Article type: Original Research

PUBLISHED 1 January 1987

Volume 12 Issue 3

The Response to Disaster of Individuals &; Families Within Their Community

Ruth Wraith, Rob Gordon


1 Department of Child & Family Psychiatry Royal Childrens Hospital, Melbourne

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In a natural disaster situation the predominent experience is confusion. It occurs because disastrous events, by their very nature, disrupt the expected familiar pattern of life. The physical environment is usually drastically altered; sometimes it is almost unrecognizable. Death, injury or the threat of them, introduce new and powerful experiences of danger. Evacuation and the influx of combatant and relief workers, replace ordered and familiar community life with a disoriented, emotional mass of people.

In this, as in any situation of confusion, people fall back on what is familiar, to orient themselves. This means they may not immediately recognise what is new and unique to the disaster. They tend to focus on definite, tangible problems. The ovewhelming physical needs are quite rightly the first to be addressed. Many physical requirements have to be met in a matter of hours. When concentrating on providing necessary services, it is difficult to be understanding of the new personal and community responses that take place.

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