Houston Fire Department
HFD Mental Health Services
Critical Incident Stress Management Team
The Houston Fire Department Critical Incident Stress Management Team provides peer based intervention and stress management education. Team members are trained to use critical incident stress management techniques as developed by The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. The highest priority of the team is to offer peer support and maintain confidentiality for our members. Our goal is to reduce critical incident stress on department personnel and prevent the long-term impact from traumatic stress.
Description of the CISM Team
The HFD CISM Team was initially formed in 1992 and consists of classified members that come from all areas of the department. It is a peer support team that is available on a 24/7 basis to respond to calls ranging from One-On-One support to Line of Duty Deaths.
Today CISM has become an integral part of the Houston Fire Department and is considered the standard of care. Our goal has always been to support the members of our department during those stressful times that are the result of incidents related to our jobs. That was our goal in 1992 and that remains our goal today.
For General Information, Contact:
- Coordinator- Captain Scott Shaunfield, Sta. 33/A, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Assistant Coordinator- Sr. Captain David Colaiacomo E-Mail: email@example.com
For EMERGENCIES Dial 911 or Crisis Hotline @ (713) HOTLINE
For Non-emergencie and general information, contact Captain Laura Hunter by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 832-394-6607; or Captain Scott Shaunfield Sta. 33/A. E-Mail email@example.com
Firefighters face the same issues as other members of our community – stressors from relationships, finances and health. Insufficient coping resources when facing difficult situations can be a factor in driving a person to make a decision to end his or her life. Firefighters also face additional stressors of a challenging job that includes routine involvement in the tragedies of others. These events take place where our opportunity to control the surroundings is minimal and the job itself includes the ever present danger of injury or death of the firefighter.
We know the importance of physical safety and have put tremendous resources into this area. Emotional safety and well-being is another critical dimension for our workforce. The impact of any suicide within our ranks, within our retirees or within our families takes a huge toll because of the closeness of our firefighter community.
An effective program in suicide prevention hinges on the senior leadership from the department and the union. These leadership partners set the climate and the joint vision. The department's psychologist and chaplain are additional key partners. The communication of the joint vision through the officer ranks depends on relevant, effective and focused training at the station level, within our academy for new cadets, and as a part of our officer development classes. At the same time we must assure there are adequate resources to respond quickly to problems and concerns that area identified. The involvement of the front line firefighters, in such a program, in a manner that can make them a part of the solution, is another key component.
The stigma of suicide or having psychological difficulties that could result in a suicide outcome must be tackled head-on. All officers will receive training that will identify resources that are available to them. Rank and file members will be educated and trained on suicide awareness and how to ask for assistance or a referral. A change in how firefighters view reaching out to others in times of distress, the shift from “snitching” to “assisting” and helping someone get the assistance he or she might need, will represent a change for many in our organizational climate and culture. A number of leaders have already made this transition and reached out when they are concerned about members.
A direct and open approach is the best path to success. The return on investment will be measured in human capital as well as human lives.
Additional HFD Resources:
HFD Chaplain Garry Blackmon - The Chaplain Service, 832-394-6638 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, provides pastoral and crisis intervention ministry to the members and their families. He responds to the emotional, critical incident, crisis or spiritual needs that may arise. The Chaplain is a person with whom conversations are held in complete confidence.
EAP- Undeniably, life can be difficult. The City of Houston has provided an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that can help you and your family cope with constant pressures and stresses associated with depression, alcohol/drug abuse, grief, marital, and other life issues. The EAP counselors are experienced and licensed professionals and all information is private and confidential. Call the EAP office at 713-964-9906 to schedule an appointment.