus you need to give them specific tasks to ensure their personal safety.
2. Threat Period
This period often entails making critical decisions. During this time, individuals recognize the presence of a threat and discern whether it can cause harm to their personal safety and of their loved ones. This can be a tough time for decision making and can cause emotional crisis for some people who are not used with making major decisions.
3. Impact Period
Once a disaster strikes, people are initially stunned. They start to realize the magnitude of the disaster as they experience injury, destruction and death. People who are unable to cope may progress to panic while others may become withdrawn. It is during this time that someone should assume leadership, in most cases, trained first aiders (register here for first aid training), EMTs or healthcare professionals.
4. Inventory Period
This occurs after the immediate impact of the disaster. During this period, people begin to assess the magnitude of the situation, producing a wide array of emotional responses that range from fear to apprehension to sorrow to anxiety. Most people progress from inventory period to full recovery but others may still carry emotional scars long after the disaster. Victims of disasters will often feel overwhelmed and isolated by the gravity of the situations. You can engage people in performing purposeful activities to divert attention from emotional weariness.
5. Rescue Period
People who have been in the same situation often give each other emotional support. During the rescue period, victims are often receptive to rescue efforts – helping clean up damaged properties and offering support to each other. When people start to help in the rescue, they gradually overcome their emotional “shock”. You can assign tasks to victims so they feel not left out and show appreciation to every simple help they give.
6. Remedy Period
Victims of the disaster work with the rescue personnel so that the community can recover from the disaster. Cooperation and community effort is highly evident. The community begins to regain their morale. This is often the longest post-disaster period, as it include reconstruction phase.
7. Restoration Period
During this period members of the community regain their previous life. The amount of time needed to achieve full recovery depends on the nature and magnitude of the disaster, and the amount of help available.
A key step in preparing for an emergency is to learn how to help individuals that are hurt or in need of immediate medical help. Enrol in a first aid and CPR course (sign up for classes here) to learn how to be prepared to provide aid to those that are hurt and injured.