1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2002

    Question Getting the dept to run CISDs

    I'm looking for advice on a how a relative newbie to our volunteer fire dept such as myself can suggest that some interventions are needed after a particular call. It seems that our dept doesn't always notice the effect a certain situation might have on people ... (Pardon me if this is a really roundabout; I don't want to get too much into specifics, but) we've had a couple of calls where a given situation triggered PTSD in members who'd been in the same situation, or otherwise left everyone in bad shape. In these cases, it's often only two or three members. I do kind of see this macho ethic of not admitting there's a problem -- everyone wants to be able to 'handle it' by ignoring the issue, but I think it would be healthier to deal with some of these issues openly, and I really don't see it as an issue of weakness. In my view, everyone's got some kind of vulnerable spot, and we're all going to see a call that really bothers us. I want people (myself included) to feel more comfortable using the resources that we have.

    Our regular debriefings are quick, sporadic and usually occur at the next training, up to a week later, so they don't provide much of an opportunity for discussion.

    Anyhow, I'm not in on any of the decision-making, so I'm trying to figure out how to suggest that either a CISD (or other service) is needed in a given instance, or to implement some kind of plan for considering the option, and to get the word out -- especially to new members, of which we have quite a few -- that this kind of support is available. Additionally, how does one get the stigma attached to needing emotional support erased to the point at which we could feel comfortable as a department acknowledging this? Any ideas?

  2. #2
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    May 2002


    You bring up some excellent questions. I will throw in my two cents and hopefully others will share their thoughts as well.
    It sounds like you are working against several issues at the same time. The first is your status as a "newbie"; (this is NOT to say you can't impact this situation or should not be trying) in most departments credibility is based on time served as well as your knowledge base. Folks may more easily dismiss your thoughts on CISM based on that, but please don't let that deter you. The second issue is CISM itself, it is a relatively new thing in fire service (about 20 years) and as you stated some of the "old" thinking is very much a part of many fire departments of "if you ignore it- it isn't really there".

    My suggestions for you to consider:

    1. Seek out the CISM training for yourself then invite other individuals to be trained as well. This creates an impact from the "ranks". From the training you may be able to support these people on a 1-on-1 basis for the time being.
    2. Leave CISM literature laying around the station and the bathroom (where they almost have to read it) Do not suggest they read it- just leave it laying around.
    3. When it is natural to the conversations you are having bring up examples, good and bad, of people impacted by the job and the stress load. I.e., recent suicides of folks in NY; recent lawsuits because CISM was not offered, and careers being saved by CISM.
    4. When you think a particular call needs a debriefing- it is best to look for the "symptoms" of stress reactions. Then enlist the help of others meaning to ask folks to be a part of a debriefing to help one another out not for one individual to get help. Reminding the folks involved that this is not counseling (not psychotherapy!) but other firefighters helping one another out.
    5. There are some departments that put in their SOP's calls that will trigger a debriefing or at the very least an assessment.
    6. http://www.icisf.org is a great resource and they can put you in touch with your region's coordinator to see if there is a nearby dpt doing some of the above SOP's.
    I think educating yourself and others is the key. If you need any literature or other help don't hesitate to ask! I admire your courage to believe in this, especially when others may be ignoring it.I truly believe CISM can be one of the most sincerest forms of brotherhood as it is firefighter to firefighter.
    Thank you for caring!

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Sep 2000
    Westchester Co., NY USA



    Maybe you could set up something with the CISD group for your area and have them come in and do a lecture. I found that once I was involved in it once, I tended to be more receptive to it as I've had to do it again. In fact I was involved with a session with my 2 the 2 other guys I work with after a pediatric arrest last Friday. The defusing session really helped with the incident and some of the relapses I was feeling with my prior PTSD. The funny thing is it is mandatory for certain types of calls for my 2 part time gigs but not with the FD.

    IACOJ Bureau of EMS Chairman

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