More than 30 emergency personnel from area agencies gathered at the North Augusta Public Safety hut last week for a three-day training on individual and group crisis intervention.
The training was sponsored by Support 1, a local nonprofit organization.
“It’s a critical incidents stress management organization,” said the organization’s co-founder and chairman, Christopher Chavous. “The main focus is to provide the before, during and after support involving police, fire, EMS and 911 telecommunications in critical incidents.”
Critical incidents can include a shooting, line of duty death, a traumatic child death, “Anything that would cause abnormal stress on an individual,” Chavous said. “What Support 1 does is to try to restore them back as close to norm.”
The curriculum for the three-day training came from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. There are seven courses to become certified in International Critical Incident Stress Management.
The training provided participants with the two basic courses in the certification program.
“The goal is to get more people in the CSRA certified,” Chavous said of offering the training locally.
The instructor was Andy Gruler, who retired from the Secret Service after 20 years and has a master’s degree in social work.
“First responders, their work involves trauma and the trauma could be overwhelming,” he said.
The goal of the training is to train participants to be able to talk with others during those tough times.
“No matter what reaction someone has, it’s OK to have that reaction,” he said. “Being upset or angry or having nightmares is all normal. We want them to be able to talk to somebody and help them understand those reactions.”
Sean Johnson, a lieutenant with Augusta Fire Department and the volunteer fire chief for the Midland Valley Fire Department, was one of those who attended the training.
“I’ve learned how to listen to people’s problems and show support,” he said.
He planned to share what he learned with others in both fire departments.
“I want to help them understand what other firemen are going through. Things affect people differently,” he said. “I think it’s important to understand.”
Napoleon Jones, a jailer with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, shared similar thoughts.
“I’ve learned about the ability to cope, how to be a listener and provide counseling to peers,” he said.
Jones also said he would encourage others to participate in such training.
“It’s a great thing to have,” he said.