The results of a survey of UK nationals who were affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami were released today by the National Audit Office. The work provides the most complete account yet about what people experienced, and how they felt about the response of UK agencies in providing support. The assistance provided was seen as good in parts, but there were clearly also lessons to be learned. The government has committed itself to preparing an action plan in response to the findings to improve efforts at assistance in any future crisis.Jump to downloads
The sheer scale of the tsunami overwhelmed the initial response of the UK agencies, who didn’t have a plan for responding to such a challenge. Members of the public services, their families, friends and other volunteers worked hard, through long hours over many days, to help and assist victims of the tsunami. But experiences reported by the 116 respondents included: survivors not finding UK officials in the affected areas who were able to give them effective help; family and friends in the UK not being able to get through on the overwhelmed emergency telephone lines, and to obtain subsequent updates; and traumatised people returned to the UK feeling “lost” in the wider health system.
However, better standards were achieved in some areas once the agencies had time to react and prepare a response. Some actions which respondents felt were handled well included planning for relatives to visit the affected areas, organising memorial events and directing people towards support networks.
The research, which was undertaken for the NAO by the charity the Zito Trust, gave rise to over fifty recommendations. The key areas for improvement are as follows:
- broaden the training and assessment of staff likely to deal with traumatised people;
- prepare and plan to help people better help themselves;
- use more innovative approaches for recording casualties and missing persons;
- improve data gathering and sharing between agencies to avoid multiple questioning & inconsistent records;
- enhance tracking of people once they have returned to the UK, as a basis for aftercare.
Much of the necessary work involved in acting upon these recommendations is already underway. Led by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, the Government have agreed to respond with an action plan within six months.
The experiences of those affected also draw out considerations for some outside of government. Parts of the media were criticised for the way they dealt with people affected by the disaster; and private companies, such as banks or customer service businesses, also need to consider more carefully how they handle the bereaved.
- Review_Tsunami_Experiences.pdf (.pdf — 1 MB)