Haiti Relief Workers Risk Their Minds, Experts Say

Betor said the people in Cazale are quite desperate "because most cannot afford to pay the rising cost of taxi fees to get into port to see if they can even find their families. Some do not even know where to begin looking."

Annie Foster, emergency team leader for Save the Children in Port-au-Prince, said the staff in her area have been coming into work, despite the chaos.

"I can't say we have the full staff back yet. People need to take care of their extremely difficult situations at home, so not everybody shows up every day," said Foster.

Foster had 59 people stationed in Port-au-Prince. So far she's contacted 51 and learned one died during the earthquake.

"The majority of them have lost their homes or their homes are severely damaged. The staff is coming in and trying to work the best they can but they are under a great deal of stress and trauma," said Foster. "Everybody knows at least somebody who is dead."

Foster said Save the Children will stay in touch with the people working in Port-au-Prince and provide a counselor if staff requests one. However, given the organization's experience in other disasters, Foster said it's known that helping others during the crises helps individual relief workers recover as well.

"For many, many staff members -- no matter what country -- the activity of helping people and helping their communities helps assist their own path back to feeling normal again," said Foster.

"So right now all attention and activity is on the emergency response," she said

However, sometimes the inclination to help can weigh severely on rescue teams when faced with a disaster of epic proportions.

What Happens When You Can't Help Everybody

"It's almost like organized chaos. You will arrive at a location -- in this case, it will be Haiti -- you and your team will be given a specific area … a six-block area for example… you locate live victims, and see what you're going to do to get them out," said Greg Gould, who works in search and rescue for the office of fire prevention and control in New York state.

Gould said most search and rescue workers are "type A" personalities who are very driven and focused on their efforts.

During 9/11, Gould remembered workers functioned with intense focus finding people alive or dead, marking the people they see with orange paint and moving on with a rescue dog to find more.

Yet, sometimes the instinct to help an individual threatened his ability to do his job.

"The people who have loved ones are also desperate…They will look for the rescuers to help them find a specific individual. If someone would put a picture of a young child in front of your face and say 'please find my baby,' it's very hard not to react," said Gould.

"You need to, as a rescuer, kind of set that aside and focus on your task," he said.

Gould expected the Red Cross and other aid efforts would provide what is called a critical incident stress debriefing -- a time for rescue workers to talk about what's happened and how they are coping with the trauma.

However, after 9/11, Gould said he coped with the stress by talking to many friends and family members.

"The rescuer's family, I think, it's a huge thing to help. I know that cell phone coverage is pretty much down in Haiti," said Gould. "But the support they can give is a huge asset."

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