Crisis Intervention during Natural Disaster

The growing role of crisis intervention during natural and human-solicited disasters has been in focus of the modern psychological and social research. Due to the changes brought by the globalization and cultural diversity, many disasters appear due to the coincidence of events and political interests. However, there are some disasters which are beyond control by the mankind. These are the natural disasters like hurricanes, sand storms, tsunami etc.

Crisis intervention and trauma assessment has become one of the widely-discussed topics of research in the past few decades. Due to the increase of various forms of warfare including terrorism and the overall instability on the world political scene, people are anxious about their lives and in general view this world as unsafe place to live.

One of the central activities for crisis intervention was September 11, 2001, which, according to Roberts (2002), 'resulted in the loss of approximately 2,838 lives in the World Trade Center, 125 in the Pentagon, and over 246 on four hijacked airplanes'. This event has given a push for crisis intervention development, since the events have opened a wide scope of research of the post-traumatic stress and various types of other psychological disorders, including panic and fear of airplanes. Therefore, this event can be considered important in the research of crisis intervention. Many people who have not been direct participants of the September 11, 2001 have emotionally been involved via mass media. This also includes information on investigation about the possible causes of September 11 tragedy, including the victim stories and media content (photographs, videos, voice recordings etc.)

Many researchers have addressed crisis intervention techniques from the viewpoint of cultures and social background of the people involved in the process. However, in most cases the degree and extent to which these events impact the medical professionals has not been discussed. Moreover, the problems of medical care itself have become a subject of the crisis intervention which is required from time to time. Such problems of the modern medicine as euthanasia, or so called ‘mercy killing’, are getting more and more viable due to their common practice in some regions of the world.

Therefore, addressing crisis intervention techniques is necessary to ensure targeting the right audience at the right time. It is not a secret that appropriate crisis intervention can assist the person in overcoming the symptoms of stress and psychological disorder, while inappropriate may cause an opposite effect.

This research paper is focused on gathering the data on crisis intervention techniques which are related to natural disaster that have nothing to do with the human nature. This is a very special sphere of crisis intervention as it usually requires enormous effort from the side of medical professionals to help the people who survived such events live further having lost everything they had.

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Various techniques which have been proposed for effective crisis intervention in such cases are explored in this research paper. The paper studies what research has been made in terms of crisis intervention during natural disasters like hurricanes and looks at those techniques for crisis intervention which have been proposed by research. By comparing and contrasting these techniques, research paper provides recommendations about the appropriateness of application of some of these techniques in various periods of time and in special conditions depending on the type of natural disaster and its consequences.

Natural Disaster Control

Crisis intervention is usually an action that is performed after the natural disaster and any other event of this kind which requires crisis intervention. Eventually, natural disaster control procedures are something that should be explored prior to addressing various techniques and types of crisis intervention.

According to Roberts (2002), 'all crisis intervention and trauma treatment specialists are in agreement that before intervening, a full assessment of the situation and the individual must take place'. Therefore, taking into account this note, each situation in particular should be addressed prior to taking and sort of action in order to ensure the appropriateness of these actions and their goal orientation.  

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In most cases, natural disaster cannot be forecasted by science. However, the extent of likelihood that such disasters happen on a regular basis during certain periods of time is evident to explorers. According to Castellano & Plionis (2006), 'two distinct fields, crisis intervention (which targets civilian populations) and disaster mental health services (which targets first responders), have emerged in response to natural and manmade disasters'. These two fields have developed into a certain set of techniques which help individual get a fresh start of life after very difficult psychological trauma which changed the whole emotional state of a person.

Despite the fact that crisis intervention follows the disaster mental health services, the number of techniques and their sophistication is greater for crisis intervention compared to disaster mental health services. Therefore, the necessity of providing certain crisis intervention techniques depends usually on the results of the mental health programs.

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The basic challenge that existed throughout the development of both the first respondents help and the post-traumatic effects crisis intervention is that the difference between the societal perception to people seeing for mental help has not been positive for many decades. As noted by Castellano & Plionis (2006), ‘the public safety culture has been typified as one wherein seeking mental health services may be interpreted as a sign of ‘‘weakness.’’.

