Workshop on experience exchange held in Austria

May 15, 2017

On 15 May 2017 the Austrian Red Cross organized a national workshop on experience exchange on Psycho Social Support (PSS) and Psychological First Aid (PFA), focusing on the preparedness of volunteers and staff in the context of the migration flows 2015 and the experience with spontaneous volunteers. Representatives from 6 different regional branches of the Austrian Red Cross discussed their experience, which was different in each federal state, depending on the migration routes and the number of refugees passing. For all helpers the following training topics were recommended: Psychological First Aid, self-help, needs assessment, how to deal with big groups of affected persons, panic prevention, establishing safety, deescalating interventions and minimizing loss of control by giving good briefings and structure. As for the spontaneous volunteers the workshop highlighted that they were extremely difficult to handle because they did not have experience in disasters and focused too much on the individual families. Neither they understood the structure and approach needed to support big groups of people. Recommendations and used strategies in this regard were e.g. spontaneous volunteers organized in preregistered groups (Team Austria), registration points for spontaneous volunteers, a rather close area of intervention for spontaneous volunteers, offer coordination for spontaneous volunteers and have enough well trained leading personnel for spontaneous volunteers.