Tomorrow’s OUAC: A Researcher’s Perspective
Pulse Nightclub was a popular LGBTQ+ dance club located in Orlando, FL that opened in 2004. On June 12, 2016 it was the site of, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting event in the country with 49 deaths and another 53 physically injured when it was attacked by a lone gunman (Alter, 2017). That evening was the club’s weekly Latin night which brought in people from all over Central Florida (Terrorist Gunman…, 2018).
Since the incident, Orlando United Assistance Center (OUAC) has been providing services for those affected by the tragedy. This year, OUAC wanted to better understand how they could continue to support their community in the best way possible. Through their partner, Poston Communications, Dr. Erica Fissel and I were approached to solicit feedback from those directly affected.
Our goal was to collect both qualitative and quantitative data to gain insights into the ongoing needs of the community, and more specifically, those directly affected by the event. Data was to be collected through a survey and a series of focus groups with a sample of the population. While the survey data was collected in February 2020, the focus groups were indefinitely postponed given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That said, the surveys that were collected provided valuable information on the existing needs of the community and may be helpful for other communities that are similarly affected in the future.
There is not a strong foundation of research to help communities affected by a Mass Casualty Incident (MCI) understand the long-term needs of those individuals affected by the tragedy. This is especially true for mass shootings, where there have been almost no longitudinal studies conducted. What the research does show is that it is important for communities to start mental health interventions as soon as possible (Turunen and Punama¨ki, 2014) and that they will be needed well into the future. The most prevalent condition that will likely need to be treated is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Galea, 2005), which, if left untreated, can have long lasting detrimental effects.
Our findings showed that those directly affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting believe they will need services for at least another 5 years, putting the total need for services at a minimum of 9 years after the event. Those services can be broken down into three categories:
- Mental and Physical Health: Sustained mental health services; primary care; dental services; physical therapy for injuries
- Monetary: Financial assistance; job assistance; housing assistance
- Support groups: Group therapy; music therapy; health and fitness; spiritual guidance
The respondents also provided additional insights that allowed us to make a number of recommendations to OUAC and any organizations or agencies providing services to communities impacted by a mass casualty event.
- Ensure clear and consistent communication about the services offered and who is eligible to receive services.
- Provide services at varying times and locations to ensure all individuals from the impacted community are able to access them.
- Provide a core set of services from a centralized organization and augment with referrals to partnering providers.
- Offer a variety of services that can bring the impacted community together (e.g., support groups or survivor-led groups).
- While the need for mental health services may decrease as time passes, there will likely be demand spikes in need and some from the impacted community will require mental health services indefinitely.
It is our hope that the outcomes of this research can provide some guidance to any community that may be affected by a mass shooting in the future.
Alter, C. (2017). One Year After Pulse. Time. Retrieved from
Galea, S., Nandi, A., & Vlahov, D. (2005). The epidemiology of post-traumatic stress disorder
after disasters. Epidemiologic Reviews, 27, 79-91.
Terrorist gunman attacks Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. (2018, June 25). Retrieved from
Turunen, T., & Punama¨ki, R.-L. (2014). Professionally led peer support group process after
school shooting in Finland: Organization, group work, and recovery phases. Journal of Death and Dying (Accepted 4.6.2014).