The Indianapolis Fire Department recognizes the harmful effects of stress caused by disasters, mass casualties, and other critical incidents. IFD personnel are involved in these types of incidents and are therefore subject to critical incident stress. To minimize the adverse effects of critical incident stress the IFD has established a Critical Incident Stress Management Team. The purpose of the CISM Team is to provide immediate and on-going services to Indianapolis Fire Department personnel to assist in returning employees to maximum levels of functioning within the organization.
The CISM Team utilizes a multi-dimensional approach. A proactive approach as well as supportive services and referrals are used to assist individuals in coping more effectively with stress. The program educates members of this department about critical incident stress and stress management techniques, thereby reducing the development of psychological stress disorders. The program has CISM team members available during a critical incident in order to provide emotional support and professional referrals for those impacted by events.
Case studies of major incidents, where numerous injuries or fatalities occurred, have revealed that a significant number of rescue personnel experience some form of stress, however, most personnel have no long-term detrimental effects. These studies have also revealed that a small percentage of personnel do experience continuing, long-term detrimental effects resulting from exposure to such incidents. Some of these effects have been delayed, surfacing later after a period of no apparent symptoms. Numerous studies have identified the emotional, physiological, and financial impact that untreated stressors can have on employees, the department and members of the employee's immediate family. Without intervention, personnel experiencing these long term effects show declining work performance, deterioration in family relationships, and increased health problems. The objective of this program is to provide intervention after major incidents to minimize stress-related injuries to IFD personnel.