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Foundation, reminding you that a fully-integrated approach for assisting survivors of
traumatic loss involves a balance of head and heart. Wednesday Wisdom is written
and copyrighted by Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D. and distributed by the Family
Assistance Education & Research Foundation Inc., fafonline.org. Reprint is available
with written permission from the Foundation.
The Importance of Learning from the Real Experts
“The point is to assimilate the past, to use it in the making of our own life and
culture. (Otherwise), history is a dead weight to the present.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher and scholar (1844-1900)
A high-ranking law enforcement official surprised Foundation co-founders Dr.
Carolyn Coarsey and Jeff Morgan a few years ago by asking why we continued
to invite survivors to speak at our meetings, training sessions, and conferences.
He stated that he had heard enough from survivors about how organizations and
agencies could improve their responses and felt that there was nothing more to
learn from them.
It’s certainly true that much has been learned from survivors of past tragedies, but
as the evolution in emergency management continues, responders must keep up
with new issues and challenges like social media. When the first family assistance
programs were created in the early 1990s, companies were concerned with staying
ahead of local news channels and CNN. Today, cell phones have transformed
everyone into de facto news reporters and videographers, and many thousands of
people may know of a crisis involving an organization before it can even announce
what has happened in its own workplace.
Most importantly, anyone involved in emergency response knows that no matter
how much we understand about supporting survivors, there is always more to learn.
BusinessDictionary.com defines evolution as the process of change from one
level to a better or higher one, or that brings into being a superior or new order.
The definition goes on to say that evolution “…does not occur in a straight, steady
progression but is marked by false starts and dead ends, random leaps in
different directions, and long periods of no fruitful activity” and that “By far the
most dominant evolutionary phenomenon is the preservation of whatever
is working well.”
Since Human Services Response™ resulted from listening to survivors, and has
been refined through the years by continuing to listen to them, it’s clear that
setbacks are inevitable when individuals, especially organizational leaders,
are no longer interested in hearing survivors’ perspectives.
We at the Foundation continue to believe that survivor testimony is the best way to
obtain lessons learned and to move forward—thereby preventing repetition of
the same hurtful mistakes while also gaining valuable knowledge on emerging
issues. Upcoming Foundation meetings will feature presentations by survivors of
various tragedies that have occurred over the past few years: transportation
accidents, shootings, individual employee deaths, and numerous workplace
traumas. These experiences have yielded rich opportunities for learning and
improving policies and procedures for assisting future survivors.
We also expect to hear examples of how primary survivors and their families
received compassionate support and services as a direct result of previous
survivors’ experiences that were shared with us and formed the basis of survivor
assistance as it exists today.
“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”
– Rosa Luxemburg, Polish/German Philosopher, author of
Reform or Revolution (1871-1919)
As a culture, if even one organization fails to plan, prepare, and exercise their
response to survivors in the event of tragedy, it sets everyone back.
Organizational leaders are encouraged to learn from survivors of today’s recent
tragedies as well as those from the past. While we recognize that it is easier to
hear responders talk about how they served the survivors of a tragedy, and that
it is understandably hard to hear others discuss shortcomings when everyone did
their best, it is the perception of those served – the survivors – that yields the
most beneficial information for improving future responses. For we know that
perception is reality—regardless of responders’ good intent and best efforts.
© 2017 Higher Resources, Inc./Aviem International, Inc.
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