Recognizing Critical Incident Stress
Critical incidents may produce a wide range of stress symptoms, which may appear immediately at the scene, a few hours later or within days of the incident. Stress symptoms usually occur in four different categories: Cognitive (thinking), Physical (body), Emotional (feelings), and Behavioral (actions). The more symptoms experienced, the more powerful the stress reaction. The longer the symptoms persist, the more potential there is for lasting harm. The following is only a sample of stress symptoms that can show up after a critical incident.
poor concentration memory problems
poor attention span difficulty making slowed problem solving decisions
difficulties with calculations
loss of emotional control feeling lost
muscle tremors chest pain
gastro-intestinal distress hard breathing
headaches blood pressure
excessive silence sleep disturbance
unusual behaviors changes in eating
withdrawal from contact work habit changes
Civil Air Patrol Critical Incident Stress Management
Authority for Critical Incident Stress Management is authorized by CAPR 60-5. Personnel who meet specific training requirements may be considered for membership on Critical Incident Stress Teams. All Team Leaders are Licensed Mental Health Professionals.
Incident Commanders should always be cognizant of the possibility of any mission developing into a Critical Incident. Any missions involving death or serious injury should be considered Critical. Also, any mission which goes on for any length of time should also be considered critical.
Critical Incident Stress Teams are organized on a Regional basis. If an Incident Commander feels the need for CISM, they should contact their Wing Commander, who will consult with the Regional CISM Coordinator. No Incident Commander should make the decision to call out a team strictly on their own.
There may be many cases in which an Incident Commander is not sure whether or not to call out the CIST. In that case, they should always contact their respective Wing Commander for guidance.
Incident Commanders should also be prepared to provide logistical assistance for the team debriefing. This usually means meeting space away from the mission base. CISM DOES NOT TAKE PLACE WHILE THE MISSION IS STILL IN PROGRESS!!!
Stress Survival Suggestions
When emergency personnel experience significant stress from a critical incident, the following steps may help to reduce the stress until the incident is over, or until the CISM team is involved.
Limit exposure to sights, sounds and odors.
Provide an immediate rest break of at least 15 minutes.
Have a friend stay with the distressed person.
Provide fluids, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated.
Provide foods low in salt, sugar and fat.
Allow the person to talk about the experience.
Do not rush the person to return to work.
Protect the person from bystanders and the media.
Reassure the person that the stress experience is normal; most people recover very well from stress.
Show appreciation for the person’s work.
Do nothing to embarrass the person.
Help the person make decisions.
Important Numbers and Resources
Illinois Wing Headquarters:
P. O. Box 957348
Hoffman Estates, IL. 60195-7348
Great Lakes Region
Lt. Col. Sherry Jones
Regional CISM Director
Lt. Col. Dick Ordlock
Illinois Wing CISM Coordinator
International Critical Incident Stress Foundation:
Great Lakes Region