By Catherine Komp, WCVE:
The night of October 11th, Hanover firefighter Brad Clark was killed and several others seriously injured when their fire truck was hit by a semi on I-295.
Charles Knowles: I was on shift and found out within minutes after the collision that there was a line of duty death.
In nearby Chesterfield, Fire Captain Charles Knowles prepared to send their peer support team to Hanover’s Station 6.
Knowles: We had members from Chesterfield County there at 7:30 in the morning on Friday post-incident. And we were helping to just address the needs of their folks.
A growing number of fire departments are recognizing the mental health needs of first responders and building peer support teams. Chesterfield’s has been active for about a decade.
Knowles: Many times folks can just simply discuss or talk about whatever may be bothering them and be okay generally speaking, and a lot of the folks in public safety are very resilient in that manner. However, there are times that our work and the things that we deal with are just too much to overcome. So the peer supporters work with the individual, we know what resources we have available to us and we try to identify what would be the best path to get them where they need to be to start addressing those behavioral health needs that the individual has.
Knowles says in the late 1980s, Chesterfield began what’s known as Critical Incident Stress Management as a way to debrief first responders after experiencing a traumatic event. But they realized it wasn’t working.
Knowles: Part of the old model had us sit around almost in a circle and you just kind of went one by one and discussed what it was that was bothering you.
Read or listen to the full interview here.