CISM – Critical Incident Stress Management

CISM Teams can help emergency workers deal with stress.  These teams work with individuals or groups of emergency medical service, fire and police personnel who may suffer from stress after being involved in a critical incident. Team members provide pre-incident education and post-incident defusing, demobilization and debriefing.


Examples of critical incidents are:

  • Suicides
  • Mass casualty incidents
  • Injury or death of an emergency worker
  • Threats to emergency worker’s safety
  • Prolonged events
  • Natural disasters
  • Injury or death of children


The constant intake of stress or encountering a highly stressful event can cause the emergency service professional to suffer stress reaction symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Identification with the victims
  • Nausea
  • Nightmares
  • GI upsets
  • Flashbacks
  • Memory loss
  • Fear of repetition of the stressful event
  • Concentration problems
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Problem-solving difficulties
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in eating and work habits
  • Fear
  • Unusual actions or behaviors
  • Depression

A debriefing should be requested if stress symptoms continue beyond the first 48-72 hours of the incident. Overwhelming stress symptoms usually occur in the first 24-48 hours following a critical incident. If you or your agency is in need of CISM Team assistance, please contact your area’s team.


Click here for a contact list of CISM Teams in the Northern Virginia region  pdf Regional CISM Team Information (28 KB)


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