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Crisis Response & Intervention: Responding to Tragedy

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who are impacted by tragedy. Below are just a few resources to assist you in working with students, schools, families and communities following a heartbreaking event. If your district has a School Social Worker who is a SSWAA member, he/she can access a much more comprehensive list.  

Disaster Distress Helpline   Call 1-800-985-5990 or text "TalkWithUs" to 66746.


The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, can provide immediate counseling to anyone who needs help in dealing with the many issues and problems that might arise from tragedy and traumatic events.   Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Helpline immediately connects callers to trained and caring professionals from the closest crisis counseling center in the nationwide network of centers. Helpline staff will provide confidential counseling, referrals, and other needed support services.  The Disaster Distress Helpline is a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week national hotline dedicated to providing disaster crisis counseling. The toll-free Helpline is confidential and multilingual and available for those who are experiencing psychological distress as a result of natural or man-made disasters, incidents of mass violence, or any other tragedy affecting America's communities.


Our texting service also is available to Spanish speakers. Text "Hablanos" to 66746 for 24/7 emotional support.    TTY for Deaf/Hearing Impaired: 1-800-846-8517








Debriefing:  SSW's Guidelines in Working with Students After a Tragedy


Crisis Intervention Resources for School Personnel  (Password:  ssw) Developed by School Social Worker, Jerry Ciffone and made available with his permission.  The documents are made available as a gesture of goodwill to assist school social workers and other school personal wanting to provide emergency mental health assistance to student groups in the aftermath of student death or other critical incident. Permission is granted by Jerry Ciffone to download and print these documents for internal use only within the school system where the tragic event has occurred. These documents may not be distributed outside of the school system where used unless special permission has been obtained from Jerry Ciffone. He may be contacted at


Coping with Violence and Traumatic Events:  For Responders and Health Professionals     Numerous resources.     Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


"The School Social Worker in Crisis Situations:  The Right Skills, The Right Professional"

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has provided an excellent article outlining the value of School Social Workers in Crisis Situations.  The article notes:  "School Social Workers (SSWs) are extensively trained to manage and deal with crisis--providing an advantage in assisting school administrators and teaching personnel."  "They are trained to triage to determine priorities during emergencies."  "When a crisis occurs, they are trained and experienced in delivering difficult and sensitive information...that is  age-appropriate and culturally sensitive."   "Whether the crisis is outside of the school or if the crisis directly affects the school community, support, guidance, and expertise is needed to manage the crisis and lead the recovery."     "Needs persist long after the traumatic event and SSWs work closely with school administration and teachers to determine when children or families require ongoing support."   Read more.



Grief & Psychological First Aid



Resources for Educators: 

Child Trauma Response Toolkit for Educators  National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Coalition to Support Grieving  Students    SSWAA is a Founding Member of the Coalition to Support Grieving Students. The Coalition encourages school professionals to talk with students of all ages about death, grief, and ways to offer support.  Their Website provides a wealth of resources. 

Coping with Violence and Traumatic Events:  Coping with Mass Violence & Shootings     Numerous resources.     Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters:  What (Educators &) Community Members Can Do   National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

School Crisis Guide: Helping and Healing in a Time of Crisis (54 page PDF document).   National Education Association & Health Information Network

School Crisis Guide:  Helping and Healing in a Time of Crisis   (Website)  National Education Association & Health Information Network

Teacher Guidelines for Crisis Response   National Center for Crisis Response

Tips for Teachers Helping Children Cope with a Crisis  Los Angeles Unified School District Psychological Services



School/District Crisis Response--Is Your School/District Ready?

Creating and Updating Emergency Management Plans (Several Resources)  Department of Education's Readiness & Emergency Management for Schools

Crisis Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Resource Center   National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention

Coping with Violence and Traumatic Events     Numerous resources     Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Emergency Planning     U.S. Department of Education

"Managing Threats:  Safety Lessons Learned from School Shootings"  by Dr. Marleen Wong, University of Southern California

Practical Information on Crisis Planning     The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education

A Practical Guide for Crisis Response in Our Schools      National Center for Crisis Management: Guide for Crisis Response in Schools  $26.95


Responding to Media & Media Coverage


Coping with Violence and Traumatic Events:  Tips on Media Coverage  Media Guidelines.  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Helping Your Child Cope with Media Coverage After a Disaster  Parent Guide.  Terrorism and Disaster Center at the University of Oklahoma
Health Sciences Center

Helping Students Cope with Media Coverage of Disasters: A Fact Sheet for Teachers & School Staff     Terrorism and Disaster Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Responsible Media Coverage of Crisis Events  Impacting Children & Youth  National Association of School Psychologists




Self Care for Those Providing Crisis Response

Self Care for Responders Coping with Disasters and Traumatic Events.  Numerous resources.     Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Crisis Caregivers: Taking Care of Ourselves  National Association of School Psychologists

School Crisis: Aftermath for Caregivers     National Association of Secondary School Principals




Organization Links Providing Numerous Resources

American Psychological Association 

Center for School Mental Health   University of Maryland

Center for the Prevention of School Violence

Child Mind Institute 

Federal Emergency Management Agency

National Alliance on Mental Illness 

National Alliance for Safe Schools

National Association of School Psychologists.    Many resources.  Several listed above. 

National Center for Children Exposed to Violence. 

"It is the mission of the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (NCCEV) to increase the capacity of individuals and communities to reduce the incidence and impact of violence on children and families; to train and support the professionals who provide intervention and treatment to children and families affected by violence; and, to increase professional and public awareness of the effects of violence on children, families, communities and society."

National Center for Crisis & Bereavement

National Center for Crisis Management 

National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention 

The National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention provides training and technical assistance to Safe Schools/Healthy Students and Project LAUNCH grantees funded by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center staff work with school districts and communities as they plan, implement and sustain initiatives that foster resilience, promote mental health, and prevent youth violence and mental and behavioral disorders.

National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

National Center for Trauma and Loss in Children

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

"The National Child Traumatic Stress Network was established to improve access to care, treatment, and services for traumatized children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events."  Check out its numerous resources. 

Red Cross  

The Red Cross helps disaster victims by providing safe shelter, hot meals, essential relief supplies, emotional support and health services like first aid. Trained Red Cross workers often meet one-on-one with families to develop individual plans and identify available resources to help aid recovery.  Red Cross disaster relief focuses on relieving immediate disaster-caused needs so that families can get back on their feet and resume their lives as quickly as possible. The Red Cross also supports emergency workers, links family members outside the disaster area, and provides blood and blood products to disaster victims.

Resources for Dealing with Traumatic Events in Schools   Developed by the Center for School Mental Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration  Numerous Resources

Crisis Prevention and Response:  UCLA's Quick Find Clearinghouse.   Numerous Resources 

UCLA Clearinghouse of Crisis Response Resources   

"Crisis, emergency, disaster, catastrophe, tragedy, trauma -- all are words heard too frequently at schools today. Almost every school has had a major crisis; every school is likely to have one. Besides natural disasters such as earthquakes and fires, students experience violence and death related to the suicide of friends, gang activity, snipers, hostage-taking, and rape. Some students react with severe emotional responses -- fear, grief, post-traumatic stress syndrome. Moreover, such experiences and other events that threaten their sense of worth and well-being can produce the type of intense personal turmoil that leads students to think about hurting themselves or others."   On the home page, click on the "Responding to a Crisis" (yellow circle to the right of the sun graphic).

U.S. Department of Education's Emergency Planning Resources    

U.S. Department of Educations' Readiness & Emergency Management for Schools:  Technical Assistance Center   





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