Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

A critical incident (CI) is any experience that overwhelms a person and may provoke unusual responses for that individual.

Itís important to remember that different things can impact the way people experience events as CIís, and that what may be impactful for one individual may not be for another.

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) is one tool that public safety agencies can employ to help personnel, who as a course of their duties, may be impacted by a CI.

Critical incidents in public safety work are fairly common and can impact people from first responders to support personnel. Examples of CIís include traffic collisions with multiple fatalities, a child or baby who has ďcoded,Ē a particularly graphic crime scene, an officer involved shooting or a severe child abuse case.

While we easily consider first responders in these incidents, it is important to remember that there are multiple individuals who may be impacted by these events beyond the first responders:

• Dispatchers and call takers who field the initial and successive calls, and provide updates and on-going communications during incident response.
• Evidence technicians or crime scene investigators who must carefully and painstakingly collect and catalog evidence, at times spending extended periods of time on-site where they are exposed to the crime scene.
• Community Service Officers who maintain perimeters, handle the public who may be angry.
• Records clerk who transcribe dictation about the case and put together comprehensive reports.

A critical incident stress debriefing is a group psychoeducational intervention with the goal of reducing the distress associated with a CI. Through group discussion validation of feelings, normalizing of experiences and education about reactions to these events can help individuals better navigate their reactions to the CI. CISDís are best conducted within 72-96 hours post-incident; however this does not preclude interventions that require more time before they can be conducted.

Please contact the office if you would like to know more about these interventions. Prior planning in this case can be very helpful so that WHEN you have an event that can benefit from a CISD, your department and staff are ready to put a plan into action.