Workplace: Critical Incidents

Critical Incidents

It is generally recognized that Critical Incidents have an impact on most people. Some persons may be affected such that the incident lives on in their minds, and various other signs and symptoms may develop which create difficulties in functioning in normal day-to-day activities.

What is Critical Incident Stress (CIS)
A Critical Incident is any incident causing stress reactions that have a negative impact on the individual(s). The incident is usually a tragic or traumatic event.

Facts About Critical Stress
Critical stress reactions are normal and expected in every way. They develop in most people facing unusually stressful or traumatic situations.

The stress reactions are usually temporary and subside in 3 to 6 weeks.

If reactions persist beyond 6 weeks, counselling should be arranged.

It is important for staff and supervisors to know the possible reactions and that they are normal, so that no one will misinterpret them as indicating something is wrong and thus increase the stress.

Should the reactions to a critical incident be of such magnitude and/or duration, traumatized persons may be diagnosed as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder – PTSD. It is now known that education and a debriefing process ( CISD / Debriefing/ Defusing) following any stressful event can reduce the chances of PTSD developing .

Who Delivers CISD?
Family Plus/Life Solutions recognizes that within the Greater Saint John area there is a Critical Stress Team, organized under the Community Mental Health Services umbrella. You can reach Community Mental Health Services at (506) 658-3737. This team is part of a Provincial CISD for emergency personnel (not the private sector) and their mandate is to respond to all critical incidences that are out of the ordinary with detrimental effects. This would include major tragedies involving: loss of life or injury to the public; mass casualties; excessively violent incidents; untimely death of a child/children. The team is comprised of professionals who have met the standards of CISD counselling. Although their mandate is to provide this service only to emergency personnel, they are open to evaluating situations that involve the private sector if that organization has no Employee Assistance Program or other means of critical incident assistance, or the magnitude of the event would warrant their intervention.

Since this provincially funded Team may not provide CISD Services in many situations, Family Plus/Life Solutions, Inc. is able to offer Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) services to our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) clients and Community Agencies. We at Family Plus/Life Solutions are sensitive to the needs of our EAP customers, and recognize that many events not addressed by the Provincial Team will cause employees trauma, and will therefore need to be defused. Examples of workplace trauma not addressed by the Provincial Team might be:

  • death of a long term employee
  • injury or debilitating illness of an employee
  • threat of harm to workers
  • non-violent robberies
  • workplace harassment

How is a CISD Provided?
When an event such as this occurs, and employees are experiencing a high level of emotion, anxiety and/or stress, often a defusing is a helpful intervention. A defusing helps lessen the impact of an incident by providing employees with the opportunity to vent their feelings through talking. Defusing is a technique to be used by EAP personnel or trained professionals. It should take place within 48 to 72 hours following the incident.

As it takes time to co-ordinate such an event, we request that you give us as much notice of your situation as possible. As emotions run high at defusings, if there are more than 5 participants involved, 2 facilitators are required to guide the process. This ensures that everyone’s needs are met, and if someone needs to leave the room, one facilitator can check on them.

How to Access a CISD
To organize a defusing/debriefing, if it occurs Monday to Friday between 8:30 AM and 5 PM, please call Family Plus/Life Solutions at 634-4495 – press one, and speak with the Receptionist.

Fees for this service are based on the time required per person to organize and facilitate the event.

As Defusing and Debriefing are NOT counselling or therapy, all members of Family Plus/Life Solutions CISD Team have received specialized training in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and continue to update their skills through on-going education.

For more information on this service, please contact us by phone at:
(506) 634-8295 or (800) 360-3327;
or e-mail

(Emails may not necessarily be checked on a regular basis. If you need immediate service, please contact us by phone at 506-634-8295.)

Family Plus/Life Solutions has been serving the Saint John area since 1929. The Agency is a private, not-for-profit organization helping men, women, children and families manage the challenges of today’s living conditions.