Method of Relieving Victims’ Relatives Psychological Stress After the Disaster

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The psychological stresses that disaster victims face can be extreme and there is often little or no warning. They may found themselves lost of family members or friends, or maybe become homeless or jobless. Without proper psychological care, the victims and their families may slip into depression and it can have extreme consequences for them (Coppola, 2011, 頁 399-340). The emotional pain, suffering and loss during and following the disaster can lead to a psychosocial problem.

The reaction of the victims and their families coping with the aftermath of a disaster varies. Curing the psychological damage is also part of the recovery process Disaster Action is a charity that was founded in 1991 to support them after a disaster. It provides guidance for survivors and victims’ family on how to help the affected victims’ relatives during and after the incident. It shares the experiences of relatives’ in different aspects including the identification of disaster victim, the immediate aftermath, the inquests after the disaster and the return of personal property of the deceased. This is a very useful guidance because other than just relieve the emotional feeling of the victims’ family after the disaster, it also clams them and gives them guidance on how to assist in the investigation process.

During major incidents, victims family should not be ruled out as they can provide assistance to during and after the disaster occurred. For instance, in many disasters, victims are being trapped under collapsed buildings, debris or by moving waters due to a different type of disasters including earthquakes, typhoons, terrorist attacks and in many other forms. After the disaster occurs, victims’ friends, family, relatives and neighbours take a vital role in the search and rescue process, especially during the first few hours of the disaster. These people can locate the victims by assisting the emergency unit by listening for calls for help, watching for other signs of life or using information such as estimating a certain time the location of the trapped person whereabouts.

It is estimated that half of the survivors that were rescued in the first six hours after the disaster happened. Even though these citizens that take part in the rescuing mission are normally untrained responders and they operate without adequate equipment or expertise and often place themselves at great risk. However, despite the incidence of rescuers being injured or killed, many more other lives were saved (Coppola, 2011, 頁 310).

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In Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) is one of the leading agencies that are responsible for the control and coordinate the response operation at the scene and investigation. Other than focusing on investigation, the HKPF would also make sure that they would provide all necessary means of assistance to the victims’ relatives during the disaster or incident had occurred.

After initial cording of the area, a secure area would be set up and used as the Friends and Relatives Reception Centre, to which those arriving at the scene can be directed to enquire for information. However, steps would be taken to ensure that distraught friends and relatives are not able to gain access to the site in the early stage due to the requirements of the investigation. Yet, experience has shown that relatives of the victims will make strong representations to visit the scene, in particular the exact spot where the body was located. When access can be allowed, every effort should be made to facilitate relatives’ and friends’ wishes and religious observances.

The inevitable time lapse in identifying the remains of the deceased can cause distress to relatives and friends, but the pressure to hurry the operation must be resisted in the interests of accuracy. All follow-up enquiries with relatives, whether connected to the incident investigation or the identification of victims, would be directed through the Relatives Liaison Unit. This will reduce the pressure on the relatives and ensure that they are not requested to furnish similar information to a number of different Police units or other investigators

In a major disaster, some relatives will nevertheless insist on viewing the deceased. If this is possible, it may be appropriate to seek the advice of a doctor or a clinical psychologist to assess whether the relative is fit to do so and how this should be carried out. Moreover, experience has shown that women officers are often more acceptable to and create less conflict with friends and relatives when the friends and relatives of the affected person during a disaster. The HKPF also has a special team called the Carelinks Cadre that would provide emotional support to the friends and relatives of the affected persons and allow frontline officers to concentrate on the operational duties.

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