Coping with Major Disasters
© 2011 FrontLine Security (Vol 6, No 1)

As disasters strike around the world, and each seemingly more ­devastating than the last, the visible damage is all too apparent. ­However, we are often not aware of the pervasive psychological ­damage that goes along with such physical destruction.

We often forget the human element associated with disasters. The recent events in Japan along with others in Haiti and New Zealand highlight the human toll that ­disasters impose on society. Traditional and social media assault us with images of devastation and destruction. Long after those images are gone, human beings continue to pay the price of that catastrophe. There are still some victims of Katrina whose lives and livelihoods remain in a state of turmoil. In Japan, the disruption they face as a society will affect their capacity to respond to the inevitable widespread loss of human life, environmental devastation and damage to critical infrastructure.

The Value of Preparedness
Natural disasters have happened in Canada, most often in the form of floods and wildfires. As with other countries, Canada has an obligation to prepare its citizens in the event of a disaster. The good news is, responses and remedies exist for dealing with the psychological impacts that come with major catastrophes.

Being psychologically prepared can help in several ways. Preparing individuals and organizations by “normalizing” emotional or psychological responses to “abnormal” events, can help people think more clearly and make rational decisions about how much they can do themselves or to recognize when they should leave the situation to the authorized responders. Such clarity can help reduce the risk of serious injury and loss of life or property. Being prepared and remaining calm and collected during traumatic situations allows us to assist the less fortunate around us.

Businesses, communities, and even governments should also prepare themselves for the psychological effects of traumatic events such as natural disasters. This is done by including “Human Factor” issues in Business Continuity plans. For this very reason, we have developed a course called Taking Care of Your People: Critical Incident Stress Management and Business Continuity.

Business Continuity Planning is a ‘best practice’ process that includes advance plans, arrangements and procedures to maintain business functions and minimize interruptions when internal or external influences impact a business’s capacity to operate. This course extends the principles of best practice to an organization’s best asset – its people. The goal of this course is to ensure the psychological well-being of this human asset so they can carry out the various plans that have been put in place.

This “psychological” component of an organization’s Business Continuity Plan would clearly assist in enabling the smooth operations needed by organizations, including government, in times of crisis.

The leading training organization for offering the Taking Care of Your People: Critical Incident Stress Management and Business Continuity course at this time is DRI Canada.

This course will prepare personnel to function as Business Continuity Management resources during any crisis event. This cost effective solution allows an organization to capitalize on the present skills and experience of their trusted personnel while learning new Business Continuity Management skills and methodologies.  

A leading consultant and trauma responder based in Toronto, Sam Miller can be reached at 416-455-1684 or via email at
© FrontLine Security 2011