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Natural disaster stress trigger heads up for employers, churches and schools

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The first day of Spring was March 20th. When gusts of wind come, bringing Spring in Oklahoma, many people... especially service providers and first responders become increasingly watchful of weather reports and the sky. Oklahoma has some of the most sophisticated equipment to consider and define trends in weather. The 2014 EF5 in deuces even threw their staff. That is pretty significant. http://www.examiner.com/article/ef5-deuces-secrets-and-hints-on-tornadic...

Last year, this writer was invited to a provider symposium sponsored by AMERICARES,http://www.americares.org/who-we-are/ an advanced humanitarian group who follows disasters with aid, planning and research. Americares goal is to improve responses for communities served, but also for the first responders.

Oklahoma has many versions of natural disasters, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought, wildfires..... along with extreme seasonal temperatures. And so what a timely meeting this gathering of AMERICARES and Oklahoma providers was this summer.. One of the presenters, was a pediatrician, and he noted that given the recent events that ALL OKLAHOMAN's needed to be considered for PTSD. Wow. And in introducing that with others in my community, people began to share more and more acknowledgement of why that is a truth.

Will Rogers a famous Oklahoman, Native American and comedian used common conversational observations to bring smiles to the faces of many worldwide. As this writer began this article, this writer believed he probably had the kindest thing to say about Oklahoma weather," Don't like Oklahoma weather? Wait a minute and it will change". except the Will Rogers site doesn't list it as a quote. So how about this one instead : "Don't let yesterday use up too much of today." http://www.cmgww.com/historic/rogers/about/miscellaneous.html

Now is the time for employers to begin to look again at disaster response. The "pre" issue in "prepare" is to consider the prior year needs and events within staff, schools or churches and try to provide people with personal resources, "pocket stress management" for working to keep daily stressors understood and under control independent of events.

People who are actively in a situation of disaster really only need you to listen, and help them steady themselves by getting core resources. Safety. Food. Shelter. Water. Toiletries. Diapers.... every day needs are first. Basic hospitality and listening is the very, very best service for those moments.

But what about the the people who are not involved in a situation directly, but have fellow employees hit, family, whatever. What about the first responders who aren't medical, like insurance providers or school teachers, church leaders, who come in to respond to the disaster and see the disasters. Most employers these days have a service called EAP, the employee assistance program. (This usually has a menu of free sessions for the individual staffer to get care. Oklahoma has monies for free counseling second to disasters, even NOW.)

This tricks out into two thoughts. One. People who are having PTSD very, very often don't know it, so the individual may not understand to go to counseling. Sometimes people are already IN counseling and don't mention that they were affected by the disaster. So it is the job of others to make it a point of inquiry, encouragement and opportunity. Before and after the issue comes out. So # 1 is a pointed, kindly stated reminder of resources already in pocket.

And two, employers have the option to get advanced "shoring up" sorts of preventative sessions out of season to aid the staff in developing personal habits of coping individually or in a group/team, which can be provided informally by the HR staff, by a local service like the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, from their professional contract with the EAP insurance or the primary medical insurance the company subscribes to. #2 is providing preventative education about stress, developing disaster response plans, and honing personal coping skills, with or without a professional.

An aside is for free the Oklahoma City County Health Department offers disaster preparedness classes, in short forum, but these are practical suggestions, like make sure you have sturdy shoes by your bed in high risk weather season, as flip-flops walking through debris is a not so great idea. And own bottled water. Have a meet up place in case you are separated in disaster. These classes are offered at the Library often. And sometimes they have free stuff to stock your kit.

Most people nod in agreement about now, and say something like "Hadn't thought of that". Other people are still somewhat murky about what they might ask for.

Think along the lines of first responses... honing simple, next right things, things within reach and things that mobilize resources that people have, but downplay or forget in times of fretfulness or catastrophic loss.

So, here is a nationally accepted point of wellness education from SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Many people already have gotten this information from their family physician or a counselor http://www.promoteacceptance.samhsa.gov/10by10/dimensions.aspx

This list of categories many encourage as quality of life categories, that can be considered with regards to successes, resilience and need. http://www.samhsa.gov/children/trauma-resilience-definitions.asp

And here is an accessible example of an on the hoof, readily accessible stress management technique that is available in stores now for a dollar or so. http://www.examiner.com/article/downtown-okc-pocket-stress-reduction-101

On some level, this article is a gross over simplification of stress management, but on another note, it makes the simple point that

1.) thinking about this now is helpful, before it begins.

2.) does my home or school or workplace already begin to refresh skills for coping now anyway?

3.) you, in reading this are a maverick, who will help your group get the idea on the table and on to accessing meaningful resources, coping and support.

Nothing undoes the rattling of catastrophic disaster, really. But people who have considered this in advance, as with any emergency situation do well if not better than those who don't when it comes on. Same for fire escape plans.

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