Occasional Paper 20: When Angels Fall From the Sky


Today is World Social Justice Day, and social justice, like civil protection, depends on social inclusivity. With this theme in mind we are sharing a paper that we published back in 2017, 'When Angels Fall From the Sky - Helping Children and Young People Cope in the Aftermath of a Disaster'. We think it still makes a good contribution to understanding this subject which is, after all, a relatively recent addition to the civil protection narrative.


Written by Helen Baxter-Smith, Capability Lead at the EPC.

Helen argues that children and young people should not be viewed as “little adults”, or simply as extensions of their parents, by emergency planners. They react differently to the experience of disaster and they are just as vulnerable to its effects, in the short-term and the long-term. They should, in fact, be valued not just in terms of their needs, which can be quite different to those of the adults, but also for their contribution. They can help us understand what those needs are and actually contribute positively if they are engaged in community preparedness and recovery. Professional emergency planners know this.

One of the experiences that marginal and excluded groups of all types are prone to is the sense of being “talked past” by experts and authorities who communicate but don’t include. But the UK civil protection community has made great progress in the in this field, which is a solid and undeniable achievement by the whole profession. So Helen’s paper is part of a very positive trend to greater inclusivity; if your work involves planning for community recovery after emergencies we suggest you really need to read it.

Check out our new way of presenting papers;  there’s a summary (a 5-minute introduction – the core idea), the full paper (a 1 hour study – the detail) and a collection of the tools and templates it puts forward (the practical “stuff”). 

We hope you find it useful.  Let us know what you think!

How We Present This Paper

We start by recognising that everyone has far too much to read these days!
So we want to help you be selective and smart – making sure that the investment of about 1 hour in reading this paper is worthwhile in the context of your role and responsibilities.
So, this is how we are doing it:

1. The very short introduction

This is 1 side of A4 – about a 5-minute read.
This will suit you if you don’t need the technical detail, but do want to know if it is something that your experts or teams should know about. It introduces the paper and explains what the problem is that it is trying to solve. It will give you a basic framework for asking the right questions if you need assurance from your teams that they are doing the right things.

2. The paper

If you work directly in emergency and disaster risk, or lead a team delivering resilience services, you need the full technical detail and a smart understanding of its context. We think you should read the whole paper.

3. The template and tools

The paper contains 7 models. We have included the models as separate documents that you may download () and use freely; we only ask for a fair acknowledgement. Each is given in the text of the main paper but also in this section with a short explanation of the use or value of each one. 

Fig 1: Snakes & Ladders  

After Kinchen (1994,1998).  This is a useful and graphic metaphor for the recovery experience.  People make progress, sometimes involving difficult climbs up the metaphorical ladders, followed by setbacks – visualised here as sliding down the snakes and having to start again from a lower position.   Kinchen and Brown (2001) also use it as a metaphor for the journey through PTSD.

Appendix A: Erikson Stages of Psychosocial Development  

Erikson’s model of individual psychosocial development can give a broad and generalised starting point for understanding the way different age groups tend to relate to the world around them in different ways. 

Appendix B: Young Child PTSD Screening Tool  

Scheeringa (2010) developed this tool as a quick and initial screening exercise for PTSD in children.

Appendix C: Children's Impact of Events Scale 

This was developed by Horowitz et al (1979) and serves a similar purpose.

Appendix D: Maslow Hierarchy of Need Pyramid 

Maslow’s (1948)  hierarchy of needs is well known.  It has lost credibility recently as a predictive guide to motivation and behaviour, but it remains a useful model for identifying and classifying peoples’ general needs.

Appendix E: Examples of Support Provided by Children & Young People 

This is a general checklist of examples of how children and young people have historically become involved in disaster response and recovery.

Appendix F: Incorporating Youth Focus Support within Local Emergency Planning

Page 1:  

Page 2: 

This is a summary of considerations and recommendations relating to the inclusion of children and young people by local emergency planners, with some examples of successful outcomes and recommendations as to how to go about it.

Quick Read

Short on time? Click to read the condensed version

(1 page, pdf)

Full Document

Click to read the full paper

(31 pages, pdf)