Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

Counseling Services & Resources

Print the CISM Brochure
@Life EAP 1-800-466-8282 (City of Topeka EAP provider)
Valeo of Topeka 1-785-233-1730 (Behavioral Health Care – Provides Mental Health and Recovery Services)
24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 1-785-234-3300


About CISM

The Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team provides a systematic approach to the mitigation of stress responses for fire department personnel who have been exposed to, or shows signs of, critical incident stress in the line of duty. A critical incident can be any situation which causes an Fire Fighter to experience strong emotional reactions which have the potential to interfere with their ability to function once the Fire Fighter has left the scene days, weeks or years later.


How to Activate the CISM Team

If you are a Topeka Fire Department Member, contact your immediate supervisor, contact Car 101, or Email a CISM team member. Any personnel may contact the CISM Team for a one-on-one meeting for him/herself or for any other individual at any time.

The CISM Team can be contacted directly using any of the numbers on the TFD employee roster. It is not necessary to go through the chain-of-command.

If you are an outside emergency service provider wanting TFD CISM Team for a debriefing, contact the Shift Commander 785-368-4101 or 785-817-3821.


Topeka Fire Department CISM Team Members

  • 2 Topeka Fire Department Chaplains
  • 1 Topeka Fire Department Battalion Chief
  • 5 Topeka Fire Department members.

All members are trained to national standards. The focus of this service is to minimize the harmful effects of our job, particularly in crisis’ or emergency situations. The highest priority of the team is the confidentiality and respect for the feelings of the individuals involved. It is not the function of the team to replace on-going professional counseling, but to provide stress management education and immediate crisis intervention.


Incidents That Might Result in a CISM  Response

  • Major disaster/mass casualties
  • Serious injury, line of duty death or suicide of fire department personnel.
  • Serious injury or death of civilian resulting from fire department operations.
  • Death or serious injury of a child.
  • Multiple fatality incidents
  • Any incident which attracts large scale media attention.
  • Loss of life following unusual or extremely prolonged expenditure of emotional and physical energy from Fire department personnel.
  • Any unusual incident in which the potential for an immediate or delayed emotional response is high.
  • Accumulating stress reactions over long periods of time, after involvement in many previous critical incidents.

TFD Officers and supervisors are responsible for identifying/recognizing significant incidents that may qualify for debriefing. A significant incident may include any incident where the probability is high for a negative stress reaction to the incident by one or more members. When an incident is identified, a request for debriefing consideration should be made through the CISM Team as soon as possible.


Any member who believes an individual has further needs after meeting with the CISM team may initiate the process of contacting the City of Topeka EAP program.


What to Expect

The program is strictly voluntary; no one is forced to attend any portion of a defusing, debriefing or one-on-one. We highly encourage everyone to be involved, sharing your experiences and feelings about an incident can often help others. Fire/Rescue personnel are usually relieved once they recognize that other fire fighters have similar thoughts and feelings.

Only those involved in the incident, and the CISM team can attend. During the meeting each person is treated equally regardless of rank or time in service. Confidentiality is strictly enforced and note taking is not allowed. The CISM team is not obligated to discuss the outcome of each meeting.


Types of Intervention

Defusing: Occurs immediately, or within 8 hours of an incident. A defusing is a condensed version of a debriefing.

  • Introduction – Introduce team members, and review the process.
  • Exploration – Discuss the incident via the rescuers, review the facts, thoughts and their reactions.
  • Information – Recognize that all reactions are normal and review the signs and symptoms of a stress reaction.


Formal Debriefing

Occurs up to 72 hrs. after an incident.

  • Introduction – Introduce team members, explain the rules, and agenda
  • Fact Phase – Each person describes the event from his or her own perspective.
  • Thought Phase – Describe first thoughts, feelings and what affected you the most?
  • Reaction Phase – Identify all emotional responses and what was the most traumatic aspect.
  • Symptom Phase – Identify possible signs and symptoms of a stress reaction
  • Teaching Phase – Identify that all the reactions are normal and that each is a coping mechanism.
  • Re-Entry Phase – Distribute information and answer any questions

One-on-one – A Defusing with one rescuer and one CISM member. Can take place at any time after the incident.