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EAP Response to Acts of Terrorism

Did you know that according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, there are over 2650 acts of terrorism committed in U.S. soil over the past 40 years? These were violent acts and threats that fit the FBI’s definition of terrorism. Did you

also know that the most common targets are businesses? Thinking EAP yet? I hope so because the reach of terrorism also extends beyond the epicenter of the attack. While much of our focus and attention goes to the proximity of the incident, as it should, businesses all around the area are impacted. So much so, that we all felt the impact from 9/11, the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino. All of these incidents challenged our world view, created levels of risk to secondary trauma through media exposure and raised the question within EAPs, how they would respond if it happened to their customer. It’s a necessary exercise for EAPs to work through. We also have learned a few things which is the subject of an article submitted to the Journal of Employee Assistance. For instance:

From the Harvard Forum on Disaster Response- A Decade of Lessons Learned Post 9/11:

“…and it's also an important point to realize that the longest-lived aspect of a disaster, what lingers in memory decades later, for any disaster-affected community, is did the outside world come in to help.”-

Jennifer Leaning, MD, Assoc. Professor of Medicine, Harvard University

What a powerful lesson. Remember that quote if the question ever arises as to the value of having an onsite EAP presence. In fact, if you’ve attended my workshop on Multi-Systemic Resiliency Approach, you know that the research tells us that it’s the perception of support that leads to resilience not necessarily accessing it.

There are a number of lessons learned in the article so they won’t be repeated here. Another that bears repeating however, is the immense intensity the EAP will be submerged in. Response work in the proximity of the attack can become emotionally consuming. Have supports for your own resilience. Rotate out of the activity for periods of rest and have your own interventions available to you.

Actual interventions, i.e. creating safe zones, interupting the shock loop often exaserbated by media exposure, mock return to work activites and formal presentations are all part of our new training available in the MSRA workshop and soon to be online.

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