Skip to Content

[X] CLOSEMAIN MENU

[X] CLOSEIN THIS SECTION

VIRGINIA BEACH MUNICIPAL CENTER SHOOTINGS RESPONSE AND RECOVERY RESOURCES

Acts of mass violence, such as the mass shooting at the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach cause extreme disruption and distress for employees and the broader community. Victims, family and friends, first responders and emergency personnel, as well as workplace and community leaders are among those affected. Ongoing and graphic national media exposure creates a disaster “community” that extends far beyond the geographic region of the event. Individual and community strength can be enhanced by interventions that address critical behavioral health issues throughout response and recovery phases. Ideal interventions promote the evidence-based principles of Psychological First Aid (PFA), including: safety, calming, self- and community-efficacy, social connectedness, and a sense of hope/optimism. Information relevant to this event and links to succinct, actionable education fact sheets are below.

Common Responses to Disaster
Grief: Understanding and Managing
Workplace and Organization Support
Special Populations at Increased Risk
Health Risk and Crisis Communication

 

Common responses immediately after disasters include distress reactions (insomnia, irritability, loss of perception of safety, social isolation, blaming and scapegoating) and health risk behaviors (increased use of alcohol and tobacco, over-dedication to tasks, and reduced self-care). For supervisors, leaders, family members, and healthcare personnel, being alert to these reactions and behaviors, promptly identifying them, and providing interventions can reduce distress and improve functioning and may decrease the likelihood of ultimately developing mental disorders. Normalizing the reactions and offering anticipatory guidance about what to expect with symptoms over time, as well as when to get help and where to go, help people feel calm and increase self-reliance. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:

FACT SHEET: Safety, Recovery and Hope After a Disaster

FACT SHEET: Coping with Stress After a Mass Shooting

 

Grief is a near universal experience for those directly impacted by mass violence. Many will grieve loss of feelings of safety, control, and life routines. Grief leadership involves anticipating feelings of loss, supporting people in mourning losses, and helping address fears about the future. Anxiety about the future is best managed through “problem solving” (supporting people in connecting with practical help when available). Being sensitive to the need for rituals, such as memorial and funerals, to support expressions of grief, facilitates healing, which ultimately strengthen communities. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:

FACT SHEET: Helping People After a Loss

FACT SHEET: Grief Leadership in the Wake of Tragedies

FACT SHEET: Leadership in Disasters & Lessons Learned

 

Workplace and organization management following a disaster is an important part of restoring community functioning. In addition to financial support, workplaces and organizations often provides a sense of meaning and social connectedness. Effective support for personnel can enhance functioning for both the individuals and the affected workplace or organization. Caution should be taken to avoid overworking remaining employees in the workplace. Allowing for grief and loss through ritual and memories enhances healing and recovery. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:

FACT SHEET: Workplace and Organization Management After Disaster

FACT SHEET: Recovery After Workplace Mass Violence: Guidance for Supervisors

FACT SHEET: Recovery After Workplace Mass Violence: Guidance for Workers

 

Special populations may be more vulnerable than others and warrant unique considerations. Such populations include: first responders and public health emergency workers (including volunteers), children, pregnant and post-partum women, cognitively and mobility impaired, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions. Focused interventions can more quickly and effectively address the unique needs of these populations. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:

FACT SHEET: Supporting Those with Mental Illness After Disaster

FACT SHEET: Managing Stress of Children After a Disaster

FACT SHEET: How Schools Can Help Students

FACT SHEET: First Responders, Emergency Workers & Volunteers and Exposure to Human Remains

FACT SHEET: Maintaining the Well-Being of Healthcare Providers

 

Risk and crisis communication are a critical behavioral health intervention following a community disaster. For those leading disaster management efforts, understanding what to say and what not to say, when and how to say it are important elements. Basic principles include being clear and succinct; stating what is known and unknown; indicating when you do not know the answer, committing to following up at a specific time and then doing so; avoid lying or efforts to be overly reassuring as these erode trust. Effective communication following a disaster can reduce distress and enhance well-being for affected communities. The following resource(s) address this topic in further detail:

FACT SHEET: Leadership Communication During Crisis

 

Additional detailed resources can further knowledge about effective preparedness, response, and recovery measures. Some are brief while others are more detailed. Working with more detailed resources, such as books or online training, during an actual disaster response is not typically feasible. These more in-depth treatments of key topics may be helpful as the initial response slows and serve to inform later response and recovery efforts as well as enhance preparedness for future events. Links to additional websites, fact sheets, articles, training, and books can be found below:

Additional free fact sheet resources at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress

Disaster Psychiatry; What Psychiatrists Need to Know (T Ng)

Textbook of Disaster Psychiatry, 2nd Edition

Disaster Psychiatry (F Stoddard)

Resiliency in the Face of Disaster and Terrorism (J Napoli)

Integrating Emergency Management and Disaster Behavioral Health

Disaster Psychiatry Handbook

Psychiatric Dimensions of Disaster Online Training (Disaster Psychiatry Canada)

Behavioral Health Emergency Response Field Guide (Oregon Dept of Human Services)

 

Back to TOP