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First responder well-being following the 2011 Canterbury earthquake

Daniel Shepherd (Department of Psychology, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
David McBride (Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Kirsten Lovelock (Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




The role of first responders in mitigating the effects of earthquakes is vital. Unlike other disasters, earthquakes are not single events, and exposure to dangerous and trauma-inducing events may be ongoing. Understanding how first responders cope in the face of such conditions is important, for both their own well-being as well as the general public whom they serve. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Using questionnaires, this study measured posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychological resilience, and reactive coping styles in a sample of first responders active during the 2011 Canterbury earthquake in New Zealand.


The prevalence of PTSD was similar to that reported in the literature. Psychological resilience, but not disaster exposure, was found to be associated with PTSD. Maladaptive coping strategies best predicted resiliency, but there were significant gender differences.


These findings can inform those managing first responder disaster workers through the consideration of preventive and treatment interventions.



Funding for this research was obtained from the Health Research Council’s (New Zealand) Partnership Programme Fund.


Shepherd, D., McBride, D. and Lovelock, K. (2017), "First responder well-being following the 2011 Canterbury earthquake", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 286-297.



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