Welcome to The 911 Wellness Resource

THANKS FOR VISITING! 

This site was developed by the 911 Wellness Foundation (911WF) which operated betoolkit pictween 2011 through February 3, 2017.  Our board of directors was grateful to play a integral role in boosting awareness of the psychological risks facing 911 telecommunicators and in helping point the way to solutions. The industry has come along way in this effort, including establishing the NENA Standard on Acute/Traumatic and Chronic Stress Management.

Click on the box above to learn more, and to get help launching your 911 center’s Comprehensive Stress Management Program (CSMP.) While 911WF  has wrapped up our official work as an organization after achieving much of what we set out to do, our members are not leaving the mission behind. We are “closing up the shop” in accord with our very strong belief that the rest of the 911 wellness work yet to be done will be best accomplished as we contribute to new initiatives of our 911 membership associations. We expect to be very involved in the 911 Family’s next big steps toward empowering our 911Pros to achieve what we call Resilience-Driven Peak Performance™.

So, our website remains here, renamed as The 911 Wellness Resource–a great  information source to help all those who are working to foster Resilience-Driven Peak Performance in our comm centers. You’ll notice as you read on that we’ve left all stories, articles and resources “as is”:some offer timeless help while others will provide you with valuable insight about the 911 wellness steps taken through 2016 that pave the way for future wellness efforts. I offer a special thanks to our board of directors for their deep dedication to this work, and to all of you who have supported the mission of the 911 Wellness Foundation, including all our Alliance Partners listed on this site. Our biggest gratitude goes to our North American 911 professionals who have inspired us with their encouragement and example of service to their communities.

If you wish to contact me, please use the information below. Thanks so much for what you do for this cause. Let’s keep at it. Peace to you!

Jim Marshall, Former Chair/CEO, 911WF

Director, 911 Training Institute

www.911Training.net

Contact: Jim@911Training.net

 

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INTRODUCTION TO 911 WELLNESS FOUNDATION

We are the 911 industry’s only organization exclusively devoted to fostering optimal well-being and peak performance of the Very First Responder.

On behalf of the 911WF Board of Trustees, I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to visit our blog. We hope you’ll explore each of our pages to learn what the Foundation is all about. Please note that articles published since July 2014 are posted on existing pages according to their topics for easier access. Just click on the tab related to the topic that interests you most.

Would you like a quick introduction to 911WF? By scrolling down you can enjoy watching a few short videos explaining the Foundation’s unique value to specific 911 stakeholder groups. (A complete library of our videos can be found by clicking the 911WF Videos tab above. This is a young work in progress.) Or watch and share this quick PowerPoint Introduction to 911WF.

Scrolling further down on this page, you’ll also find brief descriptions of new blog pages including 911 Wellness News, Building your CSMPs, and Personal Stories of 911 Professionals.

Thanks so much for joining us! Please share our blog with all those you believe would appreciate the Foundation’s work and the chance to be a part of our mission. And please visit our 911WF Facebook Page. Just log on and respond to the prompt to join. Our FB Administrator will promptly approve your request so you can begin reading and joining in on all the great conversations right away.

I welcome your emails! 911Wellness@live.com. Thanks much, and enjoy!

Jim Marshall, Former chair/CEO

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

 

MORE PAGES

The 911 Wellness News page

This page covers all significant events involving or affecting the Foundation, such as these articles:

  • 911 Wellness Foundation and the National Emergency Number Association Establish Official Alliance, by Jim Marshall, July 7, 2014
  • 911WF and the Texas Chapter of NENA Also Establish Official Alliance, By Jim Marshall, July 7, 2014

Visit this page now.

We’re also delighted to offer our readers two more new pages  that will add real value in your effort to contribute to our Foundation’s mission. These new pages include…

The Build Your PSAP’s CSMP! page

This page introduces 911 leaders to the NENA Standard on Acute/Traumatic and Chronic Stress Management (NENA STA-002) and offers resources to assist North American 911 centers in implementation of their Comprehensive Stress Management Programs (CSMP) called for in the Standard. Visit this page now.

