On Monday, May 22, deadly explosions wracked through Manchester Arena in England at an Ariana Grande concert – a concert whose main attendees were young girls, teenagers, and their families. Over twenty people were confirmed dead, and dozens more were injured. During this horrific experience, first responders worked tirelessly to help those who were wounded – some critically.

We always say that traumatic situations are part of a first responder’s job – but this event in particular, due to the amount of casualties and the young ages of those in attendance, went above and beyond what first responders experience on a day to day basis. Incidents such as these, unfortunately, bring light to the importance of critical incident training among first responders.

What Are Critical Incidents?

Critical incidents are characterized as any event that causes powerful emotional reactions among people who experience these events – whether they be first responders or civilians. Some examples of critical incidents include line of duty deaths, terrorism incidents, events that have excessive media interest, significant events involving children, among others. The events in Manchester check off several of these boxes, and it is more important now than ever that the first responders have the peer support and training they need to deal with these incidents.

Critical incidents can happen anywhere at any time. Critical incident stress management (CISM) is geared towards preparing first responders and others for dealing with traumatic situations before, during, and after they happen. It is aimed at enabling people to return to their daily life and lessen the likelihood of experiencing PTSD.

What To Expect From Critical Incident Response

Whether you are a first responder, a veteran, a business owner, or a regular civilian, CISM is an important skill to have when disaster strikes. At our first responder support training, we spend a half day talking about how to react during The Golden Hour – a term used to refer to the time between when an incident occurs and when medical services can reach the victim. Even in life threatening situations, seeing a person in uniform or offering a hand to hold can calm a victim’s mind, even if you don’t have the medical tools necessary to immediately help.

Knowing how to help other first responders following a critical incident is vital in the days following an event. One of the most important parts of this is debriefing with the first responder. This includes giving the individual an opportunity to talk about their experience, express their feelings about it, talk about coping mechanisms, and identify if the first responder is at risk for hurting themselves or others as an emotional response to the event.

Why It Is Important To Be Trained On Critical Incident Stress Management

Following a traumatic event, it is important to follow best practices when interacting with those who experienced trauma first hand. Making sure that you and your department are properly trained in how to respond to such incidents is critical for the physical and emotional recovery of first responders.

As we saw early this week, critical incidents can happen anywhere, even where you least expect them, even at a concert geared towards teenagers. It is vital to make sure that your team is prepared for handling these events before, during, and after they happen. Opening doors for first responders to heal and discuss their experience is our goal at Peer Support Central. We offer peer support services and specialists, as well as critical incident training, so our first responders are prepared for returning to everyday life after a traumatic event.