Something like the accident Barrett described would be classified as a critical incident, according to Marley Barduhn, clinical director for critical incident stress management for Rural/Metro.
“A critical incident is something that’s out of the ordinary for an [emergency responder], something that maybe involves the death of a child. It can involve someone who is known to the provider, a family member or a friend. It can be a mass casualty incident, a disaster situation or a multi-car pileup,” Barduhn said. “A critical incident is something above and beyond the normal set of calls people generally go on.”
Both Rural/Metro and Onondaga County have a critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) management team, which includes trained professionals who work with emergency responders after a particularly bad call or event to manage stress. Onondaga County’s program is headed up by the Emergency Management Office.The team utilizes a three-part process involving defusing, debriefing and follow-up. Defusing, which happens immediately after the incident, is designed to bring together those directly involved in the incident and assure them that their feelings are normal, to alert them to any symptoms to watch for over the coming days and to offer them support and address immediate needs. The debriefing is done within 72 hours and gives the individual or group the opportunity to talk about their experience, how it has affected them, brainstorm coping mechanisms, identify individuals at risk, and inform the individual or group about services available to them in their community. Follow-up is done in the following days and weeks to see how the individuals involved are dealing with the incident.
“We’re very fortunate to have the county crisis management team here,” Barrett said. “Some counties don’t have a team in place. We’re fortunate to be the frontrunners with that program.”
He himself benefited from the CISD management team after the Whiting Road accident.