Recently, an unfortunate event occurred in my former department. Two of our vehicles - an ALS unit transporting a patient and their family and a pumper truck responding to another alarm - collided at an intersection. The pumper truck had even rolled onto its side after impact. Thankfully, there were only minor injuries to all crew members involved in the accident, and they were sent home for the rest of their tour.
Subsequently, a longtime associate from USAR, FLTF2 asked me if I wanted to visit the station from which the two trucks responded. The purpose was to assist as part of a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) team.
Both my fellow FLTF2 brother and I had deployed many times to different hurricane and earthquake disasters and had experienced many CISD meetings, along with driving the tractor trailers for the team on deployments. He also felt it would be beneficial if we had people on the team with experience and expertise to assist the crews at the station.
The purpose of the visit was to offer support and answer questions — not to blame, investigate or accuse anyone about how the accident occurred.
It was difficult to get anyone to talk. However, several members expressed compassion for those involved, especially for the drivers of the vehicles. They feared they may not want to drive anymore or would have flashbacks every time they got behind the wheel. Our answer goes back to a quote from the movie "Top Gun": "Keep sending them up." They needed encouragement and gentle prodding to continue driving and get past the fear.
We also educated the other crew members to be aware of post-incident signs of such altered behavioral patterns as changes in routine(s), not socializing with other members at the fire station, calling in sick more than normal, self-medicating with alcohol or medications, etc.
Exercise is encouraged, too, along with staying engaged with fellow crew members. This can take the form of spiritual support (religious-based or not), removing one's rank or position from the equation and supporting the person as a "friend," encouraging interaction with loved ones at home, etc.
Basically, allow the person to express his/her feelings in a safe environment, and talk about what had occurred as part of the healing process. As appropriate, make members aware of work resources that are available, such as mental health programs, employee assistance programs (EAPs) or on-call psychologists hired by the company/department.
In a supportive manner, we also reminded personnel of the importance of safety items and driving awareness mentality: safety belts, no texting and driving, slowing down in general, controlling emotions, staying calm, extra care at intersections, keeping your head on a "swivel" (situational awareness that requires concentrating on your driving and surroundings), and adopting a "what if" mentality to anticipate and respond to situations in the best way possible.
In conclusion, we made everyone aware this is a normal process that usually follows a sequence of events. You may have heard it before; it follows an acronym known as DABDA— denial, anger, bartering, depression and acceptance.
Remember to make yourself available to any member who wants to talk about any issues, guaranteeing complete confidentiality.
This article was written for & published by MultiBriefs.com.