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Coping with disasters: new website to help first responders

By Olivia Wilmsen, Multimedia Journalist, olivia.wilmsen@krdo.com
Published On: Oct 28 2013 11:53:24 PM CDT

Fires, floods and car crashes: Southern Colorado has seen it all. For the men and women who respond to disasters. It can be extremely stressful. UCCS has created a new website that could help first responders cope better.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

Fires, floods and car crashes: Southern Colorado has seen it all. For the men and women who respond to disasters. It can be extremely stressful. UCCS has created a new website that could help first responders cope better.

Frightened, scared, and traumatized are only a few words to describe how anyone would feel watching a wildfire, but imagine being on the front lines.

"They think, 'Oh, that's normal',” said Robert Coffey, Colorado Springs Fire Chief of the Medical Division.

What's normal is the stress and the anxiety.

"They get to see every aspect of the disaster,” said Lori James, UCCS Psychology professor.

"It's not normal to see human bodies to get mangled like that. It's okay to have a stress reaction to that," said Coffey.

That's why UCCS psychology professors have created a new website: journey to disaster recovery.  It's designed to help first responders cope with disasters.

"The hope is that by making something available that people can use at their own pace and that they can do in the privacy of their own home," said James.

It will allow them privacy from the consequences to fires, floods, even car accidents.

"When they have the ability to drive their own health and wellness, they have much better outcomes," said Coffey.

Colorado Springs Fire Department already offers help through the "Peer Support Program".

"Firefighters helping firefighters work through some of the traumatic stresses, psychological stresses that they see," said Coffey.

A website, www.firstresponderhelp/bluesunsupport.com,  is an example of something that can help first responders cope with the difficulties during disasters, but Coffey said another option can only help.

"They want and need choice in their health and well-being,” said Coffey.

Because as the saying goes, health is body, mind and soul.

"A lot of our firefighters have been through Waldo Canyon, Black Forest and we saw a huge increase in the usage, the positive usage of our peer support program,” said Coffey.

Researchers are looking for first responders to take a survey of this website. If you're interested, head to http://journeytodisasterrecovery.wordpress.com

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