Vancouver hospital demonstrates how to deliver psychological first aid during a major crisis (Dr. Suja Srikameswaran)

In a Code Orange — where mass casualties arise from an earthquake, shipping accident, plane crash, terrorist attack, bridge collapse or other disaster — hospital emergency-response planners expect those with extreme psychological distress may outnumber the physically injured by as much as four to one.

St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver is an exception — it has been doing extensive planning for on-site psychosocial first aid for four years. It got a chance to test systems for delivering psychological first aid on June 15, 2011 during the Stanley Cup riots that erupted after the Vancouver Canucks lost the series to the Boston Bruins.

Suja Srikameswaran, a psychologist at St. Paul’s who is co-chair of the Disaster Psychosocial Team Planning Committee, said health providers were prepared because they’d been doing disaster response planning before that fateful night when numerous patients showed up needing psychological help.

Pamela Fayerman reports

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