Introduction to the Critical Incident Stress Management Checklist:

Critical Incident Stress Management Checklist

Unfortunately, life isn't always plain sailing.

For the times when life-changing events happen, it's important to manage employees' stress and ensure they get the help and/or resources they need.

That's why this Critical Incident Stress Management Checklist was created. 

You'll start by defusing the situation, ensuring the individual in question is supported and that they have their basic needs met. Then, you'll move onto debriefing, where more thorough support will be provided and, if needs be, you'll refer the individual to a counselor. After that, you'll follow-up with the individual to make sure they're coping well enough.

No matter if the incident concerns a loved one or if it's a powerful, distressing event that rocks multiple people, this checklist will help you help them.

The process itself has been made for EAP professionals and in-house people, operations, and HR staff alike.

If there's anything you want to change, editing this template is easy. In fact, creating and editing templates with Process Street - state-of-the-art BPM software - is incredibly simple.

Please note: Process Street is not a medical institution. We have lifted information from the likes of the U.S. Coast Guard Commandment Instruction 1754.3A CISM and The National Interagency Wildland Fire and Aviation Critical Incident Stress Management Program to create the tasks in this process. Consult with a CISM professional or similarly-skilled professional before implementing this process for your organization

Critical Incident Stress Management

Getting started:

Before diving head-first into critical incident stress management, it's important to quickly write down and confirm basic details first

The next two tasks will help you do just that.

When you add your email address in the next task, you'll then be automatically assigned to the tasks you have to complete. This happens thanks to Process Street's workflow automation feature role assignments.

Write down basic details

Write down the basic details concerning you, the person you report to, and the individual you're helping.

The first step in this process is to write down your basic details (name and email), the details of the person you report to (name and email), and the details of the individual you're helping (their name, email, mobile number, and phone number).

If you're an outsourced EAP professional, the individual would've gotten in contact with you or have been referred to you, meaning you have the bulk of their details from that initial conversation.

If you're working in-house, you'll also already have these details on file.

If you're working in-house, you might want to change the task permission levels for this template, as to restrict who can see information added to the checklists and retain confidentiality.



Define the type of incident

Define the type of incident the individual you're helping is facing.

The next step is to define the type of incident the individual you're supporting is facing.

Use the dropdown below to select the appropriate option, and use the text box to write more details about it.

Defusing:

The tasks in this section cover the defusing stage - this means reducing the emotional and mental turmoil the individual is facing as quickly as possible.

You should ideally reach out to the individual on the day of the incident and before they go to sleep. If that's not possible, still get in contact with them as soon as possible.

The next set of tasks has dynamic due dates attached. That means all tasks should be completed within 12 hours. Though, these due dates can be easily edited to fit another timeframe.

Get in contact with the individual

Get in contact with the individual to begin the defusing process.

No matter if the individual got in contact with you, you got in contact with them, or their details were passed to you, it's now time to contact and begin the defusing process.

Choose the appropriate method of contact you're going to use from the dropdown.

Provide the individual with verbal support

Provide the individual with verbal support.

So the individual knows that you're there to help, provide them with verbal messages of support.

Use the subchecklist below to check off these important messages of support. 

  • 1
    Tell the individual they're not alone
  • 2
    Let the individual know what they're feeling is natural
  • 3
    Assure the individual they'll be supported

Ensure the individual's basic needs are being met

Ensure the individual's basic needs are being met.

After telling the individual you're there to support them, be supportive and ensure that the individual's basic needs are being met.

This means that they have a roof over their head, are in a safe place, they have enough food to eat, and have enough security (i.e. financial security). 

Check the tasks off in the subchecklist to remind yourself of the basic needs that need to be met.

If there's something they're lacking - e.g. shelter - get the appropriate organizations or authorities involved to help rectify the situation. Then, write down what organizations or authorities you involved to help the individual.

  • 1
    Shelter
  • 2
    Food
  • 3
    Safety
  • 4
    Security

Confirm when the incident happened

Confirm when (time and date) the incident happened.

So you know when to move to the debrief stage and the follow-up stage, gently ask the individual to confirm what time and day the incident took place

Ideally, the debrief stage happens within 72 hours of the incident, and the follow-up no longer than a week after the incident happened.

Confirm the time and date on the calendar widget below.

Tell the individual symptoms to look out for

Tell the individual symptoms to look out for.

The incident they've faced could have an impact on their mental, emotional, and physical health.

Some of these impacts can be grave.

These (taken from the BC Emergency Health Services site) could include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Fainting/dizziness

Tell the individual if they're having these symptoms, it could be cause for contacting emergency services.

Even if they're not feeling these symptoms at the time, tell the individual to keep an eye on how they're feeling, and to get in contact with a medical professional if they do begin to feel worse. 

Provide the individual with a mode of contact

Provide the individual with a mode of contact.

If the individual doesn't yet know how to get through to you, tell them the modes of contact you can be reached on.

This could be through a direct phone line, your email address, or your office address - or even all three.

Even if they got in contact with you first, it's useful to let them know all the contact options available.

Use the multi-select dropdown below to select the modes of contact you have offered to the individual.

