Study shows first responders will report to duty, but need assistance with family matters

Aug 18, 2011
A study by UD researchers shows first responders will report to duty, but need assistance with family matters. Credit: Courtesy: Joe Trainor

Headlines screamed in the days following Hurricane Katrina: Police Quitting, Overwhelmed by Chaos. Pundits squawked about the flight of the "notoriously corrupt" New Orleans police force. City and emergency planners outside the devastated areas envisioned disasters happening in their own cities and widespread desertion by their first responders.

But that's not a very realistic fear, according to UD's Joe Trainor, who recently conducted research on the subject.

"Fire companies and police stations and hospitals should stop being concerned about whether individuals will report or not and start being concerned about what their organizations can do to help individuals report to duty," Trainor, an assistant professor of sociology, said.

Trainor, a member of UD's Disaster Research Center core faculty, analyzed whether or not emergency responders would be willing to report for duty in the case of a catastrophic disaster. He conducted the work as part of a regional catastrophic preparedness program that involved the Washington, D.C., metro area and surrounding states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

within the region worried that firefighters, police officers, paramedics and other would be absent from work if a disaster affected the region, including the responders' homes and families.

To determine the validity of this concern, Trainor, collaborator Lauren Barsky, a UD doctoral student at the time, and several research assistants from UD's Disaster Science and Management Program collected papers, reports and analyses on disasters. After reviewing 180 documents, they determined that even though role strain and role conflict are common during disasters, role abandonment is unlikely if first response organizations were proactive in protecting their employees.

While role abandonment worries were overhyped, they found too little emphasis is placed on easing first responders' conflict between dedication to their jobs and devotion to their families.

Trainor said organizers should ponder certain questions: "Are we asking people to do reasonable things? And, are we doing everything that we can do to facilitate their saying yes?"

He suggests first responders' employers reach out to families, get them thinking about preparedness and organize support and resources for spouses.

Role strain, a responders' concern that the job is asking too much, could also be lessened, according to Trainor, through thoughtful preparation.

"It might just be simple education," he said. "Let the employees understand what the nature of these threats are."

For instance, fire companies could educate their members on the details and dangers of bioterrorism and how responders can protect themselves.

That protection also extends to equipment. Trainor believes employees' role strain decreases when they have personal protective equipment like specialized suits and are trained to use them.

He hopes these findings, requested by communities themselves, will be enacted. Cites and towns could alter their way of "doing business" to reduce first responders' personal worries so they can help stressed community members in an emergency.

Explore further: Study shows how to convince those with low self-confidence to pursue their career choice

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Smart' Buildings to Guide Future First Responders

Nov 03, 2005

NIST researchers are studying how "intelligent" building systems can be used by firefighters, police and other first responders to accurately assess emergency conditions in real-time. One of the biggest problems faced by ...

Obama signs health bill for 9/11 responders

Jan 03, 2011

US President Barack Obama signed into law Sunday a bill to compensate emergency responders sickened in the rubble of the September 11 attacks, the White House said.

Globe Talk: Tech no panacea to preparedness

Apr 08, 2006

Be prepared for the next big one to strike. That's been the rallying cry of the government ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and yet public confidence in the public sector to deliver on those calls has bee ...

Recommended for you

Power can corrupt even the honest

1 hour ago

When appointing a new leader, selectors base their choice on several factors and typically look for leaders with desirable characteristics such as honesty and trustworthiness. However once leaders are in power, can we trust ...

Learning at 10 degrees north

1 hour ago

Secluded beaches, calypso music and the entertaining carnival are often what come to mind when thinking of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. But Dal Earth Sciences students might first consider Trinidad's ...

How to find the knowns and unknowns in any research

3 hours ago

Have you ever felt overloaded by information? Ever wondered how to make sense of claims and counter-claims about a topic? With so much information out there on many different issues, how is a person new to ...

Minorities energize US consumer market, according to report

3 hours ago

The buying power of minority groups in the U.S. has reached new heights and continues to outpace cumulative inflation, according to the latest Multicultural Economy Report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the ...

User comments : 0