The Personal 911 Stories Page

On this page you’ll find captivating stories written by 911 Professionals that help bring you in touch with the people who have lived the life of the Very First Responder. The purpose of these stories is not to sensationalize, cause alarm or invoke pity for 911Pros: it is to help their peers to know that they are not alone, and to inspire respect and boost commitment among all 911 stakeholders to join us in serving this remarkable group of human beings who serve us all each day. Visit this page now.

Again, thanks so much for investing your time to explore 911WF. We hope you’ll become a part of us! Feel free to email me: Jim Marshall, 911Wellness@live.com.

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NATIONAL (PUBLIC SAFETY) TELECOMMUNICATORS WEEK

0001 911NTW2

As we celebrate National Public Safety Telecommunicators  my mind goes to the incredible psychological load that all our 911 professionals bear daily to deliver the 24/7/365 service upon which their field responders and we as citizens  have come to rely. Much of the focus of the 911 Wellness Foundation this week and ongoing is on the frontline telecommunicator. And rightly so, given the unique stress of their work.

Yet the accomplishments of our Very First Responder depend on the support of the entire local 911 family: you, the supervisors who often still take calls and dispatch even as you provide moment-to-moment support to call-takers and dispatchers on “the floor”; you, the managers and directors who run constantly between the center and a multitude of people and projects to keep your center running, advancing, funded, and your people well; you, administrative assistant living in the hub of the PSAP’s whir and hum, working to keep everyone else on task; you, the training coordinators who develop, conduct, seek out, and handle all the logistics of securing and documenting participation in quality training for their telecommunicators; you, the Quality Assurance officers who (in many agencies) listen to thousands of calls in a career–the good, the bad, the ugly–and often must re-live the distress experienced by all originally involved; and you too, the IT Pros who face constant maintenance and repair demands, planning and overseeing equipment upgrades and frankly a lot other stuff I don’t understand!

And, just as you intend it, these entire 911 operations run silently behind the emergency scene, completely outside the view or full consideration of most citizens. The systems you create and operate enable the caller in peril to simply pick up the phone in that moment of great need, punch those three digits and, magically, gain instant access to all the area’s emergency services.

The 911 Wellness Foundation recognizes that the shared stress experienced by all of you 911 professionals (“911Pros”) is enormous–and that by the very nature of your work conditions you have little opportunity to come together in one place at one time as a 911 family, to take a deep breath and reflect with pride and mutual appreciation on how you as a team achieve the remarkable success the rest of us have come to take for granted. We know too that you don’t do this work for the praise of others and that your greatest reward is from the satisfaction of knowing you help save lives.

Still, those of us who work in support roles to you 911Pros can at least help create a rewarding moment by duly acknowledging your vital role in our communities: so we at the Foundation cheer you on and offer our deep respect for the enormous value and complex stress of your work, and the role that you, collectively, play in providing our nation, our communities and our own families with a security upon which we can rely in life’s worst moments.

THANK YOU, 911!

May you enjoy health and joy in your own lives within and beyond the PSAP–and an ever-deepening appreciation for each other. You deserve it!

With gratitude and in behalf of the 911WF Board of Trustees,

Jim Marshall, Chair & CEO

 

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The Key to Success (“Sine Qua Non”) for NG911

I don’t speak Latin and you probably don’t either. But the term Sine qua non outstrips English in getting a critical point across. (Definition coming soon, but first a little historical context.) The industrial revolution in America exceeded our wildest dreams in creating technology, transportation, fuel sources, and products that improved the quality of life in our country. Yet it is also a matter of record that our industrial growth outpaced the rate of crucial reflection on health risks to which industrial workers were exposed.  (Think coal-mining before government regulation under Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft, and management of hazardous waste before NIOSH.)