  • 1
    Phone number
  • 2
    Email
  • 3
    Office address

Decide a time for a supportive conversation

Decide a time and day for you and the individual to have a supportive conversation.

Before ending this defusing conversation, ask the person you're supporting if it's possible to have a longer conversation with them, ideally in the next day or two.

When decided, use the date field to confirm the date and time.

Confirm post-incident signs of distress

Confirm if the individual shows any signs of post-incident distress.

During the defusing process, you'll naturally observe if the individual is showing signs of distress.

Use the subchecklist below to remind yourself of the signs of distress that can be shown. Then, write down the exact symptoms the individual displayed.

  • 1
    Emotional responses (shock, fear, panic, anxiety, depression)
  • 2
    Cognitive responses (confusion, short attention span, forgetfulness, vulnerability, hypervigilance)
  • 3
    Behavioral responses (withdrawal, spacing out, non-communication, aimless movement, inability to sit still)
  • 4
    Physiological responses (rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, difficulty breathing, chest pains, chills, headaches, hyperventilation, grinding of teeth - these require immediate medical attention)
  • 5
    Spiritual distress responses (anger at the deity they believe in, having a crisis of faith)

Debriefing:

The next set of tasks in this Critical Incident Stress Management Checklist covers the debriefing stage. 

Here, you'll have a more thorough conversation with the individual. (Note: The defusing conversation happens ASAP, and the debriefing conversation at another point but within 72 hours of the incident happening.) You'll be talking about the incident that took place in greater detail and supplying them with the necessary resources to move forward.

The tasks in this section don't have dynamic due dates attached, as the time the individual will want to have a longer conversation will differ on a case-by-case basis.

Talk about the incident with the individual

Talk about the incident with the individual.

It's time to talk about the incident with the individual in greater depth.

At the beginning of the conversation, it's important to let them know that you're a supportive ear and that the individual can tell you anything.

While you're talking to them, remember to suggest the coping mechanisms that can be used.

Examples of coping mechanisms could include:

  • Maintaining a somewhat normal schedule
  • Using company resources such as PTO
  • Talking about the incident with friends, family, or professionals

Deciding on coping mechanisms will help the individual to move forward and, with time, go back to a normal life.

After your conversation, summarize how the individual is coping overall. 

Confirm the coping mechanisms being used

Confirming the coping mechanisms being used to deal with the incident.

During your discussion with the individual, you should have mentioned and decided on the coping mechanisms for them to use.

In the box below, write down what these coping mechanisms will be. This will help you and the rest of your team know the individual has a set of tactics under their belt to help them get through.

Consider referring the individual to a counselor

Consider referring the individual to a counselor.

After having a thorough, supportive conversation with the individual, you should now know whether the individual should be referred to a counselor, so they can get the psychological treatment they need.

If the individual does need to be referred on to a counselor, press 'Yes' on the dropdown below.

If the individual doesn't need to be seen by a counselor, press 'No'.

Refer the individual to a counselor

Refer the individual to a counselor.

If the individual is being referred to a counselor, let the individual know that there's no shame in counseling and that it's a necessary part of overcoming a critical incident.

No matter if you're working in-house as part of an HR team or you're an outsourced EAP professional, find an accredited, trustworthy counselor the individual can be referred to.

Write down the counselor's details in the box below.

Follow-up:

Although the follow-up stage is the last stage of your contact with the individual, that doesn't mean it's not an important one.

Checking in with them will help them feel supported, and you can aid them further in their recovery if they have any requests.

Ideally, you'll want to follow up with the individual a few days (3/4) after the debriefing conversation.

The next set of tasks has dynamic due dates attached. This means they should be completed around 3 days after the debriefing conversation.

Ask the individual how they're coping

Ask the individual how they're coping in a follow-up conversation.

Now it's time to check in with the individual.

It's advised that you check in a few days after the supportive conversation, but before a full week has elapsed. Basically, you want to give them time, but you also don't want the individual to feel they aren't being supported by not checking in.

Once you've checked in with them, describe how the individual is coping in the text box below.

If their state is worsening or they're not talking to a counselor yet, think about referring them to counseling or other necessary services so they can get the immediate care from medical professionals that they need.

Take time to perform self-care yourself

Take time to perform self-care activities yourself.

As somebody who's been on the frontline looking after the individual, it's important to look after yourself, too.

Before moving onto your next set of recurring tasks, take some time for self-care. Self-care could take the following forms:

  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Exercise
  • Eating healthily
  • Taking a short break from work

Once you've performed self-care activities, write what you did down in the form field below.

For tips on managing burnout and being good to yourself, read Process Street's post Burnout: How I Beat It, and How You Can Too.

Getting approval:

Now that your communication with the individual has ended and you've managed the stress and anxiety they're feeling, the person you report to should now review and approve your work

This is so they can check and make sure that both you and the individual you've helped are in good mental, emotional, and physical states.

The person you report to has already been automatically assigned to the approval task, due to role assignments. You don't need to do anything else.

Approval: Higher-up review

Will be submitted for approval:
  • Ask the individual how they're coping
    Will be submitted
  • Take time to perform self-care yourself
    Will be submitted

Sources:

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