Critical Incident Management

Critical incidents can be defined as events or situations ‘that have sufficient emotional power to overcome the usual coping abilities of people working in environments where some degree of exposure is expected’, (Mitchell & Bray, 1990).

These incidents are those that fall outside of the normal professional routine and pose a significant threat to employees and / or their significant others. Critical incidents impose significant demands on the emotional and other coping skills of employees in response to a single event, an enduring period of difficulty, or a series of less intense occurrences in succession.

Types of critical incidents

  • The incident is outside the daily routine of professional experience or expectations;
  • There is threatened or actual death or injury to clients or staff;
  • It involves a complex situation where success has not been possible;
  • The incident resembles or triggers past personal experiences (for example, victims resemble family members, or have been through something similar in the past);
  • There is conflict with other organisations or employees involved in the incident; and
  • There are legal consequences that impact personally or professionally.

Common responses to critical incidents

It is not possible to capture all responses to trauma and / or critical incidents that people experience because the emotional and physical experience of trauma is not the same for everyone. However, there are a number of signs that can alert you to needing some additional assistance.

  • Fatigue / sleeplessness;
  • Nausea / vomiting /  muscle tremors / twitches;
  • Elevated BP / rapid heart rate;
  • Anxiety;
  • Guilt;
  • Grief;
  • Denial;
  • Severe panic (rare);
  • Emotional shock / Fear;
  • Loss of emotional control;
  • Depression;
  • Inappropriate emotional response;
  • Feeling overwhelmed;
  • Intense anger;
  • Irritability; and
  • Agitation.

Critical incident management with Louise Spencer

It is important to note that not everyone responds to a critical incident at the same time and in the same way. Quite often people will debrief an incident at the time it occurred and then experience psychological difficulties at a later date; this is quite normal as there is no timeframe on when processing critical incidents should occur.

Louise Spencer offers an in-house / on site debriefing service in a group or individual setting. This allows people to speak freely about their experience of a particular incident and develop a set of strategies to cope with the incident and its impact in the longer term.

Louise also provides organisational support following a critical incident which is designed to equip managers with a set of tools to effectively manage the impact of an incident on the work environment.

Louise also offers individual counselling to clients wishing to explore the issues relating to the incident they have experienced and this is provided in a safe, client centred environment.