Social Resilience of Emergency Responders

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Agnetha SCHUCHARDT, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
In order to deal with disasters, emergency responders have to be capable of acting and prepared at all times. This quality is closely related to the concept of resilience thatcovers the abilities to withstand adverseness and to recover more quickly from disasters (Cutter, Burton &Emrich 2010; Adger 2000; Berke and Campanella 2006; Norris et al. 2008).Resilience is influenced by several multifaceted factors. In this contribution, we want to highlight social factors promoting the resilience ofboth professional and voluntary emergency responders working in aid organizations that play a major role in disaster management. Focusing on emergency responders, we conducted both a qualitative and a quantitative study and inquired about social (and psychological) resources that are important for coping with negative experiences from different disaster situations.

While the results of the quantitative study are still pending, the qualitative, semi-structured interviews with over 25 experts as well as professional and voluntary fire and rescue, police, and ambulance services were interpreted (using a qualitative content analysis; Mayring 2010) and showed that social support within the organization, a person’s social network and former experiences are useful resources. Emotional support from within the organization seems to be one the most valuable resources and several emergency responders reported that they avoid sharing negative emotions with their families – unless their families are part of the aid organization as well. Moreover, many organizations offer either informal or formal preventive programs or follow-up care. Access and acceptance of such programs vary greatly.

The data serve as a starting point for the improvement or development of education and training tools for emergency responders. Furthermore, we want to propose guidelines for the development of more resilient emergency management policies.