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Critical Incident Stress Management

The Impact of Critical Incident Stress

A traumatic event or critical incident causes unusually strong emotional reactions that have the potential to interfere with the ability to function normally. It is very common, and in fact quite normal, for people to feel emotional aftershocks when they have experienced a tragic event. Sometimes the emotional aftershocks (or stress reactions) appear immediately, they may appear hours or days later, or in some cases it may be weeks or months until stress reactions appear.

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

Public safety professionals that are exposed to critical incidents can often develop physical and psychological disorders. By implementing a CISM policy with Defusing and Debriefing, the occurrence of post traumatic stress (PTS) can be significantly reduced. 

CISM is an intervention protocol developed specifically for dealing with traumatic events. It is a formal, highly structured, and professionally recognized process for helping those involved in a critical incident. They will be able to share their experiences, learn about stress reactions and symptoms, and receive a referral for further help when needed. 

The following are suggested best practices for CISM:
  • The department will determine 5 to 6 types of calls that should have a clinician, chaplain, and peer support. A best practice is to have a plan in place for these types of events and not have these protocols organized by field supervisors.  
  • Within 8 to 12 hours of a critical incident, facilitate a Defusing which is a small group discussion that includes a three-phase structure. The main purpose is to stabilize those who have been affected by the incident and minimize stress. This is typically a homogeneous group that consists of persons directly impacted by the event and is generally less than 60 minutes. 
  • Within 48 to 72 hours, hold a Debriefing with employees following a critical incident. Based on core principles of crisis intervention, the Debriefing is designed to mitigate the impact of a critical incident and to assist in recovery from the stress associated with the event. Routine group Debriefings should be held with units that are regularly exposed to high levels of stress and trauma.
  • Additional one-on-one follow up with a clinician and/or peer support as appropriate.

Crisis Response Services with TCTI

The Counseling Team has clinicians that are on 24/7/365 stand by status to respond for defusing and debriefing to support employees following a critical incident.