Disaster Response Network
The APA Disaster Response Network (DRN) is a group of approximately 2,500 licensed psychologists with training in disaster response who offer volunteer assistance to relief workers and survivors in the aftermath of disasters.
On disaster relief operations, these psychologists do not provide therapy. Instead, they use their training and professional judgment to help people employ their own coping skills and resources to deal with extremely stressful and often tragic circumstances. Psychologists help people to problem-solve, make referrals to community resources, advocate for workers’ and survivors’ needs, provide information and listen.
DRN members also engage in disaster preparedness and recovery activities such as teaching courses on disaster mental health, participating in planning meetings with a variety of governmental and non-governmental agencies, and educating the public about reactions to trauma and steps people can take to manage distress.
APA DRN Brochure (PDF, 1.2MB)
History and Operation
The network began in 1991 with the signing of a Statement of Understanding with the American Red Cross. In that SOU, the DRN agreed to help ARC build its disaster mental health component and to help staff its disaster operations with trained and licensed professionals as needed. The DRN and the American Red Cross continue to have a working relationship today. In addition, the program has explored relationships with other nationally recognized disaster response organizations. Locally, DRN programs partner with state departments of mental health, departments of emergency services, and other official governmental and non-governmental disaster response organizations. The DRN partners with known disaster response organizations because the DRN program does not have independent authority to operate on disaster sites.
The program is comprised of local disaster response programs that are managed by state, provincial and territorial psychological associations. The APA DRN Office serves as a source for information and as a liaison between local programs and disaster response organizations. Leadership is provided by DRN Coordinators, DRN Advisory Committee, the DRN Office and APA’s Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice.
Over the years, DRN members have responded to hundreds of disasters in their local communities and across the country (and Canada) including the residential and commercial fires, school shootings, and transportation accidents. DRN members have also aided in the aftermath of multi-state incidents including tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. Nationally, DRN members supported relief operations after the Oklahoma City bombing, September 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and others.
In recent years, there have been a number of international calamities such as the Southeast Asian tsunami and Chinese earthquake that have alarmed association membership and raised questions about how APA can help. The Committee on International Relations in Psychology and the DRN program worked together to develop the APA Statement on the Role of Psychologist in International Emergencies.