CISM – Critical Incident Stress Management

Teams work with individuals or groups of emergency medical services, fire and police personnel who may suffer from stress after being involved in a critical incident. Team members provide pre-incident education and post-incident defusing, demobilization and debriefing.

CISM Teams
Can Help Emergency Workers Deal With Stress

Examples of critical incidents are:

  • Suicides
  • Mass casualty incidents
  • Injury or death of an emergency worker
  • Threats to emergency worker’s safety
  • Prolonged events
  • Natural disasters
  • Injury or death of children

The constant intake of stress or encountering a highly stressful event can cause the emergency service professional to suffer stress reaction symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Identification with the victims
  • Nausea
  • Nightmares
  • GI upsets
  • Flashbacks
  • Memory loss
  • Fear of repetition of the stressful event
  • Concentration problems
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Problem solving difficulties
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in eating and work habits
  • Fear
  • Unusual actions or behaviors
  • Depression

A debriefing should be requested if stress symptoms continue beyond the first 48-72 hours of the incident. Overwhelming stress symptoms usually occur in the first 24-48 hours following a critical incident. If you or your agency is in need of CISM Team assistance, please contact your area’s team.

For more information on CISM contact Karen Owens, Emergency Operations Manager, at Karen.Owens@vdh.virginia.gov.