The development of research for crisis intervention techniques as well as advanced and sophisticated methods development help facilitate the needs of the people who need mental health assistance after the natural disasters. More techniques are at the stage of early development, but the majority of them are based on the same principles.

Crisis Intervention Techniques

Roberts (2002) proposes the following measurement for the personal impact of the crisis-producing events on and individual: spatial dimensions which usually are centered according to the person’s involvement in the disaster, subjective time clock which is evaluated based on the length of the disaster, and reoccurrence which is perception about the likelihood of the repeating disaster. Out of the three measurements provided by Roberts, the latter which is reoccurrence has the greatest power on the psychological state of individual as it addresses the subconscious level of thinking, while the first two measurements only deal with reality and conscious brain engagement.

Feinberg (1998) attempts to define the traumatic crisis events which happen after the disaster and notes that 'these are situations that are seen as extremely negative with the potential to create severe pain, both physical and emotional' (p. 2). Such pain, instead of vanishing over a certain period of time, usually remains out of the focus of medical professionals. For this reason, crisis intervention is so important and complex.

The research that has been made in the past has given a major point for demonstrating what has been done in the sphere of crisis intervention. Feinberg (1998) summarizes the analysis completed by Wilson and Sigman two years earlier: according to the results of the analysis, everyone who witnesses the disaster is emotionally touched by it, and therefore there are two types of trauma provided by a disaster - individual and collective. For this reason, crisis intervention in most cases deals with both the psychological problems of an individual and a group of people.

In most cases, people do not view themselves as 'needing mental health services following disaster, and will not seek out such services'. Nor will these people accept disaster assistance from medical professionals of any type and format. Therefore, all techniques which are based on effective crisis intervention are very gentle and sensitive to the subject of disaster and the individual characteristics of a person who is taking crisis intervention assistance course.

Castellano & Plionis (2006) compare PFA Model, CISM Model, and FEMA/SAMSHA CCP Model. According to the results of their research, some of these models were completely inappropriate for the crisis intervention after the September 11 events, while the others were not useful after the hurricane Katrina. Also, as the research results proposed, ‘selecting one model over another may compromise the practitioner’s ability to offer crisis mental health intervention for first responders appropriate to the crisis event they work’. Notably, PFA Model was mentioned as the most appropriate for natural disasters crisis intervention.

Some models are only perfect for the assessment of human-induced disaster trauma which has no natural causes. One of them is the ACT Intervention Model proposed by Roberts in his research which, according to the author, provides focuses on family engagement and places assessment to be ‘the important first step in determining the psychological needs of all survivors and their families and the grieving family members of the murder victims’ (p. 5). However, this model is completely inappropriate for natural disaster crisis intervention as it only looks at the individual effects and division of individuals for victims and witnesses.

Lu (2007) proposes an interesting link between the choice of crisis intervention technique and the cultural background of an individual. By studying the effects of the natural disasters in China, Lu (2007) finds that ‘considerations must be given to the following issues, namely: an understanding of one’s philosophical attitude toward the life, injury, and death in general; consideration of the victim’s cultural perception and reaction towards the occurrence of disaster; utilization of culturally provided rituals for mourning the deceased; and making use of culturally available social support for the trauma and disaster’.

Another interesting data was investigated by Lazarus, Jimerson & Brock (2002) who looked at the impact of natural disasters on children. The three dimensions mentioned above which were found by Roberts are very subjective in the case with children as they tend to ‘look to the significant adults in their lives for guidance on how to manage their reactions’ (p. 1). Undoubtedly, those unconscious reactions and crisis intervention for children requires help of spiritual character, including religion (Feinberg, 1998; Everly, 2000). However, pastoral services can only be addressed in this case as counseling services, not as crisis intervention techniques, as mentioned by Everly.


In general, crisis intervention is different from other forms of mental assistance. At the same time, various techniques of crisis intervention (like the PFA Model) are more appropriate for crisis intervention during natural disasters, while the others are better in cases of human-induced disaster trauma (like the ACT Intervention Model). Crisis intervention is a lasting process and usually follows disaster mental health services which targets first responders to the natural disaster. There are significant differences in the way natural disasters are approached by individuals and groups, therefore, various crisis intervention techniques are oriented on either collective or individual assessment. This also includes children and adolescents.



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