Background: There are numerous reports that those involved in disaster response and recovery are at-risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress reaction, or secondary traumatic stress. There are few reports of research concerning the experiences of post-disaster field research interviewers. During the period 2009-2014, post-bushfire research interviews were conducted with residents affected by seven major bushfire events in four Australian states. This report describes findings from following-up research interviewers involved in five of these post-bushfire studies to investigate (a) the nature of their experiences; and (b) their perceptions of the adequacy of the training and preparation for their work.
Method: Sixty-five post-bushfire research interviewers were contacted and invited to take part in an interview or complete a survey questionnaire about their post-bushfire research experiences. Thirty-three (51%) provided 38 responses: one described experiences on each of three studies, three described their experiences on each of two studies.
Results: Of the 38 responses, nine (24%) described no stress symptoms associated with the interviews; 26 (68%) described little to mild levels of stress symptoms; three (8%) reported moderate levels of stress symptoms. Twenty three interviewers (64%) reported that their experiences overall were positive. Reports about training and preparation were mostly positive.
Conclusions: For many who conduct post-disaster field interviews, the experience of interviewing residents affected by future disaster events will be psychologically impactful. For the majority, the experience will probably have some distressing elements, but will be viewed positively overall. A small percentage will experience moderate levels of secondary stress, especially if the event involved multiple fatalities, but this will be relatively transient. The approach to training and preparation used for post-bushfire field interviewers is probably adequate, but needs to be evaluated more rigorously.