Swissair Flight 111 Disaster Response Impacts: Lessons Learned From the Voices of Disaster Volunteers

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Abstract

This qualitative research study provides insight into the specific experiences, trauma, and needs of disaster volunteers as an understudied and marginalized sector of response and recovery personnel. Based on a qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews, the authors present the tasks, exposures, impacts, and search for meaning of the Swissair Flight 111 disaster volunteers who were exposed to human remains during response and recovery efforts. The article is structured to amplify the voices of volunteers to reveal the specificity of disaster fieldwork and resultant multilevel impacts critical to understanding and responding to contemporary disasters. The article concludes with a discussion of the need for clinical and operational policies and protocols that acknowledge the risk and impact of volunteer exposure to human remains and serve to protect the well-being of future volunteer disaster response and recovery workers.

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