Chaplain’s Corner

The Chaplin’s Corner discusses providing emotional first aid when bad things happen.

As firefighters and first responders we learn and to some degree become accustomed to the activity and emotional feelings during a fire or medical emergency operation. However, we usually give little consideration to the emotions that are manifested after the crisis by the responders, those families directly involved and in many cases even bystanders. The Chaplain’s Corner is designed to develop an awareness of after incident crisis responses.

Crisis Intervention & Response LESSON #1 — Assess, Inform, Disclose, Clarify

When a fire or sudden death strikes, the trauma of such a catastrophic event is for obvious reasons, quite overwhelming for those involved. The “crisis victims” are experiencing confusion, panic, grief and anger. As a Crisis Responder your mission is to manage this fluctuating and often complex scene.

Step 1. Scene Assessment

Get up to speed as quickly as possible as to the details of the nature of the crisis, then establish those who are directly involved, and how are they reacting to the situation. Most likely the people involved will be experiencing one of the above mentioned four emotional phases. Crisis victims will experience each emotion but at differing times in differing sequences over the course of minutes, hours or days during and after the incident. Usually, you will be able to identify someone who seems, at the moment, to be calmer and perhaps more emotionally rational than the others. This may be a neighbor, friend or an immediate family member. This individual will eventually go through the same mental feelings but for the initial period they will often be very helpful. Take that person aside, introduce yourself and ask them if they will be willing to help for the next couple of hours. Then utilize them as a source of information and when necessary and intermediary with others.

Step 2. Knowledge Is Key

It may be very obvious with firemen, policemen and other emergency responders swarming around as to what has happened but to the crisis victim it has all been a blur. The only way to dull or overcome the shock and fear the victim(s) are experiencing is by eliminating some of the unknowns and establishing some order to the mental chaos they are experiencing. The best way to establish the “learning process” is to start from the beginning of the crisis and build on that base. Journalism students are taught to answer five questions when writing an article: Who? What? When? Where? And Why? Similar input should be provided the crisis client.

Who has responded or will be responding and what will they be doing. When and where will this activity occur and why are certain activities necessary. For example. When there is a sudden death, usually the police will be involved. They will be required to ask a good number of questions. Questions that to a person who just lost a loved one will seem intrusive and even accusatory. Not a comfortable place to be for the family or the policeman. If, however, you are to explain in advance or at the beginning of the “survey” that the officers have to be consistent in their investigation of every crisis so that in the rare event there are issues down the road, they can say that they treat every investigation equally without any bias good or bad.

Pete Adams
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