Recognize the signs of crisis after a traumatic response

The shooting at the Thousand Oaks, Ca., Borderline Bar & Grill is another blow to first responders in communities impacted by mass violence


Once again, our first responders are on the front lines of a mass murder scene. Similar to Orlando’s Pulse Night Club shooting, the latest shooting at a Thousand Oaks California bar occurred at a popular establishment.

Any scene with 13 dead and at least a dozen others injured will be horrific and difficult to handle. Adding to the mental anguish in the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting for our responders was the line-of-duty death of Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus.

This incident rips at the scabs of recovery for communities and our first responders in Florida, Maryland, Las Vegas, Colorado, Pittsburgh and many other places. Fortunately, our brotherhood and sisterhood culture provides the opportunity for a broad support network for those working these scenes. We know, however, that our “superman complex” can get in the way of our need for help.

Any scene with 13 dead and at least a dozen others injured will be horrific and difficult to handle. Adding to the mental anguish in the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting for our responders was the line-of-duty death of Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus. (Photo/AP)
Any scene with 13 dead and at least a dozen others injured will be horrific and difficult to handle. Adding to the mental anguish in the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting for our responders was the line-of-duty death of Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helus. (Photo/AP)

We see and do a lot in our business. It’s important to recognize the signs of crisis after post-traumatic stress events:

  • insomnia, nightmares 
  • emotional detachment, withdrawal 
  • loss of interest in normal activities
  • unusual irritability, agitation and hostility 
  • flashbacks or severe anxiety 

While PTSD requires a medical professional’s diagnosis, the signs and symptoms above are red flags we cannot ignore. We also have to recognize that over 100 firefighters commit suicide every year, and tragedies like these mass shootings are a contributing factor.

Know when and how to reach out for assistance

Many departments have their own protocols and employee assistance programs, while many others depend on external resources to provide help. Some department have no direct help at all.

We need to recognize we’re not super-human, and acknowledge it’s OK to feel hurt. We need to support each other and help those departments with fewer resources. Watch your partner’s back, reach out to your neighbors, contact the resources needed – there is no shame in that.

Learn more about when to seek help and where to find it with these resources from FireRescue1:

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