In the face of manmade and natural disasters, first responders are called upon to respond to emergencies, protect the public, and mitigate further disaster consequences. While this is a professional expectation, extreme crisis events can present an inimitable set of challenges for responders, particularly when they are personally impacted by the disaster in which they are expected to respond. The media reports of “abandonment of duty” among police officers in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina disaster highlight the need to better understand factors that both challenge and encourage resilience among first responders. This study examines the coping practices that fostered resilience among the officers of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) who served as first responders to the Katrina disaster. To gain insight into the experiences and activities of officers during the most stressful parts of the crisis, face-to-face interviews were conducted with officers (N = 57) of varying ranks and divisions. The data demonstrates the dynamic nature of coping in disasters, as well as the range of strategies practiced by first responders in crisis situations.
©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston