How did Hurricane Katrina affect first responders (police, firefighters, and emts)?
First responders involved in Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005 and was one of the worst natural disasters in American history, experienced mental health problems following the event. The study below, conducted by Osofsky et al. in 2011, studied 1,382 first responders, including fire fighters, police, emergency medical services workers, and workers from the city. The researchers initially screened the first responders 6 to 9 months after the hurricane. The first responders were screened again 13 to 18 months after the hurricane.
More than one quarter of the first responders who were surveyed said that they had experienced the following traumatic events: damage to home (93%), witnessing injury or death (70%), and injury caused to a friend (25%). The results also suggested that first responders were suffering as a result of their experiences. At least 10% had significant symptoms related to post traumatic stress, and 25% had significant symptoms related to depression. Many (40%) reported increased use of alcohol and conflict with their partner (41%). With the 18 month follow-up, there was not a significant decrease in symptoms of post-traumatic stress or depression. These results suggest that first responders experienced severe trauma during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and that these effects were ongoing following the hurricane.
Osofsky, H.J., Osofsky, J.D., Arey J., Kronenberg, M.E., Hansel, T., & Many, M. (2011). Hurricane Katrina's first responders: the struggle to protect and serve in the aftermath of the disaster. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. September 5, 2011. Suppl 2:S214-9. doi: 10.1001/dmp.2011.53. Epub 2011 Aug 24.