This ongoing feature provides information on free resources accessible to first responder departments nationwide. This includes training, equipment, and funding opportunities that focus on rural and small to midsize communities.
OSHA Resilience Resources for Emergency Response
Large-scale disaster mitigation requires resources from well outside the affected area, including personnel for management and relief in addition to materials. Travel to an area in crisis can be a stressful experience, taxing the mental, emotional and physical reserves of workers and creating concern and disruption for their families. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has issued a series of resources to prepare federal and federalized employees for the challenges associated with response efforts in its Resilience Resources site. This includes mental health, preparatory, and safety measures that can be taken prior to and during deployment to minimize the consequences of stress and distance from one’s everyday life.
The resources are organized into four components:
• Employee and Family Pre-Deployment
• Employee and Family Post-Deployment
• Supervisors Intra-Deployment
The employee and family sections include information for children and spouses, as well as signs of common health conditions that arise in workers in the field. This includes recommendations such as preparing children in advance of the deployment, and parenting strategies to maintain involvement while away. It is strongly suggested that parents continue to send letters, voice recordings, and acknowledgment of holidays and other occasions even if the contact is brief; letting family members know they are remembered is key to reducing anxiety. Also provided are tutorials for returning workers and their families, and several guides to dealing with the reintegration and potential trauma following relief work.
The resources provided for supervisors include the selection of employees for deployment that are likely to best manage the associated stress and ways to help returning workers receive the care they need as they readjust to the workplace. In support of employees who have recently completed relief work, OSHA provides a questionnaire to facilitate the introduction of those workers to monitoring and support services. Supervisors on the scene are also provided with information on minimizing stress and creating a positive working environment. Preparation and teamwork are important to the success of a disaster relief project, and workers should be familiarized in advance with the stress and living conditions they will experience once deployed. Well-defined job roles and overall mission goals are necessary to ensure that workers feel motivated and valued over the course of the project.