AMTA's Disaster Response and Relief Efforts

A Message to Music Therapists about Preparedness

"Hi, I'm Barb Else, I’m a music therapist and AMTA member.  Every major weather event has unique features and unknown factors that may influence its course and potential damage. I was trained to anticipate and prepare for as many factors as possible.  There is no such thing as being totally prepared given the vagaries and vicissitudes of Mother Nature.  I urge my colleagues to assess your own preparedness whether you are in a zone of impact, near it, or outside of it.  Have a communication plan. And you can stay in touch with AMTA through your regions, through the national office, or through the regional president's liaison, Andrea Dalton. Check and secure your insurance and important paperwork, document your household and business contents, know your essential emergency supply needs, etc.  Practice your plans.  Even if it's a desktop review with your family and business colleagues. Stay informed, be prepared, and stay safe. Thanks."

Music Therapy and Disaster Response 

AMTA responds to disaster events affecting professionals, students and the clients/patients we serve. Following any disaster event AMTA’s disaster response coordinator sets into motion three critical steps. First, a welfare inquiry is made to understand whether, and how, professional s or students are affected by the disaster. Second, AMTA seeks to understand what the assistance needs may be. Third, AMTA considers how best to meet individual needs, given the circumstances and available resources. More often than not, this process is fundamentally about respecting and supporting our colleagues during times of extremely high stress. In the United States, it is relatively uncommon for an organized profession to provide a regular and ongoing coordination of disaster response to and with its membership. We are able to do this because you – our members, colleagues, and friends – care. Our aim is simply to support our peers and students and assist in recovery. We do this so our peers may get back to the business of providing music therapy services in the aftermath of disaster as soon as possible.

infopod_graphicv2_smDisaster response from AMTA: Barbara Else, MT-BC, AMTA Disaster Repsonse Coordinator, summarizes the role AMTA plays in disaster response and provides information about resources when a music therapist is involved in a disaster.

AMTA E-course: Disaster Response for Music Therapists

The Answer my Friend is Blowin’ in the Wind: Music Therapy Advisory and Air Quality

As music therapy professionals, it's important to be prepared for natural disasters specific to our region. Hawaii is unique in that there is an active volcano. AMTA and the Western Region reached out to check in with our professional colleagues around disasters and we've been in contact with the MT-BC closest to the volcano. Even though our colleagues in Hawaii are very familiar with the problems of volcanic eruptions, we thought a brief posting might be helpful since it’s always good to be informed.

One adverse effect of the volcano on the Big Island is VOG or toxic gas and particulates that are produced around eruptions. Sulphur dioxide emitted from the volcano can be toxic and dangerous, especially when trade winds do not blow the gas and debris off shore away from the island chain. Acidic conditions and acid rain can result affecting air quality and water sources. Poor air quality can also occur in other areas of our country around wildfires, dust storms, and urban air pollution. Here are a few suggested tips prepared for clinicians affected by VOG; however, many of these tips may also be helpful in other regions where we may experience poor air quality.

Intervention/Client Safety Recommendations
  1. Limit outdoor or commuter time when VOG/air quality levels are high.
  2. Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible. Use towels to close gaps if needed.
  3. Good quality N95 masks, fitted properly, may be helpful.
  4. Heed state and county alerts.
  5. Turn on dehumidifiers on A/C units to help reduce contaminants inside.
  6. Consider using a good quality air filter.
  7. For clients with respiratory issues, limit strenuous or active interventions and consider modifying more active music therapy interventions.
  8. Encourage increased water consumption to clear contaminants from mouth and throat.
  9. To neutralize acidic conditions, soak a hand towel or piece of cheesecloth in a thin water/baking soda solution. Drape the cloth near the face of a fan running on low-medium speed (be cautious to keep the cloth wet but away from the motor for safety).
  10. Pay attention to your body and responses from clients. If becoming fatigued, stop activity and get some rest. If struggling to breathe, move to an area with less VOG or seek medical attention.

VOG Information & Safety:

Local Air Quality:

Safety Alerts:

A Word on Disaster and Disaster Response (as of September 8, 2017)

The country is in unprecedented territory as we face multiple, concurrent major disaster events including Storm Harvey, wildfires in western states, and Hurricane Irma bearing down on Puerto Rico and heading towards Florida.  Our neighbors around the world also face challenges like the recent 8+ magnitude earthquake in Mexico.  Storm Harvey has directly or indirectly affected a large proportion of music therapists and students in Texas and SW Louisiana. We are in the process of conducting follow-ups to check in with our colleagues. Concurrently, Hurricane Irma, at this point, may touch hundreds of music therapists and students in the SER as well as our colleagues in Puerto Rico. AMTA, working with regional leadership and the World Federation for Music Therapy, is actively involved in supporting music therapists and students.

Recovery from these events will take considerable time and there are plenty of opportunities for you to assist your colleagues and our communities. Donations are always helpful but keep in mind needs vary over time depending on the phase of the disaster event. If you choose to donate to a charity organization we suggest consulting the tips recommended from Charity Navigator:

Cash donations are always welcome for the AMTA Disaster Fund located on the AMTA website in the online store. Donations directly support music therapists directly affected by disaster events.

March 2011 Japan Earthquake/Tsunami

The major earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, in Japan appears to be one of the most powerful natural disasters on record. However, any disaster or traumatic event, no matter the size or scope of the event, is significant for those affected. Therefore, AMTA treats all disasters with attention, consideration and concern. On behalf of all the music therapists and students affected by this disaster, AMTA wishes to convey their appreciation and gratitude for everyone’s concern, support and call to respond. Dozens of our colleagues in Japan, as well as the music therapy student and professional members from Japan and living in the United States have candidly shared their thoughts, concerns and prayers over the past days.

This event is marked by a high level of social networking since internet service is readily available in most areas in Japan. One of the main AMTA disaster response activities in this first step has been serving as a conduit for communication and messaging. Some of these messages are already posted in member Facebook pages. Some include relayed messages from our colleagues in areas of Japan that sustained major infrastructure damage. Several members are working with AMTA to relay and/or assist in message translation in the U.S. and in Japan.

This event will involve a long recovery and rebuild process for the people of Japan. As we learn more about the needs of our colleagues and friends in Japan, we will work together so that music therapy services may continue and be a part of recovery and service to the community. Since this disaster is subject to change on a day to day basis, members and friends may choose to help immediately by making a charitable donation to an organization such the Red Cross. You may also make donations to the AMTA Disaster Fund by donating online. Go to the AMTA online store and select the Donation to AMTA Disaster Relief Fund option.  Once you select choose select, you may adjust the suggested amount to the amount of your choosing - either lower or higher - by changing the figure in the Amount box. 

2011 Joplin and Tuscaloosa Tornados

The 2011 spring weather season brought with it a tremendous and devastating series of tornados to the middle and southeast corridor of the U.S. Music therapists in and near some of these events have gone through significant change and, in some cases, losses. This is especially the case for the Tuscaloosa tornado that resulted in an early closing of the University training program in Tuscaloosa and affected property for some of the professionals and students in that region. After the Joplin, Missouri tornado this spring, music therapists in the state, including an area therapist are actively working to offer relief and services to the people of Joplin. This includes a summer program for children with special needs in a temporary location and music therapy services at other locations in the affected area. All of these activities make a difference on so many levels. Your continued support is welcome and sincerely appreciated!

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Thank you for your continued support.