dfwairport.com - Critical Incident Stress Management
Tue, Mar. 26, 2019

Critical Incident Stress Management

By: Lewis Warren

The definition of a “critical incident” is any incident that overwhelms an individual’s standard coping mechanisms. Sometimes the aftershock of a bad call will linger in your soul. It can last for days, weeks, or even months. There is a scientific way to deal with this type of stress. Peer counseling and critical incident stress management are designed to help the employee cope with these difficult circumstances. Developing a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team with a mental health professional and utilization of employee assistance programs will be valuable in managing these incidents.

Different types of stress include acute stress, accumulative stress, and chronic stress. All of these are factors in your ability to handle any significant event in your life, both personally and professionally. Some of the incidents affecting firefighters including the following:

  • Disasters
  • Death of a co-worker
  • Death of a child
  • Co-worker suicide 
  • Mass casualty incidents
  • High profile media events

Look for these things after a major incident:

PHYSICAL REACTIONS
Fatigue, nightmares, hyperactivity, insomnia, startle reactions, a change in appetite, headaches, under-activity, nausea, vomiting, grinding teeth, weakness, tremors, or increased blood pressure. Chest pains need evaluation NOW!

COGNITIVE REACTIONS
Inability to concentrate, flashbacks, difficulty making decisions, isolation, difficulty in problem-solving, recurrent thoughts about the incident, blaming self or others, or loss of orientation.

EMOTIONAL REACTIONS
Fear, guilt, emotional numbing, anger, anxiety, depression, helplessness, violent fantasies, or irritability.

BEHAVIORAL REACTIONS
Sudden or radical changes in behavior, speech, or activities; loss of emotional control; inappropriate emotional responses; or obsessive compulsions or actions.