Next Generation 911 represents the greatest leap forward for emergency communications in our history, promising to optimize emergency response, potentially saving more lives on scene. This new Internet Protocol based infrastructure will enable 911 reception of text messaging, real-time video, photographs, and other data yielding much richer information upon which to formulate and engage 911 emergency response. (Imagine the capacity for telecommunicators to see on scene via real-time video as they assist a mother in performing CPR on her child in respiratory distress.) Yet to assure successful adaptation to these technologies, the 911 Wellness Foundation (911WF) urges 911 stakeholders to systematically address three critical questions:

  • How will the telecommunicators’ experience interacting with callers and field responders via NG911 capabilities impact the nature and extent of their mental and emotional labor on the job?
  • What are the implications for their performance and health?  
  • How will we design the human-machine interface, prepare telecommunicators to operate within it, and provide the ongoing evaluation and psychological support they need to maintain optimal personal and professional functioning?

Addressing these questions is the Sine Qua Non of NG911–that is, something absolutely indispensable or essential for success (Merriam’s Dictionary). This point was underscoredas I taught telecommunicators today–all veteran 911 professionals (911Pros). As  they imagined handling calls via real-time video, their responses covered a spectrum I’ve heard consistently around the country . On one side of the room a dispatcher stated enthusiastically: “That won’t bother me. Bring it on. I will have more power to help my field responders”. And then a telecommunicator on my right spoke up: “I chose dispatch, not field response as a career because I don’t want to see it or be on scene.” Even as 911Pros can clearly see the benefits to the public and are united in their devotion to supporting their field responders, they also share a widespread anxiety about the potential for being impacted negatively at the console by multi-sensory exposure to tragic scenes via real-time video. Their concern is supported by science: Roberta Troxell’s 2008 study found that dispatchers are already the first on scene psychologically via Legacy 911 contact and that they experience stress impacts comparable to field responders.

During the Michigan NENA Conference in 2012, former NENA President and current 911 911WF board member Rick Galway led the way to a balanced discussion of these concerns by pointing to an inevitable scenario for which we must prepare: “Sooner or later it is going to happen. A dispatcher is going to take a call via real-time video from a suicidal caller–he’s gonna shoot himself and the dispatcher will see it. We need to be ready.” While technological preparation for the launch of real-time video and other NG911 technologies is advancing rapidly, we must catch up in preparing 911 professionals (911Pros) to assure their Psychological Readiness.

Fortunately, industry leaders are stepping forward to address these concerns. In August, 2013, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) established the Standard on Acute, Traumatic and Chronic Stress calling for all North American PSAPs to assure provision of “Comprehensive Stress Management Programs” for their employees. This standard can assure a basic level of support for our 911Pros in the current Legacy 911 environment if it is universally adapted. Yet in itself it is not adequate to accomodate the predictable increases in stress related to NG911. NENA has begun to explore anticipated increases in NG911 workload. The NENA “Task Overload” Workgroup is surveying their membership to learn “how much is too much” for a dispatcher to handle and how we can identify and manage those variables to prevent overload.

These NENA initiatives are two pillars of work upon which 911 stakeholders must build a much more comprehensive and well-orchestrated plan to secure the future of NG911.

911WF invites vendors, our leading 911 associations and organizations, local 911Pros, elected and appointed officials and citizens to join experts in research and health sciences now in a pragmatic and evidence-based exploration of the three key questions above leading to the establishment of a BluePrint for 911 Wellness in the NG911 PSAP

Please join 911WF in the pursuit of this BluePrint to assure that the NG911 infrastructure has at its core a Human-Machine Interface that is informed by the health sciences and can thereby truly protect the well-being of the dispatcher–the Very First Responder upon whom the entire emergency response system depends.

Thank you for taking time to read this posts. Your comments are encouraged, and to learn more about how you can partner with 911WF in this effort contact Jim Marshall by email, 911wellness@live.com or call 231.881.1434.

 

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CHRISTMAS for Very First Responders: the Gift of Resilience

So how do you really feel about Christmas this year? Some folks just can’t get enough of the Christmas music; they marvel at the decorations adorning downtown areas and neighbhorhoods aglow. They are able to connect with child-like delight as the whole multi-sensory extravaganza once again unfolds before their eyes. Some years I can join in with these perpetual kids. I hope that everybody can.

