Testing new training methods

People who are affected by both small and large scale crises and disasters are often exposed to very distressing experiences, becoming separated from family members or their personal belongings, losing loved ones, being evacuated from their homes, or simply having to deal with the disruption to essential services. These experiences can have immediate as well as long-term consequences for individuals, families and communities.

First responders are the first on the scene in the response phase, in which they have the initial contact with survivors. First responders are also involved in the recovery phase, for example at recovery centres and in leading reconstruction efforts. This means that first responders are well-positioned to address the immediate as well as the long-term mental health and psychosocial needs of the general public. If first responders neglect emotional reactions of the general public, this may result in passive victims rather than active survivors. If they, alternatively, are equipped to respond to basic psychosocial needs of the general public, this may improve functioning and promote resilience in individuals, families and communities, and also facilitate their participation in relief and reconstruction efforts.

The PS Centre is partner in a large European Funded project called Driving Innovation in Crisis Management for European Resilience (DRIVER), which tests and develops innovative methods and tools for crisis management across Europe.

One of the tasks of the PS Centre in the project focuses on developing training methodologies and support tools that can enhance collaboration between professionals and the general public in the recovery phase. As part of this effort, the PS Centre and its partners in the project have developed a scenario based training in Psychological First Aid (PFA) for first responders. The one day training consists of two parts: The first part is a traditional class room based theoretical introduction to the four steps of PFA, and the second part is scenario-based. Three scenarios have been developed to show different situations in which first responders should provide PFA to people in distress during different stages of a flooding disaster. During the scenarios the participants will be able to test and improve the skills they have learned in the first part of the training.

View photos and read about some of the excercises in the training in the slideshow below:
  • "Don't be afraid of the empty space" Active listening is one of the four steps of psychological first aid. In this picture, participants of the pilot experiment #expe550 for scenario-based PFA training are working on their active listening skills.

On 19 May 2016, the scenarios were tested in the training college of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency with a group of participants from different parts of the Swedish crisis management community. It is the first time, the PS Centre uses scenarios in training Psychological First Aid and the aim of the this training is to assess how well the scenarios work, if they are useful for enhancing learning and how they could be improved. Based on the results of this experiment, the scenarios and the training design will be further improved and tested again during the lifetime of the project.

“While the basic theory of PFA is fairly straightforward and simple to teach, it is less simple to ensure that participants actually feel confident that they are able to provide good emotional support to people in distress during crisis. It is our hope that by introducing highly interactive and realistic scenarios, the participants will gain a higher feeling of confidence in delivering PFA, should the need occur”, explains PS Centre technical advisor Louise Vinther-Larsen. “We hope that we will get good results from this process of testing the methodology in different settings in the DRIVER project, so that we will be able to offer a high quality, tested and validated training method as part of the PS Centre tool box in the future”.

For the DRIVER project, the scenarios will be delivered through the virtual visualization tool XVR is used to depict the working scenarios for practicing a set of predefined skills. The XVR Simulation Platform provides a realistic, immersive learning environment for incident response professionals. Offering a combination of 3D virtual simulation, map-based information, photography and videos, the XVR Platform supports a variety of learning methods. XVR provides support to the training by presenting a visual 3D scenario and its “Team training option” feature facilitates the interactions between trainer and trainees.

The scenarios are of such a general nature that they can be easily incorporated in any form of visualisation include verbal explanation, a whiteboard sketch, a table-top representation, a photo or video, or another simulation or visualisation tool. This means that the final training solutions do not depend on the availability of an XVR licence.

DRIVER has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 607798EU_flag_colour