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57 APPENDIX B Research Methodology Introduction The research questions included the following: The data collection process utilized a mixed methodology 1. How did you perceive yourself responding to or coping approach, which is a combination of semi-structured personal with the traumatic incident? interviews and several self-report questionnaires. The qualita- 2. What preparation did you have that assisted in dealing tive interview developed was resultant of a review of the liter- with the emotional response you experienced? ature on the impact of exposure to trauma, a review of the 3. What would you perceive as helpful to persons experienc- diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), ing this type of trauma in your industry? and factors that influence the determination that an absence 4. Were there processes or events that assisted you in coping of resiliency in an individual's reaction to trauma occurred. The with the trauma of the experience? interview includes demographic data, assessment of strengths, 5. Were there processes or events that increased the trauma and accident history of individual's previous training of dis- of the experience and hindered coping? aster response, previous experience with aviation disasters, symptoms of psychological trauma, natural coping skills, and personal recommendations for coping with aviation acci- A semi-structured interview guide was developed to obtain dents based upon their experience. The quantitative self-report information that provided answers to the research questions. questionnaires are highly used measures in psychology. Another set of measurements obtained were demographics They assess psychological and physical reactions to trauma that included age, gender, education level, marital status, exposure. Subsequent sections provide a detailed description occupation history and other pertinent demographic mea- of these questionnaires. sures. Many of the aforementioned measures have been found The purpose of this section of the study was twofold: to mediate the deleterious impact of exposure to a traumatic event. 1. To discover how airport/airline employees perceive their response/reaction to disasters or traumatic incidences, and Sample 2. To determine what assisted or hindered airport/airline employees recovery from the disaster/traumatic incident. The aircraft accident database from the National Transpor- tation Safety Board (NTSB) was scanned to see what airlines/ The interviews did not include the experiences from the airports had been involved in incidents since 2001. The county, city, or airport police officers, fire-fighters and EMT research team felt that timeliness of the accident could be an (emergency medical technician) personnel who are usually important factor, as feelings may begin to fade, and the most considered first responders to an incident, since research recent accidents should be researched first. There were several has already been conducted with these groups. The groups aircraft crashes studied. The American Association of Airport that were interviewed are personnel that work at the airport. Executives database for hurricane relief was also utilized to Their normal course of work is not disaster response; how- determine which airports had been hardest hit by natural dis- ever, these employees often find themselves having a role in asters in the past several years. Contact was then made with disaster response activities when a disaster occurs. the appropriate airport official.
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58 The accident sites were narrowed by the number of people The participants were individuals involved in and/or that were involved or affected by the trauma. In the end, there exposed to a variety of aviation-related traumatic events as were a few sites that the research team was unable to visit, as the well as individuals outside of the airline/airport industry who incidents were off airport, and there was no airport response. A were involved in the response to traumatic events in both air- number of airports did agree to participate. In order to con- line and airport disasters. Individuals were identified through duct interviews and set up meetings, a letter was sent to the the NTSB public reports, and their voluntary participation was airport director seeking permission for voluntary on-site in- solicited through advertisements at their local airport. Several terviews with affected employees. Due to the cost, compli- of the participants had experience with or been involved in cated organizational structures, and time elapsed since the multiple aircraft incidents and catastrophes. accident, the research team decided against attempting to con- Each participant was interviewed individually to determine tact witnesses who may not have been prepared to unexpect- such things as the extent of their exposure to the disaster, edly be queried about their involvement in a prior catastrophic their experiences while responding to the disaster, whether event. While it was possible to order the entire investigation they had been previously trained or prepared for disaster re- file(s) from the NTSB and comb through the witness statements sponse (and the specific nature of that training), and what they to find all of the employees that were involved in the event, did to cope with the psychological impact of responding to the team elected to focus on volunteer interviewees who were the disaster. Each qualitative interview was recorded and later more easily attainable versus a "cold-call" to an employee or transcribed in order to attain the greatest accuracy. former employee, forcing that individual to revisit the trau- Participants were asked to speak about their experience matic incident. with, personal connection to, and role in an identified disaster. The participants interviewed had experience with one of the They were asked to explain all effects, emotional and physical. selected aircraft accidents, or were an airport employee involved Interviewers included summative statements asking for val- in the chosen natural disaster. A total of 24 participants were idation if the perceptions/experiences did or did not fit their interviewed that had exposure to man-made and natural experience. Participants freely agreed and disagreed on these disasters. Participants represented a wide variety of employee summative points. The majority of the participants presented positions commonly found in the airline/airport industry a friendly open posture during the interviews with organ- (such as labor crew chief, customer service supervisor, analyst, ized answers to the questions asked. Emotions were expressed acting director of emergency response, training instructor, (crying or teary eyed) by many participants. However, there airport police and airport safety officers, and airport admin- was no need to terminate an interview due to a high level of istration). Most have worked in different positions within emotional response (no loss of control of feelings). Compar- the aviation industry over the course of their careers. While ative analysis continued throughout the study. Themes were the ultimate sample utilized was one of convenience, the team identified and categorized during and beyond the completion attempted to obtain as representative a sample as possible. of the last interview. The diversity within the sample also supported maximum It should be noted that the research team had great diffi- variation in experiences and shared stories which allowed for culty in soliciting some groups of employees and other periph- multiple themes to emerge from various perspectives. eral professional organizations to participate in this study. At The participants ranged in age from 29 to 67 years old times, there appeared some trepidation by some potential (mean = 49.43). Eighteen of the participants were males and subjects who preferred to not take part in these endeavors. six were females. The educational level of participants included While the team chose not to pursue a rationale or assign a five people with a high school diploma, four with a two-year reason for such avoidance behaviors, it is important to note degree, nine with a Bachelor's degree, four with a master's such impediments to the study existed and could be a focus degree and one with a doctoral degree. of future inquiry.