Fluid levels in brain linked to post-traumatic
Norm also pointed out that the U.S. military has been engaged in some extensive studies relating to stress situations. One landmark study involved doing MRI scans on soldiers before they embarked on the Gulf War, and then did a second scan and study upon their return. They discovered that hippocarpal fluid production had fallen off in the brain in those people who had undergone traumatic experiences, and fluid levels, especially in the right side of the brain in people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, were significantly lower than normal. This response is suspected to be linked to a neurological process that occurs faster than the normal thinking process can counteract. Norm feels the PMC program may act as a 'blocker' preventing the altering process from happening. For more information, contact Norm at firstname.lastname@example.org
Enter Norm Barlow.
Norm Barlow, a Psychotherapist and trainer and myself, a Deputy Fire
Chief of a volunteer fire department, have been friends for many years.
One day Norm approached me with an idea that both intrigued and excited
"I've got a concept," Norm said, "This can make your firefighters more efficient by focusing on the task at hand and letting their training take over while dealing with the emotional aspect of the situation in a manner that will help them. It will enable them to handle the situation better before, during and after it happens. It also gives me a chance to do something really significant by helping a lot of people. Are you interested?"
Of course I was, so we started to discuss the when, where and how of accomplishing it.
In the meantime, while attending the 13th World Conference on Disaster Management, I sat in on a session presented by Debbie Hassel, Deputy Chief of the Fairbanks, Alaska Fire Department. Debbie spoke on techniques that initial responders can use to control the feeling of being overwhelmed at an escalating scene. She explained how we pre-plan for almost every event except emotional turmoil, and that is traditionally dealt with by post-incident consultation. She also admitted that research had turned up little information regarding pre-incident control.
Norm's Pre-incident Mental Conditioning (PMC) program was about to fill that need.
The Central Huron Fire Area volunteers were organized into two groups to undertake PMC training in a test and development role.
The first group was introduced to the TAP plan. "T" - Talk to yourself: is the first part of the program. Norm pointed out that 70 per cent of an individual's 'self-talk' during the course of a day is negative, and that percentage dramatically increases in a stressful situation. Talking yourself into a positive mode is the first step and is accomplished by using the CAT principle. The responder affirms they are in Control, Aware of the situation and Thinking clearly.
The "A" in TAP stands for "Act as if" and it conditions and prepares the responder to perform their duties in the most efficient manner, almost as if they are playing a role in a movie that is actually real life.
The "P" represents the responder's powerful positive state.
During the course of Norm's presentation, TAP the CAT principles are reinforced through clinical visualization exercises. These are proven techniques, which become triggers that can be used to reinforce the training on the way to the scene.
Does it work?
The acid test came for the Central Huron Fire Area volunteers just one day before the second group was scheduled to take the PMC training.
We responded to a call that was originally paged out as a vehicle fire, and then changed to an extrication of trapped occupants. When we arrived at the scene we were confronted with every firefighter's nightmare: a double fatality with one of the victims located inside a fully engulfed vehicle.
Our post-incident debriefing and evaluation demonstrated a distinct higher level of preparation upon arrival at the scene, and a better handling of the situation afterwards by those responding firefighters who had already taken the PMC training.
It will prove to be a valuable tool if used correctly.
Steve Cooke is currently the Deputy Chief of the Central Huron Fire
Area, and will assume the duties of Fire Chief in January 2004.