First responders are regularly exposed to violent traumatic incidents including both mass casualty events and ongoing, everyday responses to individual victims of violent events. These experiences can lead to secondary traumatic stress or vicarious trauma in first responders, characterized by numbing or avoidance, hyper vigilance, anxiety, irritability, intrusive imagery and reduced capacity to be empathetic and/or effective with those they serve.
Earlier this week, IACP staff, as well as representatives from Northeastern University’s Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice (IUHRP), the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of State EMS Officials, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center – Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery, and others, met to discuss the recently funded project, the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit (VTT): Evidence-Based Support for Victim Assistance Professionals, Law Enforcement Officers and Other First Responders. The goal of the project, supported by the Office from Victims of Crime (OVC), is to develop and test the effectiveness of a state-of-the-field training and technical assistance toolkit to support agencies’ responses to vicarious trauma.
Former Boston Police Department Commissioner Ed Davis spoke at this meeting. The Commissioner highlighted his personal and departmental experiences addressing and responding to vicarious trauma and critical incident management. He also spoke of the collaborative efforts undertaken to better respond to trauma and traumatic incidents, as well as the lessons learned and challenges and successes he and his department faced in response to these incidents.
As a first step of this import work, the project partners have developed a survey to capture information about agency and organization efforts to address vicarious trauma. We invite you to share your expertise and experience to assist in the development of the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit by responding to the survey found here or at the following link: https://bouve.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_6fHjGBppgahwv5P. The survey will be open from May 18th through June 18th. Your contribution is important in helping agencies to support their first responders, improving their well-being, and strengthening the response to victims. Please visit IACP’s Center for Officer Safety and Wellness for more topics on officer safety issues.