The Emotional Impacts of Australian Emergency Events

by | 13 Jul 2023

Emergencies, such as fires, bomb threats, gas leaks, or other critical incidents, can have a profound emotional impact on individuals and businesses alike. In the aftermath of such events, the challenges faced by businesses go beyond the immediate response.

This article delves into the emotional aftermath of emergencies, explores key considerations for businesses, and highlights the importance of comprehensive emergency management plans. By highlighting real Australian case studies, and providing insight from a highly experienced firefighter, we aim to provide valuable considerations into mitigating the emotional and operational impacts of emergency events.

The Emotional Turmoil After an Emergency

Experiencing an emergency event can be an overwhelming and distressing ordeal. The vivid imagery of fire, smoke, and sirens can leave lasting impressions on individuals, while the loss of prized possessions can evoke profound grief.

However, the emotional impact doesn’t end there. It is crucial to recognise the ongoing psychological toll that businesses and employees endure in the days, weeks, and months following an emergency.

Case study: The 2019 bushfires in New South Wales (NSW), Australia

The 2019 bushfires left a lasting impact not only on the physical landscape but also on the psychological well-being of individuals and businesses affected by the disaster. A study conducted by the University of New England in collaboration with local mental health organisations examined the psychological aftereffects of the bushfires on residents and business owners in affected areas.

The research revealed a significant increase in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression symptoms among those directly impacted by the fires. The study highlighted the pressing need for mental health support services, counseling, and community resilience programs to address the long-term psychological impacts and aid in the recovery process for individuals and businesses alike.

Key Considerations for Effective Emergency Management

While evacuation procedures are critical for preserving lives during emergencies, they often neglect the broader aspects of emergency and incident management. Implementing a comprehensive emergency management plan, which includes critical incident management, crisis management, and business continuity, is essential for businesses to effectively navigate the aftermath of an emergency.

Balancing different factors during emergency response is challenging for businesses. Prioritising employee well-being while mitigating business disruptions and managing the emotional toll involves tradeoffs. To strike the right balance, businesses should:

  1. Develop comprehensive emergency response plans that prioritise employee well-being and business continuity.
  2. Establish a crisis management team to make informed decisions and provide ongoing communication and support to employees.
  3. Implement employee assistance programs and create a supportive work environment.
  4. Allocate resources effectively between immediate response and long-term recovery.
  5. Seek external expertise and partnerships for support.
  6. Communicate transparently while managing the flow of information effectively.

Post-Emergency Actions for Business Recovery

Outline the key steps involved in activating critical incident management plans, crisis management plans, or business continuity management plans. Emphasise the importance of promptly implementing these plans to facilitate a coordinated and effective response during the recovery phase.

Best Practices for Recovery

Provide practical guidance on essential actions for businesses in the aftermath of an emergency, including:

  1. Debriefing and Support: Highlight the significance of debriefing sessions to harvest lessons learned and provide immediate support to affected personnel. Discuss the benefits of psychological support programs for employees.
  2. Ensuring Safety: Address the importance of making the affected site safe through security measures, barricading, or hoarding, to prevent further injury or damage.
  3. Investigation and Cause Determination: Emphasise the need to gather witness statements and conduct thorough investigations to ascertain the preliminary cause of the emergency. Explain how this knowledge helps reduce the risk of future similar incidents.
  4. Loss Assessment: Stress the importance of itemising the losses incurred during the emergency, enabling businesses to organise replacements and file insurance claims efficiently.
  5. Alternative Arrangements: Discuss the significance of making arrangements for temporary accommodation, workspace, storage, etc., to minimise operational disruptions and facilitate business continuity.
  6. Insurance and Repairs: Guide businesses on promptly contacting their insurers and engaging qualified and licensed tradespeople to effect short and long-term repairs.

In conclusion

In the aftermath of an emergency, businesses face not only physical damage but also emotional and operational challenges. By implementing comprehensive emergency management plans and following best practices for recovery, businesses can mitigate the emotional impact and expedite their recovery process.

The key lies in proactive preparation, quick response, and a focus on employee well-being. Bounce Readiness is dedicated to helping businesses navigate emergency events effectively, and we invite you to contact us for further assistance and guidance.

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