Well-Researched and Complete Compilation of Disaster Recovery Training

George W. Doherty continues his work of educating recovery workers so they can help themselves and those directly affected by crises in “From Crisis to Recovery: Strategic Planning for Response, Resilience, and Recovery.” This book is a type of follow up to his earlier work, “Crisis Intervention Training for Disaster Workers: An Introduction.” While Doherty covers some similar ground in this book, overall, the book is better organized and more reader-friendly, breaking down everything to be considered during a crisis to provide an effective response and recovery from the event.

The first chapter, “What is Stress?” is valuable to everyone, whether the person has been in a disaster, helped at a disaster, or just lived a normal life. While this chapter does not relate to disasters specifically, it is relevant to understand what is the natural level of stress people can handle and what are basic and effective methods of coping with stress, including effective breathing exercises. The many positive side effects of stress are also included because they propel us forward. As Doherty points out later in the book, humans prefer a certain level of risk, rather than stagnation, and if risk is not present, they will create a level of risk comfortable to them. I found all this information helpful in understanding my own stress and anxieties, and I feel better prepared for traumatic situations as a result of reading this book. I can see how this understanding of people’s responses to stress is invaluable for understanding how they cope with disasters.

Anyone who will work with people during a crisis will find this book invaluable, especially team leaders who must prepare for all the various aspects of a crisis. As Doherty points out several times, it is important to understand that “No one who sees a disaster is untouched by it.” Whether a person loses a home or loved one in the disaster, is part of relief and recovery efforts, or is simply part of the media reporting on the story, all these people have undergone a traumatic experience and need to know how to handle it. Doherty’s explanations of understanding how different people cope with trauma, based on age and cultural background, make it clear one method does not fit everyone, one form of grief processing does not heal everyone grieving, and people have to consider the human and individual elements in the recovery process.

Throughout, the book offers practical steps for helping in a crisis. One excellent example was if a crisis worker is told about an elderly person having a difficult time dealing with the crisis, the worker can prioritize what otherwise would be overwhelming by focusing on immediate rather than secondary needs, immediate needs including medication, eyeglasses, and shelter; once immediate needs are determined, the easiest can be tackled first. I thought this suggestion was a practical and stress-relieving way to help the person suffering from the crisis. In addition, Doherty discusses helping children cope with the situation, as well as how disaster workers can explain their absence from home to their own children without traumatizing them with worry. In short, Doherty covers every possible scenario imaginable. I doubt there is anything he did not consider in writing this book. Much of the book seems like common sense, but the material is invaluable as a reminder of what needs to be done, which otherwise workers may not mentally be able to formulate for themselves in the midst of a crisis.

Doherty uses considerable research and references to real disasters ranging from September 11th to hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes to illustrate his points. While at times the book is a bit repetitive, and may also seem a little overwhelming to read from cover to cover, after one thorough read, I think it would serve as a quick and effective reference guide that crisis workers will return to again and again.

Beyond the book’s main text, the appendices provide an enormous list of resources-they actually make up over a quarter of the book. Web sites, books, and phone numbers of emergency organizations are included as well as outlines of what is needed for planning consideration, structural organization, and guidelines for setting up processes. Examples of individual “After Action” reports and actual disaster plans are included.

George Doherty is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Region Disaster Mental Health Institute and its current president/CEO. He also serves as Clinical Coordinator of the Snow Range Critical Incident Stress Management Team. He has been involved in disaster relief since 1995 as a Disaster Mental Health Specialist who has helped people through disasters from train wrecks to hurricanes and flash floods. I admire his expertise, his courage in performing what has to be a traumatic job, and his willingness to share his knowledge to aid workers in helping others and themselves in the most effective ways possible so people can be resilient and recover from the unforeseen disasters they experience.