CERT Flashcards
Unit 7 – Disaster Psychology

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #14
The goal of on-scene psychological intervention on the part of CERT members should be to stabilize the incident scene by stabilizing individuals.

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After addressing medical needs, you can provide psychological intervention:
Observe individuals to determine their level of responsiveness and whether they pose a danger to themselves or to others.
Engaging uninjured survivors in focused activity will help them cope, so give them constructive jobs to do such as organizing supplies (especially effective for disruptive survivors).
Help survivors connect to natural support systems, such as family, friends, or clergy.
Provide support by:
Listening to them talk about their feelings and their physical needs.
Empathizing. Caring responses show victims that someone else shares their feelings of pain and grief.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #14
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #13
How can you be an empathetic listener?

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Being an empathetic listener requires the listener to listen and to let the victim talk. Good listeners will:
Put him- or herself in the speaker’s shoes in order to better understand the speaker’s point of view. Draw upon past experiences, or try to imagine how the speaker is feeling. Be careful not to completely take on the speaker’s feelings.
Listen for meaning, not just words, and pay close attention to the speaker’s nonverbal communication, such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
Paraphrase the speaker periodically to make sure that you have fully understood what the speaker has said and to indicate to the speaker that you are listening. This reinforces the communication process.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #13
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #12
During a disaster, you may see and hear things that will be extremely unpleasant. Direct psychological trauma could result from:

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Your own personal losses
Working in your neighborhood
Assisting neighbors, friends, coworkers who have been injured
Not feeling safe and secure

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #12
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #11
In some cases, family members or friends may not know of the death of their loved one, and CERT members may have to tell them. In this situation, CERT members should:

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Separate the family members and friends from others in a quiet, private place.
Have the person(s) sit down, if possible.
Make eye contact and use a calm, kind voice.
Use the following words to tell the family members and friends about the death: “I’m sorry, but your family member has died. I am so sorry.” It is okay to reference the deceased person’s name or their relation to the survivor if you know it.
Let the family and friends grieve.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #11
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #10
One unpleasant task that CERT members may face is dealing with a victim who dies while under the team’s care. The guidelines below (T.W. Dietz, 2001; J.M. Tortorici Luna, 2002) are useful for dealing with this situation:

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Cover the body; treat it with respect.
Wrap mutilated bodies tightly.
If the person has died while at the treatment area, move the body to your team’s temporary morgue. (If the person was tagged as “dead” during triage, do not remove from the incident area.)
Follow local laws and protocols for handling the deceased.
Talk with local authorities to determine the plan.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #10
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #9
Only you know what reduces stress within yourself and expending the effort required to find personal stress reducers is worthwhile before an incident occurs. You can take the following preventive steps in your everyday life:

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Get enough sleep
Exercise regularly
Eat a balanced diet
Balance work, play, and rest
Allow yourself to receive as well as give; you should remember that your identity is broader than that of a helper
Connect with others
Use spiritual resources

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #9
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #8
What types of disaster-related physiological responses can you expect in yourself or others?

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Loss of appetite
Headaches or chest pain
Diarrhea, stomach pain, or nausea
Hyperactivity
Increase in alcohol or drug consumption
Nightmares
The inability to sleep
Fatigue or low energy

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #8
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #7
What types of disaster-related psychological responses can you expect in yourself or others?

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Irritability or anger
Self-blame or the blaming of others
Isolation and withdrawal
Fear of recurrence
Feeling stunned, numb, or overwhelmed
Feeling helpless
Mood swings
Sadness, depression, and grief
Denial
Concentration and memory problems
Relationship conflicts/marital discord

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #7
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #6
What can traumatic stress affect?

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Traumatic stress may affect:
Cognitive functioning. Those who have suffered traumatic stress may act irrationally, in ways that are out of character for them, and have difficulty making decisions. They may have difficulty sharing or retrieving memories.
Physical health. Traumatic stress can cause a range of physical symptoms – from exhaustion to health problems.
Interpersonal relationships. Those who survive traumatic stress may undergo temporary or long-term personality changes that make interpersonal relationships difficult.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #6
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #5
What is a crisis?

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A crisis is an event that is experienced or witnessed in which people’s ability to cope is overwhelmed:
Actual or potential death or injury to self or others
Serious injury
Destruction of their homes, neighborhood, or valued possessions
Loss of contact with family members or close friends

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #5
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #4
What is CISD?

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A critical incident stress debriefing, or CISD, is one type of intervention that may be helpful for a CERT.

CISD is one of several components of critical incident stress management (CISM). CISM is a short-term healing process that focuses on helping people deal with their trauma one incident at a time.
It is intended to lessen the chance of someone experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and get them back to their daily lives as quickly as possible.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #4
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #3
What steps can CERT leaders take to reduce the stress on rescue workers?

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Phase out workers gradually.
Gradually phase them from high- to low-stress areas of the incident.
For example, do not stand down and send home a team member who has just completed a high-stress operation; instead, assign them a low-stress responsibility so they can decompress gradually.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #3
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #2
What is vicarious trauma?

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Vicarious trauma, which is also referred to as compassion fatigue or secondary victimization, is a natural reaction to exposure to a survivor’s trauma.
A person who identifies too strongly with a survivor may take on that survivor’s feelings.
Vicarious trauma is an “occupational hazard” for helpers.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #2
Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #1
When providing support, you should avoid saying the following phrases. On the surface, these phrases may be meant to comfort the survivors, but they can be misinterpreted.

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“I understand.”
“Don’t feel bad.”
“You’re strong” or “You’ll get through this.”
“Don’t cry.”
“It’s God’s will.”
“It could be worse,”
“At least you still have…”, or “Everything will be okay.”
It is okay to apologize if the survivor reacts negatively to something that was said.

Unit 7: Disaster Psychology #1