Sadly, most adults in this country can remember some disaster or tragedy that’s happened to them or one of their loved ones in recent history. Most people in my office have their own exit strategy story from 9/11. We all remember how we tried to cope, and we feel deep sympathy for fellow citizens in similar situations.
After the horrific events at the Boston Marathon and the Texas fertilizer factory explosion this past week, many Americans are again in the unfortunate position of needing assistance in the face of life-changing events. Your Federal government is here to help both the injured citizens and the local medical personnel who rush to their aid, both during and after the disaster occurs.
Image credit: Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department of Emergency Preparedness
I. Federal Disaster Resources for Civilians
The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is, in the words of their own staff,
“…the first 24/7, year-round national crisis hotline exclusively dedicated to providing free, immediate and confidential crisis counseling and support to people in distress related to any natural or man-made disaster, such as the explosions in Boston. We offer this counseling 24/7/365 through phone (1-800-985-5990) and through SMS/text messaging (text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) – and DDH is for those affected, family member and loved ones, as well as for responders.”
Operated by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Disaster Distress Helpline’s Web page www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov also has a section devoted to incidents of mass violence.
If you are suffering from trauma related to the Boston Marathon attack, or similar events, reach out to the Disaster Distress Helpline. Get help, get some shelter. You’re going to wake up tomorrow, and the day after that. Make your day bearable; as Malcolm X said, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Additional Federal disaster and emergency resources for civilians include:
- USA.gov’s list of Federal Disasters and Emergencies websites
- FEMA’s DisasterAssistance.gov to find and apply for disaster assistance
- FEMA Disaster Recovery Center Locator helps you find the nearest disaster recovery center in your area
- DOT’s Hazardous Materials Spills or Pipeline Leaks National Response Hotline: Call 1-800-424-8802 24/7
GPO is helping in its own way; you can find the catalog record about the Disaster Distress Hotline in GPO’s Catalog of Government Publications or your local federal depository library.
II. Federal Disaster Resources for First Responders and Civilian Medical Personnel
With the tragic terrorist bombings in Boston, fertilizer factory explosion in Texas, mass shootings in Sandy Hook, and other recent disasters, medical personnel, civilian first responders and mental health personnel have had to learn to deal with injuries both physical and mental that are usually only experienced on the battlefield.
With the experience gained in treating the wounded and traumatized in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and mass violence and disasters in the US, the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, and Transportation–
including FEMA, US Fire Administration, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, US Special Operations Command, and particularly the Army’s Office of the Surgeon General, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, USAMRIID- US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, and the Borden Institute
– have produced a number of outstanding resources and publications which are of extreme value to emergency medical personnel, including EMTs and surgeons, mental health counselors, fire and rescue personnel, and first responders of all kinds.
[UPDATE 4/30/2013] One great resource for first responders is the Public Health Emergency website maintained by the US Department of Health and Human Services. This is meant to be a one-stop resource for all of the federal medical resources and information for emergency response. The military version, the Department of Defense Force Health Protection and Readiness National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Page, is here.
[UPDATE 4/26/2013] One of the best resources we have seen was provided by one of our readers, a Regional Emergency Coordinator with the Department of Health and Human Services. It is a one-stop site for all emergency medical resources called the WMD, Emergency Management, and Medical Web Sites List. The author says it is updated every six months to keep it accurate, and it “is intended to provide an extremely “comprehensive list of internet sites of use for emergency planning and in particular Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and medical emergency planning.“
All of these Federal publications below can help civilian emergency response and medical personnel quickly learn from these Federal and military experts on how to respond to disasters and how to treat gunshot and blast wounds (such as from bombs and IEDs), amputations, and other combat-style injuries both in the field as well as the rehabilitation and psychological factors afterwards, including post-traumatic stress.
Some of the more pertinent disaster response and treatment publications that can be found on the U.S. Government Bookstore include:
- Mental Health publications including the valuable Psychosocial Issues for Children and Adolescents in Disasters which provides information and guidance to individuals and counselors concerned with the mental health needs of children who experience major disasters.
- Emergency Management & First Responders publications including:
- the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide Version 1.4 for establishing or repairing emergency communications in a disaster area
- Emergency Response to Terrorism: Job Aid is a pocket-sized handbook which identifies strategic and tactical considerations that should be assessed within the first hour of a terrorist incident.
- Emergency Response Guidebook 2012 for first responders and firemen who need to deal with transportation emergencies, including how to identify hazardous materials such as in the fertilizer tanks.
- Military & Emergency Medicine publications which include physician references and handbooks for medical personnel and first responders in the treatment of victims of disasters, including combat and terrorism:
- Combat Casualty Care: Lessons Learned From OEF and OIF to aid medical personnel in treating trauma victims from bombs, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), gunfire, and other combat or terrorist situations.
- Blast Injury: Translating Research Into Operational Medicine provides access to the extensive repository of the Army’s primary biomedical research reports and data about blast injuries.
- Care of the Combat Amputee provides comprehensive coverage of current and emerging care of combat amputations.
- Rehabilitation of the Injured Combatant, V. 2 focuses on the aspects of care specifically related to wounds sustained through combat and military training, including injury-specific rehabilitation of burn wounds, nerve injuries, spinal injuries, the special problems of amputees.
- Combat and Operational Behavioral Health covers all aspects of behavioral health of individuals in a post-combat (or terrorist attack) environments, including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress syndrome, combat and operational stress control, pain management, grief, family dynamics, rehabilitation and occupational therapy, medications, suicide prevention, forensic psychiatry and more.
- Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook (CD-ROM) or Print Version is a comprehensive reference designed for medics in the field, it is also a must-have reference for any military or emergency response medical personnel, particularly in hostile environments.
- Quick Bio-Agents: USAMRIID’s Pocket Reference Guide to Biological Select Agents & Toxins is an invaluable reference in the field for identification of dangerous biological select agents and toxins
- Pediatric Surgery and Medicine for Hostile Environments is a basic reference for physicians and surgeons in treating children in disasters, emergency response or combat situations.
- Attack on the Pentagon: The Medical Response to 9/11 tells the story of the medical response to the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
About the Authors
Part I: Excerpted from a post on the FDLP Community Blog on April 18, 2013, by guest blogger Jennifer Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP) who wrote about the Disaster Distress Helpline.
Part II: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram writes about the disaster and emergency response publications that can help civilian personnel respond to disasters with combat-style injuries. Ms. Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.