Faith groups unite to set standards of care for disaster survivors.
Article Type: Column
Subject: Chaplains (Services)
Chaplains (Personal narratives)
Disaster victims (Psychological aspects)
Disaster victims (Care and treatment)
Spiritual healing (Methods)
Author: Fair, David J.
Pub Date: 12/22/2009
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Winter, 2009 Source Volume: 12 Source Issue: 4
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 216961294

As a law enforcement chaplain, I recently attended the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC) Annual Training Seminar. Part of the week's events and training included various committee meetings. I serve on the ICPC Disaster Response Committee (DRC), which is responsible for making recommendations to the organization's board of directors and setting policy, protocols, and requirements for chaplains to become eligible to deploy to a disaster. During the meeting, DRC Chair George Abrams told the group about recent work done by the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD).

NVOAD and more than 20 faith-based and relief groups in the United States came together this year to set minimum standards of care that define how to minister emotionally and spiritually to people in times of disaster. The committee was comprised of Catholics, Scientologists, Protestants, Evangelicals, Buddhists, and Jews who developed a 10-point document named the "Spiritual Care Points of Consensus." The recommendations draw heavily from the NVOAD publication Light Our Way. The Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee published Light Our Way to inform, encourage, and affirm those who respond to disasters and to encourage standards that would assure those affected by disaster receive appropriate and respectful spiritual care services. The 10 points of consensus are:

1. Basic concepts of disaster spiritual care

Spirituality is an essential part of humanity. Disaster disrupts a person's spiritual life. Therefore, every person can benefit for spiritual care in times of disaster.

2. Types of disaster spiritual care

Spiritual care in disaster includes many kinds of caring gestures. Spiritual care providers are from diverse backgrounds and adherence to common standards and principles in spiritual care ensures service is delivered appropriately.

3. Local community resources

As an integral part of the pre-disaster community, local spiritual care providers and communities of faith are the primary resources for post-disaster spiritual care. Because local providers are uniquely equipped to provide this care, outside providers entering the local disaster support but do not substitute for local efforts.

4. Disaster emotional care and its relationship to disaster spiritual care

Spiritual care providers partner with mental health professionals in caring for those in disaster. The two disciplines share some similarities but are distinct healing modalities. Spiritual care providers can be an important asset in referring individuals to mental health professionals, and vice versa.

5. Disaster spiritual care in response and recovery

Spiritual care has an important role in all phases of a disaster, including short-term response to long-term recovery. Assessing and providing for the spiritual care of individuals, families, and communities can kindle the important capacities of hope and resilience.

6. Disaster emotional and spiritual care for the caregiver

Providing spiritual care in a disaster can be overwhelming. Caring for others can lead to compassion fatigue; therefore, understanding the importance of self-care is essential for spiritual care providers. Agencies have the responsibility of modeling healthy work and life habits. Post-disaster spiritual and emotional care for providers is essential.

7. Planning, preparedness, training, and mitigation as spiritual care components

Faith community leaders have an important role in planning and mitigation efforts. By preparing their congregations for disaster, they contribute toward building resilient communities. Training for the role of spiritual care provider is important before a disaster strikes.

8. Disaster spiritual care in diversity

Respect is the foundation to all spiritual care. Spiritual care providers demonstrate respect for diverse cultural and religious values by recognizing the right of each faith group and individual to hold to their own existing values and traditions.

9. Disaster and trauma vulnerability

People impacted by disaster and trauma are vulnerable. There is an imbalance of power between responders and those who receive care. To avoid exploiting that imbalance, spiritual care providers refrain from using their position, influence, knowledge, or professional affiliation for unfair advantage or for personal, organizational, or agency gain.

10. Ethics and standards of care

NVOAD members affirm the importance of cooperative standards of care and agreed ethics. Adherence to common standards and principles in spiritual care ensures that this service is delivered and received appropriately. Any guidelines developed for spiritual care in times of disaster should clearly articulate the above consensus points. The NVOAD Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee has done yeoman service in compiling and articulating the Disaster Spiritual Care Points of Consensus. Please ensure that spiritual care providers in your sphere of influence are aware of these timely and useful points.


Primary reference: Light Our Way by the NVOAD Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee

Fort Hood: Coping with Tragedy

The November 5 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, left 13 people dead and approximately 42 injured, but the tragedy also left a community of people coping with the difficult emotional aftermath.

Chaplain David Fair was one of the first off-base chaplains to respond in the days following the incident, working in collaboration with the Fort Hood Police Department. The team was requested by the Provost Marshal's Office.

"We were there to provide critical incident stress debriefings for some of the civilians and first responders," Chaplain Fair said. His team was organized by Chaplain Fellowship Ministries International in Temple, Texas. The chaplains' meetings offered survivors the chance to talk about what happened in a confidential, low-stress setting.

"It was a tough event to go through, but people talked about resiliency and heroism and people who helped each other at the scene," Chaplain Fair said.

Fair worked at the base for two days and continues to call and e-mail personal friends every couple of days to see how they are recovering--physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This follow-up is important, he says, because the reality of the emotional trauma often doesn't set in until long after an incident." It's like a family," he said. "Whether you are dealing with military or police, everyone looks out for one another."

By David J. Fair, PhD, CHS-IV, ACMC-III

David J. Fair, PhD, CHS-IV, ACMC-III holds a PhD in pastoral counseling and psychology from Bethel Bible College and Seminary.

Chaplain Fair is president of the American Association of Police Officers and CEO of Homeland Crisis Institute. He is Certified in Homeland Security Level Four (CHS-IV) and certified by the Academy of Certified Chaplains LevelThree (ACMC-III).As a member of the Academy of Certified Chaplains Advisory Board, he also serves on the curriculum committee of the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security as well as the editorial advisory board for Inside Homeland Security[R].

Chaplain Fair serves the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Military Forces, TXSG-HQ. He is a reserve deputy/chaplain for the Brown County Sheriff's Department and chaplain emeritus of the Brownwood Police Department. He retired as a chaplain for Brownwood Regional Medical Center after 25 years of service. Fair serves on the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the Center for Crisis Management/American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, and is board certified as a crisis chaplain and in forensic traumatology. He is the immediate past chair of the International Conference of Police Chaplains Education Committee and a former ICPC board member.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.