A critical incident is any traumatic event that is outside the usual range of human experience. These events have the potential of causing a traumatic stress reaction that may impair cognitive, emotional, spiritual or physical function. These reactions are a normal response to an abnormal situation.
Emergency Medical Services personnel (law enforcement, dispatch, ambulance, fire/rescue and hospital staff) experience more traumatic events than the general public as "part of the job" and generally cope very well. However, critical incidents may evoke strong reactions in even the most experienced staff.
A Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is:
CISD is a structured group process led by behavior health professionals and emergency service peers. Is it strictly confidential and limited to the emergency service personnel who were directly involved in the incident. The CISD is typically done 24 to 72 hours after the incident, but it is never too late for a debriefing. It is designed to assist participants with understanding the thoughts, emotions and behaviors that occur as a result of a critical incident. It is not a critique of the incident or EMS response.
How does CISD Help?
Emergency services personnel benefit from a CISD because it:
- Reduces the impact of critical incident stress
- Reduces isolation by interaction with others who were at the incident
- Provides an environment to benefit about a difficult situation without judgement or critique
- Normalizes stress reactions through education
- May help prevent delayed psychological problems
- Improves coping skills for future incidents