202665 Role of Victims as Volunteers in Disaster Recovery Efforts

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Naheed Ahmed, BS , Public Health & Applied Anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Lauren Anne Harris, BA , Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Christine Wolfe, MPH , Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Jaime Corvin, PhD , Global Health, Univeristy of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Darcy Ravndal, RN, MPH , School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD
This study examines the role of victims as volunteers during disaster relief activities. Following a hurricane or other natural disaster, the time it takes for outside assistance to arrive necessitates the involvement of victims in their own rescue, effectively making them “first responders.” The study focused on the experiences of those involved in relief efforts following Florida's 2004 hurricane season. Data was collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with volunteers, paid staff, and leadership from government agencies, formal voluntary organizations and informal voluntary organizations. Using content analysis, the researchers coded interviews into segments of data by emerging topics. Results yield many accounts of victims initiating their own self-rescue and taking part in recovery efforts, asserting their agency and rejecting their “helplessness” in the aftermath of a disaster. Through our research and case studies of disaster relief models, we argue that the role of victims as volunteers should be taken into account when initiating recovery efforts. Victims are in a position to identify areas of concern in the disaster zone and the location of resources. During the rebuilding phase the input of victims will contribute to community based construction plans, which will address the needs of residents. In addition, the participation of victims in these relief efforts will better prepare them for future disasters.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the involvement of victims in self-rescue initiatives and post-disaster recovery efforts. 2. Identify areas in which victims can assist in the rebuilding of their communities and prepare for future disasters.

Keywords: Disasters, Recovery

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a masters level student in Public Health and Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.