The Aftermath of a Traumatic Event
The Campus Road to Recovery After Trauma
Unfortunately, we hear stories far too often of mass disasters, whether it be terrorist attacks, shootings or natural disasters, these events wreak havoc on those involved. If these instances happen at a place of higher education, the implications can be even more disastrous to victims, families, staff, and responders. Today, we are going to give you some tips to recover from a traumatic event at your college or university, in chronological order.
Prior to the Traumatic Event
You never want to think that your college or university is a target for one of these situations, but in all actuality, it is. By making preparations beforehand, you can get a head start and help to alleviate some chaos when a traumatic event does occur. Prior to a traumatic event, have a way to communicate with key personnel such as administrators, facility personnel, campus security, and responders. Communication is not enough though, training on how to use the communication channels properly and drills to prepare your staff are critical. Hold drills on things like active shooter scenarios, medical emergencies, tornadoes, or bomb threats. By using these tips to begin preparing before an incident, you will increase response time and make your response more efficient.
After a traumatic event, chaos will naturally ensue, but keeping the area clear and getting victims care is a top priority. Have reunification areas set up, away from the scene where information is readily available to those waiting to hear from their loved ones. It is best to set up reunification areas where a first responder or campus administrator is nearby to answer questions and give information as it becomes available. Have counselors lined up prior to the event, but have them on hand to talk with those who have been affected. Triage locations for those with minor injuries can be set up nearby but within reasonable distance with a secured perimeter around those areas to reduce the chance of another crisis.
Recovery is not just the times immediately after a crisis or traumatic event. In the event of a terror attack or shooting, recovery will take months and/or years. Complete recovery may never
happen, so continued efforts must be made. Your short-term recovery should include communication from the campus to the victims and their families. Your campus should communicate to students, staff, families, and their community about their sorrow over the incident, and how they plan to continue safety efforts. Short-term recovery should also include time for healing, and a safe place for students and staff to gather and talk about the event, the changes it has made in their lives, and how they are coping with the trauma. In the short term, the campus should also hold a community wide meeting on where they go from here with campus safety, rebuilding the trust within the community, and what is being done to reduce the possibility of another traumatic event.
After the initial trauma and the short-term recovery, comes the hardest part for many, trying to regain control and lead the life they previously lived before the traumatic event. In the long-term recovery, victims, families, and students will need continual support, often times in the form of therapy and counseling. Another aspect to long-term recovery is the ability to understand. Those affected will need understanding that it may take a while for them to get back into a normal routine, it may be hard for them to return to classes and that healing will be a long process. Finally, resources should be afforded to those affected like extra time out of class, more time to complete assignments, and counseling services provided by the campus.
Trauma affects everyone differently, some may never recover completely, while others may see it as an opportunity to live life fearlessly and without regret. In a higher education and campus environment, students will likely not be the only victims. Having some training and preparation will help to alleviate immediate chaos, but the real road to recovery is in the days, weeks, months, and years following the event. These chronological tips should help to plan for a recovery process that works best for your campus environment.