By Barb McKay
The Municipality of Kincardine Fire Department has completed a plan that will help prevent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for its members who encounter stressful and traumatic incidents on the job.
Fire Chief Kent Padfield attended last Wednesday’s Municipality of Kincardine council meeting to ask council to approve the plan. The Ontario Ministry of Labour now requires all emergency services in the province to have a Post-Traumatic Stress Prevention Plan in place. The plans must be submitted to the ministry by the end of April.
"We were fortunate that we had a fairly good existing plan in place that we have formalized,” Padfield said.
The plan addresses PTSD factors, signs and symptoms; prevention, intervention and recovery strategies; the roles and responsibilities of staff; training in PTSD awareness, anti-stigma and provides training for critical incident stress team members. The plan incorporates a critical incident stress policy, anti-stigma statement, PTSD assessment tool and critical incident support contact list. The plan will be reviewed and updated annually.
Councillor Laura Haight asked if there is any co-ordination between emergency services, in particular a debriefing session after a critical incident. Padfield said firefighters do not leave the station following a traumatic incident until there has been a discussion.
"We tell them, ‘you have had a normal response to an abnormal situation,’” he said.
He added that the department is one of few that is fortunate to have a chaplain among its ranks, who is also part of a critical incident stress management response team that was set up by Bruce County fire chiefs. The team is made up of trained firefighters and mental health professionals who assist local emergency services following a critical incident, such as a fatal vehicle collision.
A requirement of the PSTD prevention plan is for firefighters to take Road to Mental Readiness training. Retired nurse Deborah MacDonald is organizing a conference – Invisible Wounds – at the Best Western Governor’s Inn with guest speakers to provide additional information to first responders and those who cope with stress associated with their profession. MacDonald is also seeking sponsorships for the conference and proceeds will go to fund Road to Mental Readiness training for firefighters in Kincardine, Tiverton and Wingham. Anyone who would like to be a sponsor can reach MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.