Emergency workers are usually the first on the scene to many tragic accidents.
Emergency workers are usually the first on the scene to many tragic accidents. Marc Stapelberg

Thank God for emergency workers

TRAGIC incidents like the double fatality on the Pacific Hwy near Broadwater can be devastating not only for the family and friends of the victims, but also for the emergency service personnel who are first on the scene.
Richmond Tweed SES Chaplain Paul von Bratt often has to help emergency service volunteers deal with the shock of witnessing traumatic incidents such as road accidents, body recoveries and other distressing events.

Adrenalin kicks in
"The first thing is the pager goes off or the notification comes through and the adrenaline kicks," he said.
"The calls can stimulate various reactions.
"If it's a known accident site, as the details come through, persons trapped or fire, or one fatality, serious wounding, whatever, they can often flash back to previous accidents.
"All the time they're gearing themselves up to do the job they actually have to do."

Bad memories
Mr von Bratt said if emergency service personnel receive a call to a location where a previous incident has occurred, it could often trigger memories.
"There can be sights and sounds and smells that trigger memories of previous incidents," he said.
"Sometimes it's not until afterwards that they have the time to actually think about what they've done, what they've been involved in, and that's where we encourage the diffusing."

Diffusing situations
Once an incident is over, emergency service personnel will undergo a type of de-briefing, or diffusing as it's referred to in the SES.
Mr von Bratt said diffusing was where emergency service workers talk about their involvement in the incident, how they're feeling and what follow up, if any, they may need.
"The initial diffuse, that's incredibly helpful, because it allows each person to express what their involvement was, what they were doing," he said.

Personal for personnel
 Mr von Bratt said it could be particularly difficult for emergency service personnel in small communities who may know the person or people involved in incidents.
"In the smaller communities, if they go to an accident, it's often someone they know," he said.
"Anything involving a child, whether it be an injury or a fatality, is always more difficult."
Mr von Bratt said community members can support emergency service workers by thanking them and letting them know they're appreciated as often as possible.

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