Coping, functioning, and adjustment of rescue workers after the Oklahoma City bombing

Carol S North, Laura Tivis, J. Curtis McMillen, Betty Pfefferbaum, Jann Cox, Edward L. Spitznagel, Kenneth Bunch, John Schorr, Elizabeth M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Scopus citations


Studies have not previously considered postdisaster adjustment in the context of psychiatric disorders. After the Oklahoma City bombing, a volunteer sample of 181 firefighters who served as rescue and recovery workers was assessed with a structured diagnostic interview. The firefighters had relatively low rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and described little functional impairment, positive social adjustment, and high job satisfaction. PTSD was associated with reduced job satisfaction and functional impairment, providing diagnostic validity. Turning to social supports, seeking mental health treatment, and taking medication were not widely prevalent coping responses. Postdisaster alcohol use disorders and drinking to cope were significantly associated with indicators of poorer functioning. Surveillance for problem drinking after disaster exposure may identify useful directions for intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-175
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Coping
  • Diagnostic Interview Schedule
  • Disaster
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Rescue workers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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