In the forest and rural fires of 2017 in Portugal, more than 100 civilians died and hundreds of houses were burned, as well as the disruption of the socio-economic reality due to the destruction of businesses, essential infrastructures and damage to the forest and agricultural productions. National civil protection ensured the integrated response to this major disaster, which included psychosocial support to the population. This study presents the main conclusions and lessons learnt after these major forest fires.
The information was collected based on the lessons learned focus-group process, by the field coordinators from three different institutions that were on the Incident Command Post, during the Pedrógão Grande Catastrophe (National Civil Protection, National School of Firefighters and Directorate-General of Health).
A summary of the lessons learned: The importance of constituting a cell in the Incident Command Post specific to coordinate all entities that contribute to the population psychosocial support; The need to ensure the occupational health of psychosocial support technicians, both those who intervene directly with the victims and those who are in the command post; The importance of articulating the response of local and national level social and health services; The recognition of the added value of the coexistence of static and mobile teams for the provision of psychosocial support to the populations; The need to create rapid psychosocial support assessment teams, which cover the operations field and local institutions.
In order to increase Portugal’s preparedness and resilience to future major disasters, this process identified the following needs: To develop a National Operations Guidelines Manual for psychosocial support and to develop Rapid psychosocial assessment teams as support for the Incident Command Post.