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Mental Stress in an Emergency – What They Go Through

April 6, 2015

It’s no secret that emergencies and natural disasters are extremely stressful. As we know, they can strike at any time, without warning, and within minutes, a person’s life can change – Properties and communities damaged, lives threatened and other traumatizing effects.

How does this impact your clients’ mental and physical health? How can you offer assistance to help them “bounce back?”

Understand

Handling and restoring property from disasters is your everyday life. Remember, though, to your clients, these are unexpected distractions in their lives. Most people like to have control over their own lives, and when they experience a situation they do not have control of, fear of safety and the uncertain strikes.

Some common reactions include:

  • Fear – For the unknown; for themselves and their loved ones
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Shock
  • Depression
  • Confusion or Difficulty to Concentrate
  • Exhaustion
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing difficulties
  • Nausea
  • Withdrawal from society
  • Restless

Be Patient

Having to quickly evacuate and leave behind cherished possessions, navigate through crowded streets, stay in unfamiliar shelters, and other consequential factors, can all cause stress. Sometimes your clients may appear anxious and demand the need to know your timeframe and every process you’re taking to restore their “lives.” Sometimes, they may even have difficulty relaying important information to you, regarding the incident. It’s important to have patience with them, and ensure they feel safe and comfortable putting their lives in your hands.

Inform Them

This involves communicating to your client the restoration process, costs, timelines, and anything else they may need to feel secure. This also includes informing your clients of good preparation and safety practices. If you recognize the cause of the disaster and discover it was something that could have been easily prevented with proper safety knowledge, tell them. What could they have done differently? What can they do to prevent future accidents? Or, if it’s unavoidable, what they can do to get out safely and prevent additional damage?

Find out if your client has created an emergency plan, and has communicated this to their family and employees. If they have not already, inform them of the importance, and ask them to include:

  • Evacuation Plan – Escape routes, what items to grab/leave behind
  • Information of Safety Equipment – Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm
  • Preparation Checklist
  • Emergency Kit – Blankets, clothes, non-perishable food, water, first-aid kit, flashlights and other essential supplies.

Remember, the recovery process differs from person to person, and also depends on the extent of the disaster and damage sustained. This process can take weeks, months or even years. Be patient with your clients, and provide them as much information as possible to help prevent future damage and to help them feel more secure and calm throughout the process.