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Critical Incident Stress Management: How Prepared Is Your Business?

We like to think that nothing out of the ordinary will happen to us at work. After all; we expect to start the day doing our work and leave a few hours later when it’s all done. That may be the case for the majority of people, some might experience a life-changing event.

I’m referring to events like natural disasters, terrorist activity and things like chemical spills. As you can imagine, such incidents are ones that you would not wish on your worst enemies. But, the sad truth is that events like that happen from time to time.

As the owner of your company, you’re responsible for the health and safety of your workforce. That means you have to do what it takes to ensure they work in a safe environment. Of course, no-one can ever guarantee that nothing “bad” will happen to them at work. Sometimes, events like what I’ve mentioned earlier happen among colleagues.

One sad and recent example is the story of TV news presenter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward. Last month, the two were filming a live early morning segment. A former colleague, Vester Lee Flanagan, opened fire on them at point-blank range. The two victims didn’t survive the tragic shooting.

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As a TV reporter, you expect a small element of danger; it comes with the territory. But you don’t expect a crazed former colleague to kill you live on television!

Their colleagues at the TV station saw the event unfold live on air. Judging by their sombre moods on broadcasts the next day, you can tell it affected them quite a lot. In a scenario like that, critical incident stress management is crucial.

One question you need to ask yourself is if your business can deal with the aftermath of such situations. If it isn’t, today’s blog post is for you. Keep reading to learn more about critical incident stress management. Here is what you need to know:

Critical incident stress: a definition

A moment ago I gave you an example of what critical incident stress is all about. But, what is the full definition of it?

Well, it refers to the emergency events and disasters that your workers will see. Those incidents may have a profound effect on them, straining their ability to function. As you can appreciate, the intensity of that effect is high when they bear witness to tragedies. Examples include severe injuries, tragedies and death. Such events are “critical incidents.”

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The result of the critical stress suffered by those witnesses will depend on their ability to cope with it. There’s no denying that some people manage stressful situations better than others.

Some people assume that critical stress is the same as post-traumatic stress disorder. But, the difference is critical stress lasts between a few days and a few weeks. PTSD can last months and even years after the event.

What are the signs of critical stress?

The unfortunate truth isn’t the fact there are many signs of critical stress. It can sometimes be hard to recognise those signs, so I have given you a list of common ones to remember:

  • Physical signs – fatigue, chills, headaches, and dizziness;

  • Cognitive signs – uncertainty, confusion, nightmares and poor concentration;

  • Emotional signs – grief, guilt, anger and depression;

  • Behavioural signs – antisocial behaviour, increased alcohol consumption, and withdrawal.

People express signs of critical stress in many different ways. The above is by no means an exhaustive list. But, it serves to illustrate some common examples of early signs.

What can get done about critical stress during an emergency situation?

The good news is that, once you’ve recognised the signs, there are plenty of things you can do. The first thing to do is have those affected by an incident to take at least a 15-minute break. A longer one is a must in more extreme situations.

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Next, take those affected somewhere quiet where they won’t hear noises or smell anything. Sounds and odours could trigger more stress. You should also provide lots of decaffeinated drinks and water, along with low-fat food. It’s crucial to keep people’s energy levels up. That’s because your body will use more energy and adrenaline during times of crisis.

You should also get those affected by emergency situations to talk about their feelings. In any bad situation, it’s always a good idea to have people “open up” about what they’re thinking. That way, you can assess whether they may need counselling after the event.

Last, but not least, don’t rush workers affected by critical situations back to work! That’s the worst thing you can do, and it could cause psychological problems for them at a later stage.

Critical incident stress management

By now you will no doubt see the need for checking the health and well-being of your colleagues. Critical incident stress management is a crucial part in tackling any emergency incident.

How you and your business deal with such events will differ from other people. One thing you could do is hire a third party organisation to help you out. For example, there’s Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) at Health Assured. They can give you and your staff all the help needed during and after such events.

Such companies are a godsend for firms with no experience of critical incidents. The sad truth is that most businesses don’t feel they need to prepare for unexpected events. But, it’s usually those firms that end up unable to cope with the fallout of critical incidents.

Helping affected people back to work

Some people will find it hard to go back to work. For instance, let’s say someone got killed in front of them. Your premises could trigger those bad memories and make it hard for them to carry on with their work.

It’s important that those staff members have the right support they need. That includes taking the time to transition back into work.

I hope that today’s guide has been of use to you today. Thanks for reading it.

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