Responding to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma
APA’s Disaster Resource Network (DRN) program is working directly with our contacts at the American Red Cross’ national headquarters who are managing response procedures in Texas and Florida. The Red Cross received an overwhelming response for disaster mental health volunteers in the past few weeks. They are processing volunteer applications as quickly as possible in the order of deployment availability. Please wait for the call from the Red Cross for further direction. Should your dates of availability to deploy to Texas or Florida change, you can address that at the time the Red Cross contacts you. Until the Red Cross can work through the current queue of applicants, they have temporarily paused the acceptance of applications for direct deployment.
People who have already applied to support Hurricane Harvey operations may be asked to deploy to Florida.
Volunteering in Florida and Texas
To those who want to assist, please do not self-deploy. It is also important that you do not go to Florida or Texas unless asked by an official organization with the infrastructure for disaster response.
There is an emergency response management system (Incident Command Structure) in which you need to be included. Look for official organizations helping with disaster response that have mental health as part of their delivery system. These can be nongovernmental organizations (NGO) or faith-based organizations (FBO).
Working Through American Red Cross
APA has worked with the American Red Cross for 25 years. If you are a current Red Cross Disaster Mental Health (DMH) volunteer and able to deploy, please visit the Volunteer Connection on the Red Cross website and enter your availability in the schedule.
The Red Cross has a means for psychologists and other mental health providers to be part of the response through their Direct Deployment Process.
The Direct Deployment Process is for potential new Disaster Mental Health (DMH) and Disaster Health Services (DHS) volunteers who are not already Red Cross-trained volunteers.
Red Cross volunteers who qualify to be deployed must agree to the following:
- Work in a shelter or other service site, which may involve walking or standing for long periods of time – 12-hour shifts are typical.
- A nine-day deployment commitment (seven days of working plus one day for travel on each end).
- Follow Red Cross principles and procedures.
- Take Red Cross training.
The Red Cross has temporarily paused the acceptance of applications for direct deployment, due to the overwhelming response from new volunteers. If you are interested in other volunteer opportunities, please apply through the Red Cross volunteer application.
Volunteering from Your Home or Office as a Screener for the Red Cross
The Red Cross has had an incredible response to their plea for volunteers. The Red Cross has a great need for experienced Red Cross responders to help screen new DMH volunteers coming through the Direct Deployment Process. The Red Cross is seeking experienced DMH responders — people who have participated in previous disaster responses with the Red Cross, are comfortable with computer systems and available and willing to do phone screenings. The purpose of the screening to assure that needs of the volunteer and the response effort are appropriately matched. Some of our experienced DRN volunteers are doing these screenings for the Red Cross by phone from their home states.
APA and SPTA members with Red Cross disaster mental health experience and previous volunteer experience on a Red Cross disaster response operation who are interested in being considered as a screener can email the DRN program. Please include your contact information (phone, email, state in which you reside) and a few sentences about your disaster response experience. APA staff overseeing the DRN program are compiling this information and relaying it directly to Red Cross contacts.
Red Cross DMH staff will contact directly the psychologists who are chosen to be screeners.
Resources for the Public
APA provides resources for the public on the Psychology Help Center regarding recovering and dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes and other disasters. Materials include managing traumatic stress, tips for parents and caregivers, and understanding reactions and responses following a hurricane. Following is a selection of material:
Managing traumatic stress: After the hurricanes provides insight into how victims of disasters can understand their emotions and learn to cope.
Tornadoes, Hurricanes and Children gives tips to parents and others who care for children to help alleviate the emotional consequences of natural disasters.
Managing traumatic stress: Dealing with the hurricanes from afar offers tips to people who are witnessing the images of flooding and hurricane destruction from a distance.
Recovering emotionally from disaster can help people better understand the overwhelming reactions and responses they may be having following the hurricane.
APA’s Disaster Resource Network
Information is available on the APA website regarding the DRN and what psychologists do on disaster relief operations.