Disaster Relief

Disaster Relief

Copyright: © 2023 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5097-0.ch009
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Child life specialists have been supporting children and families in disaster relief settings for years. It is imperative to understand the needs of children affected by disasters and continue to integrate child life services to best support the psychological and emotional outcomes of children and families. This chapter will define disasters and the disaster management cycle, overview key factors in assessing children's needs related to disasters, identify how child life services are utilized during each phase of disaster relief, and identify future opportunities for child life services in disaster relief.
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Defining Disasters

Disasters can be broadly or narrowly defined. In general, disasters are natural or human-made events that cause sweeping damage, hardship, and/or loss of life across one or more strata of society (Bonanno et al., 2010; R. W. Perry, 2018). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines disaster as:

An event that results in large numbers of deaths and injuries; causes extensive damage or destruction of facilities that provide and sustain human needs; produces an overwhelming demand on state and local response resources and mechanisms; causes a severe long-term effect on general economic activity; and severely affects state, local, and private sector capabilities to begin and sustain response activities. (Emergency Management in the United States, n.d.)

There is not one universal categorization of disasters, however, consistency does exist in that they tend to be organized into 2-3 categories: 1) natural disasters 2) human-made disasters, and 3) a third variation that includes disasters such as technological, infrastructure, or public health disasters. Natural disasters include events such as: flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires. Human-made disasters include events such as: incidence of mass violence, school shootings, terrorism, and human conflicts. Examples often put into the third category include: pandemics, building or bridge collapses, transportation crashes, nuclear reactor incidents, and gas explosions.

The key differentiation between an emergency and a disaster is in the size of the event and the resources needed to support and manage the event. Disasters are larger scale, sweeping across a community, and require response and recovery services that are greater than what local entities can provide. Whereas, emergencies are typically smaller in size and resources needed are usually matched locally. Disaster declarations largely decide the resources requested to support the community impacted by the disaster. Declarations are first declared at the local level; once those resources and local capabilities are expected to be exceeded or are exceeded, the state is requested to respond. This repeats at the state and federal level as needed. For example, when a tornado occurs, the local emergency responders, hospitals, and other local community resources are the first on the scene providing support and help to rescue survivors. As those resources are overwhelmed, additional support from nearby communities is requested. From there the disaster response circle broadens to include state resources and support; if needed federal and international resources are requested. Due to this structure, it is imperative that child life services collaborate with disaster management organizations, managers, and officials on all levels: local, state, federal, and international to maximize their reach and effectiveness and decrease their response time.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Natural Disaster: A natural hazard, such as a tornado, flood, or hurricane, that causes significant damage, loss of life, or economic hardship and overwhelms a community’s own capacity and resources to cope.

Disaster Management Cycle: The cyclical process aimed at reducing the impact of, responding to, and recovering from disasters. Goals include reduced loss, prompt assistance, and rapid and effective recovery.

Human-Made Disaster: A human-caused hazard, such as school shootings, terrorism, or human conflicts, that causes significant damage or loss of life and overwhelms a community’s own capacity and resources to cope. Hazards can be a result of human intent, negligence, or a failure of a human-made system.

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