But there are also plenty who are  just exhausted by the time December 25 rolls around, or anxious about what “Auld Langs Cry” will sound like this year when the family gets together again. They count down the days and hold their breath until all the hubbub has passed. Others, because of religious differences or unhealed crises of faith may travel through this season like folks on their annual trek into a neighboring country with passport in hand–not gleeful, not particularly bothered by the religious message, just feeling a return of that yearly sense that they simply don’t belong.

To keep grounded amidst the stress and expectations every December brings, I remind myself  that the season will not magically perfect our families, exempt us from mayhem, or protect us from tragedy. For me it is ultimately a time to sift through the good and tangled of life here South of Heaven, to breathe in a message that indeed originates from Christianity but can also be affirmed by those of different faith orientations: The Creator, who is Light, and in whose image we are all made, still loves us and  is Here for us in the midst of it all. I’m not trying to impose this belief on others. It’s just what I believe.

Yet my grasp on this comforting truth is admittedly quite slippery at times because as you each know, those of us who do crisis work  don’t spend most of our time “Under the Spout where the Glory comes out” as the hokey ole 50’s hymn goes. We choose to stand strategically under the Other Spout. You know, the one where the, um, Humanity comes out! Oh, and there’s this: we aren’t exempt from our own personal crises, right? That combo can create what many members of our 911 Family can both relate to: a crisis of faith. Often sitting elbow to elbow with members of our incredible 911 Family, telecommunicators’ will sound the “amen”: this work does challenge our faith. They will say, in so many words:

“If only the general public knew what really happens out there in one day–they have no idea!” These telecommunicators are referring to that bizarre mix that comes pouring in through their headsets during the Holidays when supposedly “all is calm, all is bright…”. Dispatchers, like trauma therapists, are containers that get stuffed– not full of toys like Santa’s Big Bag– but with all the unfortunate, tragic, and unnecessary-ugly stuff that goes on in the lives of callers. 

So, maybe you’re thinking, Okay, thanks Marshall, for the nice depressing message, you Grinch. Merry Stinking Christmas to you too. Are you always such a downer?

Hold on already! I’m not finished yet.

Here’s the point: Crises of Faith, cynicism, and skepticism are common among emergency responders. And while we may not get all jazzed up by the loud, frenzy and glitter of commercial Christmas, we don’t have to cheat ourselves of the Comfort of the real Christmas message. The unexpected pathway to peace amidst stress and unanswered questions may be this: to accept our doubts AND allow that, maybe, just maybe the Season’s glitter and all the frenzy is a Gift of Strength and a sign of human RESILIENCE–folks refusing to give up despite hardship.

Truth be told, I’ve seen some dispatchers wearing tinsel and elf hats at their consoles.

I hope this Christmas you’ll have or make a little time to breathe in the true Message of Christmas–that you are Significant, you are Loved…and to find and express gratitude for the imperfect beauty around you.

Peace to you!

Jim Marshall,

911 Wellness Foundation

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MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR…

To all the 911 Family and in behalf of the 911 Wellness Foundation (911WF) Board of Directors I offer thanks for our nation’s 911 professionals.

As part of my Thanksgiving I reflected back on the many times my extended family and friends have reached out in crisis to call 911, and I felt a lot of gratitude. And then my mind drifted to the question: What are the hidden costs of 911 interventions delivered by the 911Pro each shift, each week, each month of each year to those in life threatening emergencies involving children,  the elderly, those in suicidal despair, others trapped in house fires or domestic violence, and so many more critical scenarios? 

Certainly the public defrays the financial expense of such 911 service. But how are we as 911 stakeholders helping to manage the enormous EMOTIONAL COSTS incurred by our 911Pros over the course of their careers in caring for the public in peril?  Only in the past few years have we begun to research the toll such emotional labor takes on the health of telecommunicators.

Kim Matelski, Charlevoix-Cheboygan-Emmet Central Dispatch Photography by Joni Hayes

Kim Matelski, Charlevoix-Cheboygan-Emmet Central Dispatch
Photography by Joni Hayes

Could we reach a point at which we will not be able to attract and retain workers capable and willing to do such mentally grueling work?One of the most stressful and frustrating challenges facing our nation’s 911 Center leaders is adequately staffing and retaining 911 frontline telecommunicators. Indeed, eight years ago APCO’s Project RETAINS affirmed that retention rates are poor and must be improved.

