As far back as Hippocrates (460-370 BC), physicians and philosophers alike have understood the importance of balance in all areas of life as a key to good health. Hippocrates himself described illness in terms of balance disruption between the individual and their environment.
Several Emergency Management phase models exist within the field. In most cases, they are five-phase models that recognize the consistent and cyclical nature of traumatic events and the need to prepare for them. The most accepted model is offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is described in terms of mission areas to include prevention, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation (Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], n.d.).
The nature of the firefighter’s employment dictates that they will be exposed to multiple incidents that produce traumatic stress reactions. The prevention addressed in this model is a continuation of the mitigation phase to be discussed later. When the traumatic event occurs, the firefighter must have an existing and robust resiliency and support system in place. A primary way this may be accomplished is to facilitate the creation of a therapeutic alliance between firefighters, peer supporters, clergy, and clinicians before an event occurs. This alliance may come in several forms including peer support and clinical support structures. First, a peer support system must be in place for the firefighters to seek immediate help if needed. Further, peer supporters must be trained in crisis intervention and psychological first aid. This will enable the peer supporter to respond immediately in the event of a stressful event and begin the process of crisis management. Next, a basis for a positive therapeutic relationship must be cultivated with clinicians who are dedicated to fire service personnel.
The protection phase is focused on the ability to know and understand the common threats and hazards that may affect a particular group (FEMA, n.d.). The protection phase is one challenging aspect of this model. The primary way to accomplish protection is by ensuring that the first phase of prevention is done correctly. If there is congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy between firefighters, peer supporters, and clinicians are established early, there will be stronger trust and communication which will enable a more clearly defined threat and risk assessment of the firefighters themselves. In short, this therapeutic alliance will ensure that communication channels between all involved parties are open and threats may be discussed in a supportive atmosphere.
If the prevention and protection phases are done properly, the response phase will be much easier to implement. As we saw earlier, the response phase is typically one of the most complicated and robust of all phases. With the proper application of the first phases, there should be a strong resiliency level built up within the firefighter ranks. If the stress event is substantial enough, however, it may be necessary to implement a more aggressive treatment approach. Since the major components of the person-centered therapeutic alliance are already in place (e.g. congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy), it is simply a matter of connecting the firefighters with peer support and, if needed, clinical care (this will be done in the next phase).
The recovery phase is also enhanced if the other phases are complete. After a significant event that breaks through the firefighter’s coping mechanism, the peer supporters will respond. After the initial contact with the peer supporters, the peer supporters and the firefighter discuss the steps moving forward. The full recovery phase is only required if the response phase completed by the peer supporters is ineffective or more professional intervention is required. When the peer supporter is finished with their crisis intervention, they will discuss the need for further treatment with the firefighter. At this point, the firefighter may be referred to a clinician for further, more definitive therapy. As with the other phases, this phase will be much easier to implement, again due to the groundwork already laid in the previous phases. With the therapeutic alliance already established, the process should progress more rapidly.
Finally, the mitigation phase will dovetail back into the prevention phase. Once this phase is reached, the lessons learned from the event will be applied to the next phases to reduce the impact of the next event. In this case, the type of event will be better planned for and better and stronger coping and resiliency strategies should be developed and put into use (FEMA, n.d.). The mitigation phase is arguably the most important in the Emergency Management model because it encourages the continuous improvement of the entire platform. Over time, the resiliency built from this model will be substantial. The main concern with this model is to recognize the cyclical and lasting nature of the process. This model must be followed consistently, preferably in permanence for the process to work. The most effective way to operate is, to begin with, the prevention phase and graduate to the protection phase within a set timeframe. This will enable the baseline contacts to be made and a positive therapeutic alliance to be created before an event. The event frequency for firefighters depends upon location, call volume, and chance. These attributes make this a difficult model to put a definitive timeline on. The first two phases may be done within a timeframe provided there are no critical incidents at that time. After that, the response and recovery phases are predicated upon event occurrence. The key to success in the management of the program to ensure the repetitive nature of the program remains intact and that the program is constantly moving forward with developing relationships and knowledge.
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Maintaining physical wellness is critical to good health and a productive life.
Wellness is tied to our physical environment. The healthier our environment, the healthier we will be.
Managing emotional wellness and coping with stress are important steps to holistic wellness.
No matter your beliefs, a healthy spiritual life is a strong component to wellness.
One of the most important facets to a healthy life is having contact with family and friends.
As humans, we are always learning and growing. Keeping our mind active is one key to wellness.
Get out and move.
A healthy weight.
Maintain a balanced diet. Reduce salt and sugar.
Get a checkup and take medications as prescribed by your doctor.
Become aware of potentially harmful substances in your home.
Take steps to reduce exposure to allergens.
Protect your skin and drink plenty of water.
Be prepared when traveling and wear layers for warmth.
Learn to cope.
Go to bed at the same time every day.
Maintain relationships with friends and family.
Focus on the here and now.
Mindfulness can be a wonderful way to reduce stress and manage anxiety. Please watch our video.