Critical Incident Stress Management

The recent tornadoes that swept through Magee, MS were a gruesome reminder of our vulnerability to the ravages of weather related tragedies. There has been talk in our congregation and across the Mid-south district about what we can do to be prepared should tragedy strike our communities.

I went to Knoxville, TN to receive certification in Critical Incident Stress Management enabling me to respond to the psychological aftermath of such tragedies. It was an important training in many ways. While no one wants to experience the destruction of a home or church to tornado, flood, hurricane, or fire; these things do happen and do take their toll. And last August we became painfully aware of the human element of destruction when a gunman opened fire at the TVUUC in Knoxville. This certification will assist in preventing the long term effects of post traumatic stress and aid in the healing process of those witnesses of such events.  

The training received is a bit more comprehensive than the American Red Cross’ Psychological First AID only because the ARC program is geared more towards natural disasters rather than specific human made events.  This certification program offered through the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc. can be used after any stressful event, including but not exclusively, suicide, violence, natural disaster, medical emergency.   While there were other clergy at the training I attended, the participants came from all walks of life; professional therapists to sextons.   It seems wise to have as many people as can be trained to be able to assist in such an event.

But are there things we could do to help minimize the impact of tragedy on our lives?

I believe there is a pre-response. The congregation I serve in Mississippi participated in surveying our neighbors for pre-disaster assessment for the Red Cross. This was an important task that we did. This information will aid firefighters and rescue workers in knowing where to begin sending medical aid immediately.   For instance, some medical conditions require refrigeration of medications.   Knowing who in the community needs sort of aid in advance will get them the help they need sooner.

But I now realize that we did not do the same pre-assessment for our members. Should disaster strike our community, how would we get in touch with our members to ensure their safety? I began to wonder how many of us are certified in CPR and First Aid. Would we know exactly what to do if someone had a medical incident at church? Do we have relevant medical histories on our members in case of a medical incident? Do we have next of kin contact information on file? Not only in a computer database but also in hard-copy in case of power outage.  Who would call 911? What is the location of the first aid kit and is it up-to-date in its supplies? Who knows what to do in case of choking? Do we have emergency supplies? What would we do in case of fire or tornado while we were at church?

It is not just having a plan written down but knowing the plan well enough to execute it. Being prepared is not jinxing our future for these events to occur, but rather enables us to be able to respond in a timely manner and reduce the impact of the tragedy. Some of the steps to take in developing a preparedness strategy is located at the Mid-South District website— It helps us to create resiliency so we can pass through the storms of our lives with some ability of hope for our future. No one wants to anticipate disasters but they do happen. It would be wise to know how to respond in advance. Blessings, Fred

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 10:16 am  Comments Off on Critical Incident Stress Management  
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