Consider this analogy: we as a nation are rightly concerned about conserving natural resources, such as water from our Great Lakes.We recognize that without strategic long-term planning to prevent contamination of our water supply, physical life, community survival and commerce in the Midwest all stand at serious risk.

The greater, the stronger, the more plentiful a resource is perceived to be, the more apt its beneficiaries are to take it for granted. We assume it will always be there taking care of us. This assumption is understandable, but of course it is dangerously inaccurate.

I believe this principle also holds true for the public’s expectations of our 911 workforce. Because 911 has for so long answered the call of duty and performed at extraordinary levels of competence and efficiency, 911 stakeholders assume we will always be able to tap those three digits and experience this same speed and quality of emergency response. But 911 telecommunicators–however extraordinary they must be to do this work– are also just human. They are subject to the same risks of compassion fatigue, traumatic stress disorders and chronic stress-related illnesses as any of us would be when exposed to high levels of traumatic events in the line of duty.

The mission of the 911 Wellness Foundation is not to sound a false alarm or generate undue drama about these concerns. It is to optimistically join the resources of all 911 stakeholders in a concerted long-term effort to think and plan strategically, to sustain and optimize the health of our Very First Responders– just as leaders in the Great Lakes Region have worked to assure mid-westerners’ access to clean water in the future.

Leading 911 stakeholders are talking their place in this 911 Wellness effort.The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is evidencing a high priority placed on this critical issue with establishment of its new Standard on Acute, Traumatic and Chronic Stress Management Standard (approved August 2013).  And NENA’s has featured the topic of stress, mental health and wellness in its latest edition of its flagship journal, The Call. The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch has joined 911WF to partner in optimizing the health of our 911 workforce.

This Thanksgiving, please join my own family in giving thanks to all our 911 professionals–those who serve at the console, those who supervise, and those 911Pros who manage personnel and systems. And please consider lending your support to the 911 Wellness Foundation as we pursue this mission.  I welcome your emails and will take time to explore with you how you can contribute uniquely to our work.

Peace to you!

Jim Marshall

Chair & CEO

911 Wellness Foundation

email: 911Wellness@Live.com

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Let’s Honor State Trooper Butterfield and Lend Support to all Emergency Responders Who Need to Grieve

Reposted from 9.11.13

Yesterday, September 10, State Trooper Paul Butterfield died in the line of duty. Officer Butterfield of Oceana County, MI was shot during a traffic stop. Such a tragic loss of a young man serving his community reverberates quickly and painfully throughout the nation’s emergency response community. During a quick dinner break on the road this evening, I expressed condolences about this loss to a state police trooper from Mt. Pleasant and at the name “Butterfield” I could see his countenance fall.

For those of us who didn’t know this public servant, there is still much we can do to help in his honor and the honor of his many peers who too have fallen: first we can just say how sorry we are to all who know and have worked along side Paul. 911WF begins here by acknowledging Richard Feole, the Mason-Oceana 911 Director and his entire team of telecommunicators. Among the hardest stories 911Pros live through begins with the words “Officer down”. We are SO sorry.

In the bigger picture too, we can recognize that law enforcement officers and other emergency responders beginning with the Very First (the telecommunicator) struggle deeply with how to face such tragedies that strikes their own. Torn between “sucking it up” and the enormous emotional stirring, they often find it difficult to know what to do with grief and traumatic stress.

As mentally resilient and courageous as they may be, these responders often share a paramilitary belief about emotions taught in earnest error for many generations in America: that sadness (like fear) is weakness that interferes with staying strong on the job. There is no judgment in this statement: the fact is that jobs requiring repeated exposure to traumatic life-and-death scenarios can condition responders to believe it is stupid to sit with vulnerable emotions. Why? Because these emotions if fully felt may seem to threaten our ability to “keep on keeping on” tomorrow and the day after tomorrow knowing sooner or later we will face such tragedy again. Predictably, the risk of depression and compassion fatigue increases among responders who survived the best they could living by that emotional code.

