Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 469–479 | Cite as

The Williams pipeline disaster: A controlled study of a technological accident

  • George M. Realmuto
  • Nancy Wagner
  • John Bartholow


This study reports the results of a neighborhood interview for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms 13 months after a manmade technological disaster. Interviews with 24 victims found 3 who satisfied DSM-III-R criteria for PTSD. However, a low community response rate of 58%, resident relocation and other factors raise the possibility of sampling bias and results should be considered cautiously. Victims experiencing PTSD symptoms were more likely to be female, older, and having a history of psychiatric treatment. Some PTSD symptoms were more frequent than others, especially the avoidance symptoms of amnesia, diminished interest and detachment, which had a sensitivity of 63% and a specificity of 100%. One particular arousal symptom, sleep difficulty, was generally confined to female victims. The study corroborates the findings of larger disasters regarding the importance of certain characteristics of individuals that place them at greater risk for psychological morbidity following a disaster. Further studies are needed to define the unique characteristics of circumscribed disasters, such as social, religious or geographical parameters that may mitigate or compound the effect of a disaster.

Key words

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder technological accident risk factors small scale disaster 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • George M. Realmuto
    • 1
  • Nancy Wagner
  • John Bartholow
  1. 1.Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Minnesota Hospital and ClinicMinneapolis

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