Barrow County Emergency Services command staff members recently attended a critical incidents stress management class with representatives from other departments in the area at River Hills Church. 

Over the last few years, many in public safety have become more aware of a rising problem and are looking at ways to combat the issue.

The men and women in public safety face a great deal of stress in performing their jobs, and it affects them in numerous ways, Barrow County Emergency Services leaders say, and one way that has many concerned is that more public safety personnel die by suicide each year then die in the line of duty.

“We have a national issue in public safety that needs to be addressed’ said BCES chief Alan Shuman. “However, the issue needs to be addressed at the local level and that is what we are trying to do.”

In an effort to better prepare their departments in assisting the men and women that work there, several area departments brought members of their command staff together at the end of January to learn about critical incidents stress management. Barrow County Emergency Services, Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services, and Banks County Emergency Management Agency attended the class at River Hills Church.

The class, titled “Assisting Individuals in Crisis,” went over psychological crisis and what interventions could be utilized to assist personnel in crisis. It looked at building resistance and resiliency in personnel. Students learned about the effect stress has, and what critical incidents can do to the people that respond to them. They also learned what signs to watch for when someone is struggling and what can be done to help them.

“We hosted this class to help our command staff be more aware of the stress we are under and what can be done to help our people,” said Shuman.

"Effectively dealing with the stress that comes with the job is key to taking better care of our firefighters. This class was a clear step in that direction” added Athens-Clarke Fire and Emergency Services chief Jeff Scarbrough. “We appreciate being invited to be a part of this important training."

The departments that attended the class all agreed that this is just one step in dealing with the issues.

“Every supervisor in public safety needs to have this knowledge in order to better help the people they are over,” said Shuman. “We have a CISM team here and Athens that does a lot of crisis interventions but there is more to do. It is time we lead our departments in this effort and this class was a great step in that direction.”


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