Managing Stress During A Crisis

During a Crisis—At the Scene

At the disaster scene, you, as a manager, can provide certain supports for workers to mitigate stress and help them effectively perform the tasks at hand.

Minimizing Stress During the Crisis-At the Scene

  • Clearly define individual roles and reevaluate them if the situation changes.
  • Institute briefings at each shift change that cover the current status of the work environment, safety procedures, and required safety equipment.
  • Partner inexperienced workers with experienced veterans. The buddy system is an effective method to provide support, monitor stress, and reinforce safety procedures. Require outreach personnel to enter the community in pairs.
  • Rotate workers from high-stress to lower-stress functions.
  • Initiate, encourage, and monitor work breaks, especially when casualties are involved. During lengthy events, implement longer breaks and days off, and curtail weekend work whenever possible.
  • Establish respite areas that visually separate workers from the scene and the public. At longer operations, establish an area where responders can shower, eat, change clothes, and sleep.
  • Implement flexible schedules for workers who are directly affected by an event. This can help workers balance home and job responsibilities.
  • Reduce noise as much as possible by providing earplugs, noise mufflers, or telephone headsets.
  • Mitigate the effects of extreme temperatures through the use of protective clothing, proper hydration, and frequent breaks.
  • Ensure that lighting is sufficient, adjustable, and in good working order.
  • Lessen the effect of odors and tastes, and protect workers’ breathing by supplying facemasks and respirators.
  • Provide security for staff at facilities or sites in dangerous areas, including escorts for workers going to and from their vehicles.
  • Provide mobile phones for workers in dangerous environments. Ensure that the staff knows who to call when problems arise.

After the Crisis

The ending of the disaster assignment, whether it involved immediate response or long-term recovery work, can be a period of mixed emotions for workers. Though there may be some relief that the disaster operation is ending, there is often a sense of loss and “letdown”, with some difficulty making the transition back into family life and the regular job. The following are action steps that can help ease the disengagement and transition process for workers.

Minimizing Stress for Workers-After the crisis

  • Allow time off for workers who have experienced personal trauma or loss. Transition these individuals back into the organization by initially assigning them to less-demanding jobs.
  • Develop protocols to provide workers with stigma-free counseling so that workers can address the emotional aspects of their experience.
  • Institute exit interviews and/or seminars to help workers put their experiences in perspective and to validate what they have seen, done, thought, and felt.
  • Provide educational in services or workshops around stress management and self-care.
  • Offer group self-care activities and acknowledgments.

Source: OSHA:

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