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CISM Frequently Asked Questions PDF Print E-mail
Critical Incident Stress Management Team


Answers to most frequently asked questions about CISM

Q. What is a critical incident?


A critical incident is any traumatic event that overwhelms the coping ability of the individuals or groups that are exposed to it.
Q. What is critical incident stress?



Critical incident stress is A NORMAL REACTION in NORMAL PEOPLE to an ABNORMAL EVENT.  It is important for those exposed to a traumatic event to understand that their reactions are normal and they are not alone.
Q. What are critical incident stress reactions?


Critical incident stress reactions are physical, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual signs and symptoms that occur during and/or after a traumatic event.


What specific kinds of incidents are most likely to cause critical incident stress reactions?




The death, serious injury of a co-worker in the line of duty, death or serious injury of a child, prolonged extrication, mass casualties; natural or manmade disasters, and any event of high media interest are some of the most stressful events for EMS, fire, police and emergency department staff.
Q. How long do individuals suffer from critical incident stress?




While no firm timetable exists, those who participate in an International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) model of intervention are less likely to have long-term effects. Without intervention an individual may develop stress related problems which significantly interfere with normal functioning. 
Q. What is the purpose and availability of the CISM team?





The Old Dominion EMS Alliance (ODEMSA) CISM team restores adaptive functioning by reducing the impact of critical incident stress due to the exposure of emergency services (fire, police or EMS) and hospital emergency department personnel to a critical incident. The ODEMSA team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and usually can respond within an hour.
Q. How do I activate the ODEMSA CISM team?


You can activate the ODEMSA CISM team by calling the Virginia Emergency Operation Center (EOC) at 1-804-674-2400 or 1-800-468-8892.
Q. What is the process?





Give the EOC dispatcher your name, a contact phone number and a brief description of the incident. The dispatcher will contact the CISM team member on call and relay the information. The on-call team member will contact you to make arrangements for the intervention that you request. These include assigning the appropriate team members to respond and providing them with the relevant information.
It is ODEMSA CISM Team policy to only respond to requests for CISM services upon request.

Q. Who can activate the ODEMSA CISM Team?





The ODEMSA CISM Team responds to requests for assistance from any hospital emergency department, fire, police, or EMS personnel in the ODEMSA region. Only one person, who is directly involved in the incident or who is assigned to activate the team, should call Virginia EOC. This individual will be responsible for scheduling the intervention when those involved can attend and for notifying them of the time and place.
Q. What kind of training does the team have?



To be eligible for team membership consideration individuals must have documentation of successful completion of a CISM Basic Group Crisis Intervention course, taught by an ICISF approved instructor.
Q. Are CISM services considered psychotherapy?



No. CISM focuses on a specific event (traumatic or critical incident). Its goal is to reduce the incidence, severity, duration and impairment aspects of traumatic stress related to that event.
Q. What services does the ODEMSA CISM team provide?



The ODEMSA CISM Team began in 1987. It conducts an average of 24 CISM services annually. It is an all-volunteer team that provides the following to emergency services agencies and hospital emergency departments:


Stress Management Training and CISM information.
On-Scene Support: For prolonged rescue attempts (MVA extrication, natural or manmade disasters).


Brief educational component prior to personnel returning home or to another assignment.


Conducted within 12 hours after an incident for those directly exposed to the traumatic event.


A seven-phase group process conducted by at least one mental health professional and one peer, ideally 24 to 72 hours after exposure to the traumatic event.

Q. Should CISM interventions be mandatory?



Many agencies will make an intervention available when personnel experience a particular type of incident, however; do not require them to attend. The ODEMSA team does not promote mandatory attendance.
Q. What kind of records does the team keep?











The team director keeps statistics, which include the general nature of the incident, the type of intervention and the number of people who attended. All information given, and stress reactions expressed during the intervention, are confidential.

No notes and names are recorded during or after an intervention.

If you have questions about CISM, the ODEMSA team or agency training, please e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , ODEMSA CISM Administrator.

ODEMSA has an International Critical Incident Foundation trained instructor for the following two-day courses:
CISM-Basic Group Crisis Intervention

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 April 2016 14:08