6 Food, Drink & Other Welfare Needs
6 Food, Drink & Other Welfare Needs
6.1 Survivors' most pressing concern, likely to precede all others, will be for any missing family members and friends. See guidance paper 2.5, and 'accounting for people' in guidance paper 2.6 and below. But they will have other needs too, which should be addressed as best possible at the final place of safety.
6.2 Simple, nutritious food and warm and cold drinks, especially water, should be freely available at the place of safety. You do not wish to add to people's concerns, so foodstuffs that meet all the major cultural dietary requirements should be provided if at all possible; and bottled water is easier to dispense as well as being more obviously potable. Nutritional advice should be sought at the planning stage. Try to avoid complications. A hot meal is very good, especially if people have been brought in from a cold environment – but it does, obviously, require heating.
6.3 Sufficient provision should also be made for people's sanitary needs. Portable toilets may be required to back up local provision. Basic washing facilities should also be available, so that survivors can clean themselves up. Decontamination, if required, is a specialist function; and showers etc may be needed for supervised re-warming – but these are part of the medical response, and should be planned for separately. In all cases, survivors' basic decency and rights of privacy should be respected – so must be planned for.
6.4 Survivors' clothing may be wet, contaminated or soiled. Clean, dry clothing should be made available at the place of safety: arrangements can be made with local clothing suppliers and retailers on an on-call basis to avoid the need to stockpile. Again, bear differing cultural requirements in mind, and remember that people come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, including babies and children. It is better to have clothing which is too large than otherwise. Secluded areas, separated by gender, should be provided as changing rooms. Arrange, too, for large supplies of blankets to be readily available. Remember that survivors can feel cold even in warm conditions – and blankets are comforting.
6.5 Individual survivors may have a wide variety of special needs. These include prescription medications, left behind in the crisis, and mobility aids such as wheelchairs. Surprisingly high percentages of people, especially the elderly, may be more or less dependent on prescription medicines; and even people who did not require mobility aids before the incident may do so now. These elements are part of the medical and medical support response. An uninjured survivor may still need a doctor to prescribe vital replacement medicines; and the health services are likely to be the best source of mobility aids.
6.6 As always, balances need to be struck between objectively assessed levels of need and needs expressed by survivors. Some people will be demanding, others reluctant to make a fuss: that is human nature. At the place of safety, triage is a matter of sorting out welfare priorities as well as medical ones.
6.7 Specialist social welfare personnel should be used to assess individuals' needs and prioritise them. As well as the needs already discussed, people will have lost belongings and papers and will need help accordingly. They may have come ashore without ID, money, credit cards etc. They are unlikely to be where they expected to be; they may not be in a country they expected to visit; they may not have any local support networks of their own to fall back on; they may have only the clothes they stand up in; they may not speak the local language. Each of these needs will have to be addressed. Foreign nationals may need consular support.
6.8 Where the incident has involved one of the passenger-carrying industries (ferry or cruise ship operators or airlines) or one of the offshore industries, they should be able to assist in the reception centres. They may even take the lead, particularly as regards seeing to their passengers' and staff welfare needs. It has been well said that, while local authorities have a responsibility to respond, the operator concerned will usually have the means, especially the financial means, either to do so direct or in support of the local authorities. The operator has responsibilities too, of course; and it is very much in their interest to assist. They will still need strong support from the local emergency response authorities, however, and this should be mutually pre-planned where practicable.
6.9 In some cases – migrants rescued at sea, for example – there will be additional complications. The State they land in may wish to detain them until their status can be determined; but for our purposes these people are simply the subjects of a rescue operation, and should be treated in the same way as any others during rescue, up to and including at the place of safety.
6.10 Welfare needs are also likely to include the provision of temporary mortuary facilities. These should be out of survivors' sight if at all possible and incapable of being accessed by the general public.