'Dual jeopardy' for quake rescue workers

Many Christchurch rescue workers were unaware if their friends and families were safe during the initial rescue operation, a new study reveals.

Preliminary findings of a joint University of Otago and Auckland University of Technology study, which surveyed 600 frontline workers in Christchurch, found many had not contacted their families before responding to emergency calls.

"Many had no time to contact their own families, lost their homes and their workplaces, had family and friends who were injured and are still experiencing a range of issues just as many other people in Christchurch are," researcher Kirsten Lovelock said.

"All of the workers I spoke to not only responded to the best of their ability and within the very real constraints posed by this natural disaster, but our preliminary results make it clear they also experienced what we call dual jeopardy."

"Despite this, these workers continued to respond - working and helping others in the days, months and weeks that have followed and in addition to their quake-related response they also continued and continue to respond to a range of daily emergencies."

Preliminary findings of the study have been released in response to criticism of the emergency response.

"Frontline workers in Christchurch and those who flew in to assist them faced risks and challenging circumstances," principal investigator Associate Professor David McBride said.

"All of the participants in our study did their very best and employed skills that saved lives. This should be acknowledged and remembered."

Dr Lovelock added criticism around the emergency response threatened to undermine the efforts of workers.

"While it is important to consider how things can be improved it is also very important to remember this was a natural disaster and frontline workers worked very hard to help people under very difficult circumstances."

The study, which began last November, is due to be completed in 2015.

- Teuila Fuatai, New Zealand Herald

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