Picking Up The Pieces...   
    Dealing with Critical Incident Stress  
     
    During the past week, fire departments around the U.S. have dealt a multitude of tragedies.... children drown after falling through thin ice, a fellow firefighter collapsed and died after battling a fire, yet another firefighter was seriously burned and spends several days in a burn unit.  

     

    We all think that we're tough and to a certain point we are...   

    Day in and day out, we deal with the life and death situations. Then, there is an incident that affects us personally... and have we to take off the "tough guy" mask. 
     

     
       

      Emergency service workers such as firefighters, police officers, paramedics, dispatchers, corrections officers or emergency medical technicians can be subject to critical incident stress. Critical incident stress is defined as any situation faced by emergency services personnel that causes them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions which have the potential to interfere with their ability at the scene or later.  

      It can't happened to me .. 

      Critical Incident Stress syndrome is known to effect up to 87% of all emergency service personnel at some point in their career. It will affect seasoned veterans and rookies.NO ONE is immune. 

    Some common events which trigger CIS symptoms.... 
     
     
       
    • The death of a co-worker 
    • Mass casualty events 
    • The death of a child 
    • Death after a prolonged rescue effort 
    • Victim reminding one of another 
    • Highly dangerous event 
    • High media interest 
    • Injury or death of emergecny service provider
    The physical reactions you may experience may include the following: 
     
    • Restlessness 
    • Nausea 
    • Tenseness 
    • Digestive Trouble 
    • Headaches 
    • Insomnia 
    • Tremors 
    • Sexual Problems 
    Many fire departments have contracted services with local mental health groups to provide counseling or other services. In a larger department, specially trained staff may be responsible for providing similar services. CIS symptoms are most often temporary in nature, disappearing within a few weeks. Some workers, however, may suffer prolonged debilitating symptoms.  

    The Bottom Line.... What Can be Done? 

    Probably one of most widely used tools is conversation. Getting it "off you chest" will make one feel better.... and in a group setting, lend the chance for others to see that they are feeling the same pressures.. 

    Under the careful direction of a professional, a debriefing where the two main goals of are to mitigate the impact of the critical incident on those who were victims of the event and to accelerate recovery process in people who experiencing stress reactions to abnormal traumatic events can have a postive impact in helping one cope with a traumatic experience. Remember, it's ok to take off the tough guy mask! 

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