So, as we have the opportunity to encounter those emergency responders (including 911 Professionals) touched by Officer Butterfield’s death we can help simply by speaking sincere words that express our sorrow and empathy. Such open caring can encourage them to validate and feel their own pain and travel through it rather than around it. The chance to grieve with freedom and support as we were designed to do can make a lifetime of difference. And helping someone find hope among ashes is quite a gift.

If you are one of those struggling in the aftermath of such painful loss (as so many dispatchers who write to me often) please take these words to heart. And remember, 911WF is here to help you. Email us at 911Wellness@Live.com.

Peace to you.

J. Marshall

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9/11 for 9-1-1: A Two-Fold Call to Remember and Re-Commit

(Re-posted from 9.11.13)

Today we commemorate one of the events in our nation’s recent history that Americans greatly wish had never happen or at least could be forgotten. Yet we are all drawn back by the common instinct to honor those lost and their loved ones who still strive to heal and rebuild their lives. Among them, immortalized by images replayed on our TV screens and embedded in our minds, are members of the NYC First Responder Community.

In behalf of the 911 Wellness Foundation board of directors I offer up a prayer for personal healing from haunting trauma, and for the rebuilding of hope and lives even beyond what folks may believe is possible. (A benefit of my clinical trenchwork with those suffering from PTSD is seeing this prayer answered again and again.)

The city of New York is best seen as the epicenter of the 9/11 catastrophe of an enormous psychological shock wave that emanated outward throughout the country that day. It still pulses with heartbreak for Americans everywhere, especially each year on this day. No matter what state we hail from, each of us can recall just what we were doing that day, that moment the news came to us or flashed upon a screen nearby.

I am drawn back to the moment I sat in my office fully absorbed in the story of a distraught client. Honoring the Cardinal Rule to never interrupt a session except for emergencies, my secretary knocked rapidly on my door. I was in shock as she broke the news and put me through to a call from a school principal desperate for help leading his student body in processing the trauma. I was compelled to go instantly not only by the need to help his students but also because my own 12 year old daughter was among them. Weren’t all of us drawn to be with our own families in that instance of terror with an urgency we may have never so strongly before? The sense of security most Americans took for granted prior to 9/11/2001 has never quite been regained.

So first we remember for New York. Secondly, to remind ourselves that today, each today is a gift too precious to squander or fail to invest in a Life beyond ourselves, to a greater good.  For the 911 Wellness Foundation that greater good is the well-being of The Very First Responder. We don’t think upon NYC to criticize for even a moment, but we are compelled to wonder compassionately: how have the good souls with headsets on in that city on that day been impacted through the years? As the invisible first responder who heard what no else quite heard the same way, did they get the help that many dispatchers still don’t receive after major emergencies: to validation that they too were personally involved in and affected by the traumatic events they managed; the chance to join the rest of their emergency response family and talk through it all; ongoing support from 911 leaders educated about PTSD; and, access with genuine encouragement to seek EMDR therapy to heal?

In no way am I here assuming leadership failures in NYC regarding care of dispatchers. The fact is that despite how advanced American medicine and psychology are, we are all still learning together about trauma and how to respond to it. That is our privilege and greatest opportunity to safe-guard our mental health and quality of life for the future.

So, for 911WF this is a day for us to commit as an organization to a task we are now prepared to pursue: as NYC officials may desire, we will offer help in sensitively seeking answers to those crucial questions above, and to supporting NYC leaders (themselves still recovering)  in assuring the best possible ongoing support for their 911Pros who lived through that day and those that joined them since 2001.

How has remembering 9/11 affected and inspired you? If you want to join the 911WF mission, we’d welcome your email: 911Wellness@live.com.

Peace.

Jim Marshall, Chair

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NENA Standard on Stress Management Approved! A Major Step in SafeGuarding Health of our Very First Responders…

The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) has announced that on August 6 its Executive Board approved the Standard on 911 Acute/Traumatic and Chronic Stress Management. This Standard can make a career-changing difference for our nation’s Very First Responders–the frontline 911 telecommunicators because it assures strategic provision of support that is critical to wellbeing in the face of the incredible stress of their work.  NENA’s website explains and provides a link to the full document version of this groundbreaking Standard:

“…provides for essential awareness of the serious risks posed by work-related stress on the mental and physical health of 9-1-1 emergency Telecommunicators/Dispatchers in their role as our first first responders. It establishes the “best practice” elements of local 9-1-1 comprehensive employee stress management programs and the expectation that such programs will be implemented by PSAPs.”

