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Post-Disaster Debriefing: A Reflection

Post-Disaster Debriefing: A Reflection

Mrs. Arna Elliott-Rattray & Mrs. Kimberly Hinds-Heron
Faculty of Social Sciences
Sociology, Psychology & Social Work
Pharmaceuticals, Nutraceuticals, Health and Well-Being


On September 6, 2017 Category 5 Hurricane Irma with 185 mph winds devastated Anguilla. The UWI Mona, Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work responded to the request from the Anguillan Government’s Ministry of Health and Social Development to conducta three day training in Community Based Psychosocial Support (CBPS). The two facilitators kept a reflection log.

The Event

The workshop was aimed at equipping participants with the basic knowledge, skills and attitudes of CBPS for managing post-disaster. These responders had not had an opportunity to sit, talk, share realities, share feelings, and triumphs. The first day of training would be an event that captured the authors’ attention as they were given such an opportunity to share in one space, the stories of themselves fighting a ‘beast of a hurricane’, whilst taking care of their immediate concerns and providing assistance to community members. We were struck by the limited attention to self.


The opportunity of sharing the experiences of hurt, devastation, joy, triumph, loneliness, and exhaustion created a visible reaction of relief. There is a need for the provision of time and space for cathartic release through structured debriefing. Debriefing allows first responders to share a sense of group support, normalization of reactions and amalgamates the power of group milieu as it possibly normalizes individual reaction to a disaster. North & Pfefferbaum (2013) reported that debriefing is important in post-disaster settings in an attempt to prevent or reduce the likelihood of the responders acquiring disaster-related mental health issues.

A deliberate attempt must be made to provide psychological debriefing after a disaster for responders.

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