Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

July 10, 2013

Local workshop to address first responder stress

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — Post-traumatic stress is a common thread in the lives of many first responders. But local first responders are organizing a workshop to help police, fire and emergency medical personnel deal with the horrific situations they may encounter.

The workshop is set for Sept. 12-13 at First Baptist Church in Effingham. Jodi Moomaw, systems manager for the Effingham County Emergency Telephone System (911) Board, said at Tuesday’s board meeting that more details will be available later.

Board member Joe Holomy said the attitude toward stress among first responders has changed — for good reason, he said.

“Years ago, we were just told to suck it up and move on,” Holomy said. “But we have realized we need to hit it early.”

Holomy told the sad story of a former colleague.

“This firefighter just went on disability because of stress from an event that happened 20 years ago,” he said. “He kept it in for so long, and now he’s done.”

A committee of local first responders has been organizing the workshop. Moomaw said the program will be designed to help first responders identity and manage post-traumatic stress.

“It’s to train people to see signs of when colleagues need assistance,” she said.

Holomy said the key is establishing individual relationships between first responders and those who listen, whether they be chaplains or secular counselors.

“We want to get one-on-one relationships built up so people can talk to somebody they know,” he said. “That way, you get a better indication of what the issue might be.”

Also Tuesday, Moomaw reported that represenratives from Intertech will be in the area during the first full week of August to work on the long-awaited efficiency study. Intertech was hired earlier this year to conduct the study, which is expected to show the board whether or not the current two dispatch centers should be consolidated. The study also is expected to consider many other facets of the 911 system. Moomaw said Intertech representatives are already collecting data. She added that she would develop a schedule for individual meetings between Intertech representatives and local public safety officials.

In action taken Tuesday, the board agreed to spend $5,100 to send three telecommunicators to a user conference sponsored by Spillman in Salt Lake City. Spillman is the company that installed new dispatch software at the centers several years ago. The company is paying for two other local representatives to attend the conference.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.