The Standard evidences the value placed on the person of the telecommunicator by  NENA and by the many 911 stakeholders who worked together to develop it over these past three years as authors, contributors through public comment, and informally as encouragers. Such a document stating expectations for PSAPs to provide care to their people could just be another bureaucratic imposition falling heavy on our local 911 leaders from “on High”. But this Standard is different: it was developed with remarkable, widespread support from 911 stakeholders in all capacities, beginning with our local frontliners and their leaders, inspiration from our National 911 Program Administrator Laurie Flaherty, state 911 administrators, and by the work of the Work Group that included representatives from APCO International, the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, university researchers pioneering 911 stress research, vendors, and members of our own 911WF Board of Directors.

In June, Dee Ann Summersett (Tuscola County 911, MI), the Foundation’s Vice-Chair and Co-Chair of the NENA Working Group on Stress, presented Safeguarding the Well-Being of the 9-1-1 Professional: A New Stress Standard & Great Solutions. This was the first official introduction of the Standard to the 911 industry. Dee Ann’s presentation was well received. It detailed to 911 personnel how the Standard will help to boost health, performance, and retention in our centers through resilience training, trauma treatment, peer support, CISM, and more!

The 911 Wellness Foundation (WF) was established in part to help advance this Standard and we will be offering support to NENA and our local 911 personnel to assure success in the work of building the Comprehensive Stress Management Programs (CSMP) it calls for. Click here to view the PDF of this presentation, email 911wellness@live.com.

The Standard represents a solid foundation upon which so much more vital work must be done together by all 911 stakeholders. Far more education, research, policy and intervention will need to advance the cause of understanding the risks to health posed by 911 work and creating the solutions that will “safeguard” their well-being as the industry moves forward  in its constant service to the public. 911WF is dedicated to coming along all 911 stakeholders to accomplish this mission, and we need your help.

Please consider what role you might take, whether volunteering on projects, as a member of our Council on Subject Matter Experts (CoSME), just informally offering ideas and input, or helping us seek much needed funding. Join us on this exciting and very rewarding journey! Everyone of us who benefits from calling 911 gains by investing in the Very First Responder.  I welcome your email and invite you to offer your comments in response to this and any article on this blog. To view or download the PDF version of the Approved NENA Standard, click here.

Thanks much for taking time to join us, and be WELL!

Jim Marshall, 911WF Chair/CEO

Co-Chair, NENA Working Group on 911 Stress

911Wellness@live.com

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Local 911 Leaders Standing Up for 911 Wellness

Is your PSAP going “Strategic” in fostering Wellness? Research from many industries support the savings– in dollars per reduced absenteeism & medical leaves and increased retention– that result from such efforts. And in the past 6 months I’ve had the delight to learn about and lend fuel to some great model efforts put forth by PSAPs around the country to build local 911 wellness programs. This interest and involvment helps fufill the mission of the 911 Wellness Foundation by advancing these exemplary efforts. In this post we introduce a few stories of these Leaders in 911 Wellness. Hopefully these stories will inspire more PSAPs to join the “early adapters” in strategically promoting 911 Wellness. Enjoy!

911 Wellness Leaders, Story 1: Colorado PSAP takes on “Sitting Disease”. A few months ago I received a call from a 911 leader eager to share her PSAP’s commitment to building a local 911 Wellness Program and seeking the Foundation’s help in its design. They were aware that the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) would soon put in force its new Standard on Acute, Traumatic and Chronic Stress Management and these leaders expressed their intent to build a Comprehensive Stress Management Program as proposed in this NENA Standard.

