LONDON KY—Emergency preparedness goes beyond an incident for the London Fire Department. The Department has formed a new Critical Incident Stress Management Team (CISM) to address and decrease the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with first responders and their families that may develop after an incident.
“We are here to help the helpers, recognizing signs of stress, PTSD, or depression early could save a life,” said Firefighter David King, who is spearheading the Department’s group.
The team is made up of eight peers within the London Fire Department with backgrounds ranging in case management, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), and those with decades of experience in serving the community through emergency services.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first responders are at a high risk for suicide and PTSD due to the environments they work in, their culture, and stress, both occupational and personal. Law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide that in the line of duty. Studies have found that between 17-24 percent of public safety telecommunicators have symptoms of PTSD and 24 percent have symptoms of depression.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that Depression and PTSD affect an estimated 30 percent of America’s first responders – compared to 20 percent of the general population.
Firefighter King said that peers and co-workers often notice a change in behavior or attitude before a supervisor does. The London Fire Department’s CISM is versed in recognizing the warning signs of stress and can offer help more quickly to address how to help a fellow first responder or family member before their stress becomes more impactful to their physical or mental health.
“First responders and their families are faced with higher stress levels than citizens who don’t deal with dangerous or life-threatening daily uncertainties,” King said, adding, “The job is unpredictable and often you find yourself facing back-to-back emergencies that can trigger intense stress that lasts for hours.”
Warning signs of stress may include but are not limited to:
- Irritability towards coworkers, family, and friends
- Inability to concentrate
- Difficulty sleeping, increased sleeping, or nightmares
- Feelings of sadness, anxiety, or guilt
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of interest in work
- Increased use of substances
- Chronic pain such as headache or backache
- Feelings of hopelessness
For first responders or families of first responders wishing to utilize the CISM team, please contact Firefighter King at (606) 864-2922 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the team, visit www.londonkyfire.com/cism.