Gas Leak Fuels Victims' PTSD

Today's gas leak at the intersection of Glenview and Earl Avenue served as a frightful reminder to the Crestmoor residents of the September 2010 San Bruno explosion.  For many residents the sight of fire engines and the call to evacuate will rekindle flashbacks and distressing dreams of the event.  There's no doubt that this gas leak will exacerbate many San Bruno residents’ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Even PG&E’s psychological experts agree that many Bruno residents now suffer from PTSD.  Psychiatrists rely upon the DSM IV for the diagnostic features of PTSD.  Those who suffer from PTSD may have personally experienced the explosion and suffered from the threat of death or physical injury to self or the threat of death or injury to a family member or other close associate.  

The PTSD  victim's response involves intense fear, helplessness, horror, and agitated behavioror.  The symptoms include persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event; often referred to as flashbacks.  The victim also may show a persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma such as fire engines or loud noises that sound like the roar of the uncontrolled gas fire. Other symptoms include a general numbing resulting in feelings of detachment or estrangement; and an inability to feel emotions such as intimacy or tenderness.   

Another common symptom of PTSD is a sense of a foreshortened future:  not expecting to have a career, marriage, children or even a normal life span.

Although today's gas leak is a sad reminder of the tragedy nearly two years ago, it also confirms the intensity of emotional distress the residents have suffered.  Not all residents know that their symptoms amount to PTSD.  But victims should not delay contacting an attorney.  The two year anniversary of the event – September 9, 2012 is also the deadline for filing a claim for any damages (physical, emotional, or property related) against PG&E.

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