As a first step, they wanted to create a program to prevent “Sitting Disease”–the set of risks for obesity, stroke, heart disease and other health problems which research now correlates with Sedentary Behavior. Since that first conversation we have joined to  study what current research can teach us about the prevention of sitting disease, beginning with the report published on December 12, 2013 by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition: Too Much Sitting: Health Risks for Sedentary Behaviour and Opportunities for Change (Click here to read and download the full report.)  While researchers cannot yet confidently prescribe the best activities leading to prevention, this Colorado 911 center and 911WF are committed to building a pilot project based on the best that current knowledge can teach us.

This project can be revised and refined as more is learned. It’s a good initial effort that will likely lower health risks among this PSAP’s employees and give them evidence that they valued by their leaders, thus boosting morale.  This pilot project can also offer a template others can build on and adapt to fit local center characteristics and in accord with new information about Sitting Disease and its prevention.We’ll reveal the identify of this pioneering PSAP and offer an update as the project unfolds.

911 Wellness Leaders, Story 2: A Wisconsin Center Redesigns the EAP to include EMDR Trauma Treatment. As part of their commitment to prevention of stress-related illness and problems in their PSAP, Madison Wisconsin leaders John Dejung and Gary Bell (now director of Wakesha 911) invited me to conduct training in management of traumatic stress. But this was only one point of their plan to equip their personnel for wellness in the face of 911 stressors. They also were working to develop a ground-breaking Employee Assistance Program (EAP)–one that would not only cover costs of initial mental health counseling for their people but also assure this treatment was provided as needed by licensed professionals specializing in traumatic stress and trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR, click here for more information).

EMDR is one of only three treatments in the world recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense as effective in the treatment of PTSD and is recognized by the 911 Wellness Foundation as a treatment of choice for 911 traumatic stress. (Full disclosure: I receive no remuneration in any form for promoting EMDR. I was trained in EMDR in 1990 and have used it regularly in my clinical practice since then with much gratitude and with great results. ) To date, the only other PSAP in the U.S. to seek such involvement of EMDR therapists in their EAP is Charleston, S.C. for which we commend Director Jim Lake and Deputy Director Allyson Burrell. In addition, the Madison 911 center is working to assure availability Critical Incident Stress Management also within their EAP, and Peer Support services for all their employees.

911 Wellness Leader, Story 3: “Psychological First Aid” Coming for local 911 Pros? Another effort which will remain “in cognito’ since its in the early stages involves a PSAP exploring pursuit of training for their 911Pros in “Psychological First Aid” (PFA) to boost in-house mental health after the worst calls/events. This specific lay-intervention model for first responders originated with the Australian Red Cross. (NOTE: featuring this intervention model does not imply 911WF preference for it over others such as ICISF’s CISM model. We seek to educate the industry about all viable resources that may help prevent traumatic stress within the 911 Workforce.) To read and download the full booklet on PFA click here).

Early adapters throughout the U.S. (beyond our 911 centers) are optimistic that by teaching their personnel to understand mental health struggles among employees and peers they can identify and get help earlier leading to prevention of diseases that impact their well-being, performance, and retention. Early research supports the value of Psychological First Aid and it represents a promising resource for 911 personnel. While the Foundation continues to study models for similar support applauds this PSAP’s pioneering initiative exploring how PFA can help their people, and invites you to learn more about it too.

The effort put forth by these three PSAPs are not featured as “One Size Fits All” solutions for implementation by other centers, especially small PSAPs in rural areas. Rather, the examples provided by these centers can inspire local initiatives to embrace and deliver Comprehensive Stress Management Programs that fit the resources and specific needs of each PSAP. The 911 Wellness Foundation is all about fostering local equipping to prevent illness and promote optimal health among our 911 telecommunicators. One of the best ways we can achieve this mission is to tell the story of frontrunners and bridge the rest of our PSAPs to them for support. So, by all means, if you and your center are taking innovative steps to advance the psychological or physical well-being of your 911Pros, please email me so we can cheer you on, offer support, and when you’re ready, tell your story to the bigger 911 family. Every 911 stakeholder benefits when we take proactive care of the Very First Responder. So, we’re truly all in this together. Thanks for taking time to read this blog. Your reply is encouraged!

Jim Marshall, Chair

Info@911Wellness.com

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