When responding to a crisis situation there are rules that are to be followed. Without a doubt, exceptions to the basic rules will occur but certainly, above all else, do not allow any of those exceptions to become the rule.
Rule #1 – Prepare Yourself Mentally & Emotionally
Before becoming engaged in the crisis response incident or crisis situation anticipate what you expect to experience. If you are already on scene this will require a quick assessment of events. If in route to the scene, consider what you expect you will find based on what little information you have been provided and the functions that may be involved. If accompanied by a second responder, discuss the situation and compare experiences and mental notes. Prepare yourself for what you will be walking into. An outward reaction of shock, surprise and or horror will immediately negate your value in turning chaos into order to say nothing of providing comfort to the people involved.
Rule #2 – Check In With The Highest Authority (The Mortal One)
Prior to becoming engaged in any crisis response activity, if it hasn’t been already done so, identify what outside authority is in charge: fire, police, the family’s clergy or a member of a medical staff. Your function is to support their efforts as well as to attend to the immediate needs of those subjects directly involved in the crisis response incident.
Rule #3 – Walk Don’t Run
You are entering an environment of chaos, emotions, panic and generally high strung feelings. Your responsibility is to bring some sense of calm to the situation as best as possible. Your physical movements need to be if not slow, deliberate. Everyone else around you will be in a hurry. Your visual presentation of calmness will be infectious.
Rule #4 – Listen And Assess
The incident participants will tell you what they need. Maybe not in so many words but listen and you will hear the underlying needs. When you are told that no help is required or desired, take that as an indication to back off but not disengage. The big question of WHY; is a double edged sword. Why and what activities are or will be happening can be explained and should be, prior to or as events are taking place. The biggest WHY, “why did this happen?”, cannot be answered and no explanation should be attempted. It is for others to determine, including the crisis victims themselves, as to the whys and wherefores of the event. In situations involving law enforcement it is particularly important not to project reasons for events with the crisis participants. You don’t know when or what little off handed comment may be a negative influence from a legal perspective. Also, always remember that your crisis clients may extend outward from the central participants to others involved including first responders, neighbors and relatives.
Rule #5 – Physical Contact
Under no circumstance should a crisis responder initiate any physical contact with crisis clients. No hugs, handshakes or a hand placed on a shoulder. Your initial purpose is to establish trust and confidence. You never know when premature physical contact will be misread as an invasion of the crisis client’s personal space. Usually, after a couple of hours and when it is time for the responder to exit from the situation, feelings of gratitude for the help provided will be bountiful and there will be hugs and handshakes all around. The key is not to initiate but on the other hand follow the crisis client’s lead. Don’t be standoffish if some minor form of physical contact is indicated and initiated by one or more of your crisis clients.
Rule #6 – Maintain Your Decorum
When on a crisis scene, you never know who is listening or who can hear you so always behave as if you are in front of the primary crisis client. Side bar comments to other responders, even if not related to the situation at hand, may be misunderstood or found to be disrespectful of the crisis clients. Crisis responders, even in light of what may be morbidly humorous situations should maintain a polite, professional and respectful manner.