Among the many experiences I treasure working as a psychologist and working with OPA, my volunteer work stands out the most. In 2005, I had experience of volunteering for the American Red Cross and helping during Hurricane Katrina. I spent several days living and working in a shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and I now look back on this as a tremendously rewarding experience. I felt I was present with so many individuals in their time of tremendous need, and I was able to make some kind contribution to the challenges and difficulties present in this region. Many psychologists do not realize that the American Red Cross (ARC) actively recruits and trains Disaster Mental Health workers, and that these individuals can play a very helpful role at disaster sites. Like so many others, I gave little thought to disasters, the role of ARC and how psychologists help with all this until a major disaster stuck. As I became aware of the large numbers of people in need, only then did I begin to think more about how I could be of help.
Unfortunately, these challenging circumstances are not the best for preparing volunteers for service. ARC’s system works best when individuals are trained and readied before disaster strikes. The American Psychological Association, in conjunction with local state associations, maintains a Disaster Response Network (DRN). This is a list of prepared individuals who are available to respond in the event of a disaster. The Ohio Psychological Association maintains its own list of Ohio psychologists who are a part of this network. At present, the Ohio Disaster Response Coordinator is psychologist Dr. Margie Kukor. Margie heads a committee whose job it is to grow and develop our local Ohio DRN. This committee’s task is to recruit psychologist volunteers to be Disaster Mental Health Workers, facilitate their training, and in general coordinate the development of this group. For any psychologist who wants to help with these efforts, two levels of volunteering are possible. One is for psychologists who would like to become a part of the DRN (trained and ready to go in the event of a disaster), the other is to join the Disaster Response Committee and help develop the DRN here in Ohio. Both are rewarding volunteer experiences. Anyone interested in either should contact Dr. Kukor.