A huge problem for crisis response teams is that there are not enough bad events.
You never expected a crisis chaplain to make that statement, did you?
But it is true. Because community-wide tragedies do not frequently occur in most of our towns and cities, those on the front lines of emergency response must constantly scream for the attention of team members and community leaders who’ve grown a bit numb to the reality that, some day, another crisis will come. Because the last community tragedy is now a fading memory, team members lose interest in training with the team, and community leaders lose interest in helping fund the team.
But if nobody trains, and if there are no funds for supplies or training, nobody will be prepared when that next crisis hits. And, believe me, it is coming.
Several years ago, a multiple shooting took place in a small residential community that I help serve. Occurring just before sundown on a warm, spring, Sunday afternoon, it was witnessed by more than 20 adults, and by at least three children five years old and younger. By noon the next day, school officials were asking for help.
Our chaplains responded immediately. On Tuesday, we knocked on every door on the street where the shooting occurred, providing CISM materials and contact information to every home.
Using the resources in our combined networks, our chaplains arranged for a series of community meetings that next evening. The principal of a nearby school allowed us to use their facilities. That Wednesday night, three days after the event, more than 70 members of that small community showed up to participate in the healing events we had scheduled.
A Critical Incident Debriefing Team met with the adult witnesses. Two child psychologists conducted sessions with the children. Police officers updated the entire group on the investigation, letting them know what to expect next. Family pastors reported on the conditions of the wounded, and gave funeral information regarding the deceased. School counselors addressed parental issues, and explained how each student could receive help. A regional mental health agency offered free care to those directly affected by the event.
In less than 48 hours, our chaplain team had managed to put together an event that involved three schools, two law enforcement agencies, three mental health agencies, three churches, a CID team, and enough food to feed 70 people. That’s by no means a miracle, but it is doubtful that any other group in our community could have pulled all those resources together in such a short period of time. But because our chaplains are always training and always networking, they made it happen.
As we were wrapping up, one man from the community stood and thanked all us. He said, “Today, I wasn’t sure how we would be able to go on, but tonight, I feel like you have given us our lives back.” The applause from the audience indicated that there were many others who also felt that way.
That event was several years ago. Most folks in that area have recovered and are doing well.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve had something like that to occur. Our already slim local resources have dwindled a bit, and some of the passion for training has dimmed. But we still carry on.
You must carry on, too. Remember, we aren’t in this because of the pay or recognition. We’re here to make a difference.
A new crisis is on its way. I don’t know when it will arrive, but I can guarantee that it is coming. Regardless of how others react or how little help you receive, do all you must to keep your teams prepared. When it comes right down to it, it is doubtful that anyone else in your community will be able to muster the resources on critically short notice that will be essential to the wellbeing of your friends and neighbors.
Leaders see what others do not. Take charge. Make sure a trained team stands ready to help when disaster strikes your community.