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Emergency mental health lessons learned from Continental Flight 3407 disaster
Date:3/1/2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- When a disaster's physical evidence is gone -- debris removed, shooter arrested, ashes cold -- the psychological effects of the disaster on emergency responders and civilians involved still may burn.

Emergency mental health, a field often overlooked in the chaos, is a vital component of any disaster response, but may not be well represented in emergency preparedness planning.

Trained mental health responders to the Continental Flight 3407 disaster outside Buffalo in 2009 share their lessons learned on mental health preparedness in an article that appears in the current issue of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.

Gregory G. Homish, PhD, assistant professor of community health and health behavior at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions and a specialist in emergency preparedness, is first author.

"We hope our lessons learned will be useful to others to help them prepare for future disasters," he said.

"Although it is a gross understatement, the crash of Flight 3407 was a tremendous loss for the families and friends of those on the aircraft, on the ground and for the community at large," Homish continues. "However, pre-disaster planning, training and evaluations of previous responses help to ensure a coordinated approach to providing mental health services to all of the individuals in need."

The assessment found several key successes. Perhaps the most important was that authority and relationships among responders were clearly identified in advance.

"Each emergency mental health team was assigned to a specific population, and leadership from all three teams communicated regularly by telephone or in person to ensure adequate coverage and no duplication of services," says Homish.

"Many first responders are members of multiple teams in which they play different roles. For Flight 3407, responders chose a single team and had to stay with that team for the duratio
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Contact: Lois Baker
ljbaker@buffalo.edu
716-645-4606
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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