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  • Missoula Valley Critical Incident Stress Management Team

    COMX 460 & 461 Spring 2016

    By: Sophie Biechler, Maille Cavalier, Amanda Foley, Jane Metcalf, and Jacob Reed,

    ! 1

  • Introduction

    Missoula Critical Incident Stress Management Team, referred to as CISM for short, is an

    organization that contracts with local emergency response teams in Missoula County. It is a local

    volunteer group of carefully selected and trained members with experience in one of the

    emergency services (peer members) or licensed mental health professionals (clinical members)

    (Hodgetts, 2014). Founded in 1988, CISM more specifically provides debriefings and diffusing

    with individuals and teams who are affected after critical incidents. Debriefings are coordinated

    events that are planned as group settings to air feelings and thoughts about a critical incident in a

    judgement free and non-hostile environment. Defusings are immediately following a critical

    incident, the purpose being to address immediate concerns and needs of the emergency

    responders. The team responds upon request, 24/7, to any local entity with emergency personnel

    within Missoula County where a critical incident has occurred (Hodgetts, 2014). CISM teams

    are often made up of twelve active members who utilize pre-established, nationally used and

    proven techniques help manage emergency responders psychological and physiological health in

    the wake of critical incidents. The entirety of the current CISM team expressed desire to assess

    awareness, perceptions and opinions of their program among local emergency services.


    In order for CISM teams to better serve local emergency response groups, it is important

    to gauge the awareness, perceptions, and opinions based on experience with the CISM program

    among local emergency response teams, such as the volunteer fire departments, sheriff's office,

    police and highway patrol, as well as other emergency services and/or dispatchers in Missoula.

    ! 2

  • Moreover, as part of this project the research team sought to find out just how local emergency

    teams are currently using CISM or would be willing to incorporate CISM into their work. Given

    this, local response teams mentioned above were given a survey to discover these aspects.

    The research was focused to gauge:

    The level of awareness of CISM services

    Current opinions by those who have taken part in services offered through CISM

    Current perceptions of those who are aware of CISM

    The belief that CISM is a useful asset

    The likelihood of use by those made aware of CISM


    A written survey was conducted among volunteer fire departments, Missoula Rural Fire

    Department, Missoula County Sheriffs Department and the Missoula County Emergency

    Communication Department. Surveys were distributed to members of the Missoula County

    Sheriffs Office at morning and evening briefings on both sides of the week to insure coverage of

    all patrol deputies. There were surveys left with a lieutenant at the sheriffs office that were

    meant to be distributed to administrative members, however these surveys were not completed.

    Surveys were given to the top line supervisor of Missoula City Fire Department and distributed

    through their chain of command. There was no way to determine the response rate of these as the

    surveys were combined with Missoula Rural Fire Departments surveys prior to their return to

    the research team. The Emergency Communication Department had surveys provided to a

    ! 3

  • supervisor who was also a member of the CISM team, after which the surveys were disseminated

    amongst dispatchers and returned to the research team after completion.

    The survey was completely anonymous and voluntary. There were respondents who made

    their identity known by signing and placing their contact information on the survey, for the

    purpose of safeguarding the integrity of our promise of anonymity we redacted such information

    prior to processing the data. All attempts were made to have a research team member present

    with a CISM member at all survey locations, however due to scheduling constraints this was not

    always possible. As an incentive to participate, each survey had an attached cover page that, once

    completed, was entered into a lottery for a $75.00 prize. Once the survey was completed, and we

    analyzed the results and outlined them in this report.

    The written questionnaire was split into these categories: awareness, perceptions,

    opinions based on experience, and demographics. In the awareness category, questions were

    asked that assessed an individual's knowledge of existing CISM programs, functions, and

    services. Questions in the perceptions category measured current views of the program either

    positive or negative. The opinions based on experience category consisted of contingency

    questions that were completed by those who have used the program before. The final section,

    demographics, asked whether an individual was male or female, their tenure, age, department in

    which they were employed, education level, whether they were married, and if they had children.

    These questions were completed at the end of the survey in order to avoid any bias due to the

    assumption that a masculine gender type would be dismissive of perceived stress. The survey

    was designed to minimize harm to the participants, there was no place to recount incidents that

    could cause emotional distress among participants. The survey offered each individual member

    ! 4

  • the opportunity to abstain from participating. If an individual believed that the survey started to

    bring up emotional distress, they could have declined further participation. Now that the study is

    complete, CISM will be provided with the written results.


    Sample Demographics:

    Our sample group consisted of 191 members from emergency response teams in

    Missoula Valley. These emergency response teams were from the volunteer fire departments

    (49.2%), sheriffs office (10.2%), police (1.7%), emergency services (8.5%), and/or dispatchers

    (30.5%) and 0% of the respondents were from highway patrol in the Missoula community. Of

    those who worked in more than one field, 91.7% also worked in Emergency Medical Services

    and 8.3% also worked with the sheriffs office.

    Of the 191 respondents, 74.6% of respondents were men and 25.4% were female. 60.7%

    of the respondents were married, 1% was widowed, 9.9% were divorced/separated and 23.6%

    had never been married. 64.3% of the respondents had children, whereas 34.6% did not have

    Fire 65.5%

    Sheriffs office 21.8%

    Police 5.5%

    Highway patrol 0%

    Emergency dispatcher .9%

    EMS 6.4%

    ! 5

  • any children. The educational levels varied from primary school to a graduate degree. 1.1%

    completed primary school, 19.1% completed high school, 36.1% had some college, 11.5% had a

    two-year degree, 26.8% had a four-year degree, and 5.5% had a graduate degree.

    As illustrated in the table below, a significant number of respondents had more than ten

    years of experience in emergency services.

    Perceptions of Job Stress

    Not surprisingly, a majority of the respondents indicated that their job was stressful at

    82.9%, whereas only 7.5% disagreed with the statement that their job was stressful. In addition

    to this, 60.8% of the responses indicated that the stress in their jobs affected their personal lives

    and 44.9% said it affected their work performance. Though a majority agreed that their jobs

    were stressful, when responding to the statement: I have thought about resigning due to stressful

    incidents at work only 2.7% strongly agreed, 13.3% somewhat agreed, 12.2% neither disagreed

    or agreed, 16.5% somewhat disagreed, and 55.3% disagreed. Despite the fact that most view

    their occupation as stressful, they wish to remain in their field.

    Less than one year 11.1%

    1-5 years 20.1%

    5-10 years 19.6%

    More than 10 years 49.2%

    Strongly disagree

    Somewhat disagree

    Neither agree or disagree

    Somewhat agree

    Strongly agree

    ! 6

  • As the graph below demonstrates, only 9.5% indicated that they did not respond to any stressful

    calls in a month, while everyone else had at least one per month.


    My job is stressful .5% 7% 9.6% 55.6% 27.3%

    Stress levels affect my personal life

    7% 10.8% 21.5% 45.2% 15.6%

    Stress levels affect my work performance

    9.6% 14.4% 31% 39% 5.9%

    I have thought about resigning due to stressful incidents at work

    55.3% 16.5% 12.2% 13.3% 2.7%

    Frequency of Stressful Calls






    None 1-2 per month 5 or more per month

    None 9.4%

    Less than 1 per month but periodically 46.2%

    1-2 per month 24.8%

    3-5 per month 10.3%

    5 or more per month 9.4%

    ! 7

  • In response to stressful work situations, respondents used many different avenues to deal with

    their stress. Of the respondents that answered Other a majority gave some sort of outdoor

    recreation activity such as fishing, golfing, rock climbing, and hiking.


    When asking respondents whether or not they are familiar with the CISM team, we found that just under

    half of th

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