1. Methods Regarding Qualitative Research, Documents, Expert Interviews, GABEK® Analysis

The project follows the tradition to present descriptive statistical data (e.g. morbidity, mortality etc.) for typical disasters to get a first overview about their aftermath. A strong focus, however, is given to qualitative research because it provides thick and detailed descriptions (Geertz, 1973) of real-life action that represent the actual meanings of the actors (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; Schutz, 1973). Existing reports and documents are analysed in order to provide insight into the disasters investigated. Additionally, expert interviews with stakeholders of civil protection and public bodies will help to understand the processes of actors and to obtain information about emergency preparedness.



The documents and interviews are analysed using the qualitative method GABEK® (Holistic Handling of Complexity). The idea to create such a research procedure is based on the question how to collect und systematize unordered, but potentially significant knowledge. Supported by the software WinRelan® researchers are enabled to analyse large unstructured texts.

GABEK® is based on the theory of “Wahrnehmungsgestalten” (Perceptive Appearances) by Stumpf (1939), which has been transferred to a theory of linguistic “Gestalten” by Zelger. A “Gestalt” is a network between units of meaning (Zelger, 1991, 2000, 2008). Language is based on syntax, a complex of rules about how words can be combined (Solé, 2005). The researchers are supported by automated computerised steps of data processing during the semantic work. The result consists of different holistic pictures of complex social phenomena (Zelger, 2000; Zelger & Oberprantacher, 2002).


Disaster management

Disasters and disaster management are characterized as complex and multidisciplinary (Burkle & Greenough, 2008). To develop an integral psycho-social support contingency plan and tool kits it is necessary to act systematically and process-oriented (Adler et al., 2010). A holistic view allows getting an overview of the interplay of all actors (Gummesson, 2006). GABEK® results serve as orientation for organisational learning processes and preparation for the decision making processes.


2. Methods Regarding Quantitative Research


Applied quantitative methods include Multivariate Statistical Techniques and Meta Analysis Methods. Linear Structural Equation Methods are applied, e.g. when it comes to analyse questionnaire data collected by public organisations after mass injuries in Germany (e.g. incidents at Eschede, Bad Reichenhall, Erfurt, Winnenden).

Multiple Regression Analyses are used e.g. to determine risk factors for stress related diseases in crises managers or to investigate the prediction of crises management efficacy from stress and coping parameters. Effect of stress management interventions are analysed by means of Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance (ANOVA).

Meta Analyses will be performed on present medical and psychological intervention studies conducted with disaster victims and secondarily affected persons. For instance, treatment effects of psychotherapy in PTSD sufferers (Trauma Focused Cognitive Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, and Gestalt Oriented Trauma Therapy) will be systematically evaluated. Also quantitative studies on the efficacy of acute crisis intervention (e.g. Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)) are subject of the meta analyses evaluation.



Questionnaires will be designed around different reference scenarios and provided to all project participants. Questionnaire results will be reviewed in workshops analysing differences in strategic public health planning and measures. Online questionnaires will also be part of the tool for the assessment of stress, coping and risk factors for stress related diseases.


3. Methods Regarding Societal and Cultural Impact of Crises

Impact factors

Crises affect individuals with varying ethnic origins, culture and gender. Most European countries are a mixture of various ethnic groups and impact of disasters may vary according to cultural factors. Gender issues may also be crucial. However, very little information is available on cultural and gender effects in crises responses and their implications for crises management.



In a first step, an extensive literature research will be conducted which includes literature focusing on societal and cultural impact of disasters. In order to evaluate intercultural differences, also secondary analyses of present material such as the World Values Survey are performed. Furthermore, interviews with affected individuals and experts are conducted and media contents are analysed. GABEK® is applied for content analyses.


4. Methods Regarding Stress and Self-regulation in Crisis Management

- The investigation of stress, coping and development of stress management interventions comprises the following steps:

- Stress Assessment (psychophysiological stress test, psychological assessment)

- Efficiency and Risk Factors Analysis (e.g. relationships between stress levels, coping strategies and efficiency of crisis management systems; risk factors for stress related disorders such as PTSD, depression and burn-out)

- Autonomic Self-regulation (biofeedback training procedure)

- Behavioural and Cognitive Stress Management (various modules, e.g. traditional stress management techniques from cognitive behaviour therapy adjusted to the specific context of crisis management)

- Dissemination Platform (online platform with questionnaires of stress and coping, all training material, individual training plans and the data from psychophysiological stress testing)



Test applications of the training program are systematically evaluated in randomised controlled trials in which groups of crisis managers undergoing the new program are compared to such using established methods and such not receiving any education on stress management.

Evaluation criteria include changes in psychophysiological and subjective stress levels, coping skills and risk factors. All components of the new program will be optimised according to the results of the trials.


5. Methods Regarding Development of Contingency Plans

The development of contingency plans composes the key elements evaluation, needs assessment for large-scale disasters, matching and replication. Contingency plans should be phase-oriented and intervention-prevention-oriented. The information presented in the tool kit for contingency planning developed in the present project may serve as a guide for concrete decision making. The information and templates provided may be modified as necessary to best meet the specific system, operational and organisational requirements for contingency planning (Swanson et al., 2010).

The figure displays the work flow to develop the PsyCris Tool Kit for contingency planning:



6. Methods Regarding Development of Demonstrator PsyCris Preparedness-Planning-Prevention Platform (PsyCris PPP Platform)

The tool kits are integrated into a custom-tailored knowledge system (PPP Platform), which is designed in blended learning format by the company Blended Solutions (BSO).

The PPP Platform is an Internet-based learning system that links as needed problem-oriented workshops with periods of self-directed learning with elements of the practice-transfer and knowledge management based on web-based trainings (WBT) and enables the communication within a learning community (Erpenbeck & Sauter, 2011).



Blended learningSelf-organised learning phase

In self-organised learning phase, learners control their learning process largely themselves on the basis of the tasks in web-based trainings, the agreements from the kick-off and further workshops. These processes are accompanied by learning partnerships, learning groups and tutors.

Throughout the entire learning process, participants learn to edit their own experiential knowledge and share it with the learning partners. Contributions are discussed, evaluated and refined within the learning community resulting in a common pool of knowledge continuously increasing in the course of the learning process (Erpenbeck & Sauter, 2011).


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