Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

We come to work and begin a new day. We don't expect the unexpected, yet it still happens. When a traumatic event or a critical incident (any event that causes unusually strong emotional or physical reaction that have the potential to interfere with the ability to function properly) occurs, we react, we store, and we go on. 

Despite our resiliency, certain events will impact us differently then others. Even though the event may be over, you may experience or may experience later, some strong emotional or physical reactions. They can include but not be limited to: chills, fatigue, visual difficulties, grief, withdraw, inability to rest, difficulty breathing, nightmares, fainting, suspiciousness, guilt, denial, erratic movements, antisocial acts, blaming, agitation, dizziness, irritability, loss or increase of appetite, hyper vigilance, weakness, poor problem solving skills, panic, depression, chest pain, intense anger, poor attention/decisions, intrusive images, anxiety, increased alcohol consumption, headaches, apprehension, poor concentration/memory, elevated BP, emotional shock, disorientation of time/place, rapid heart beat, emotional outbursts, change in usual symptoms, grinding of teeth, loss of emotional control, and heightened or lowered alertness. 

It is very common, in fact quite normal, for people to experience emotional aftershocks after a traumatic event, sometimes the emotional aftershocks (or stress reactions) appear immediately after the traumatic event. Sometimes they may appear after a few hours or a few days later. And, in some cases, weeks or months may pass before the stress reactions appear.

The signs and symptoms of a stress reaction may last a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or longer, depending on the severity of the traumatic event. The understanding and the support of loves ones usually causes the stress reactions to pass more quickly.

For the past 10 years, we, the members of the Critical Incident Stress Management Team (CIRT) here at Cooper, have provided assistance and support to our fellow co-workers in times of stress and distress. We all take this role very seriously, and therefore, we continue to update our skills and certifications through training sessions provided by our parent group, the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF).

We hope that these resources coupled with our extensive training and experience, can continue to provide assistance to our co-workers whenever needed. We offer suggestions below and encourage you to reach out for assistance if you recognize that you are experiencing a cluster of the signs above. The list below is not a replacement of speaking with a trained professional.

Occasionally, the traumatic event is so painful that professional assistance may be necessary. This does not imply craziness or weakness. It simply indicates that the particular event was so powerful for the person to mange by him/herself.

Everyone is unique and we respond to trauma differently. If you recognize that your symptoms are not minimizing, seeking professional assistance is wise. You can receive critical incident stress management services, which is not counseling, by calling: 856-342-2280


  • WITHIN THE FIRST 24 - 48 HOURS periods of appropriate physical exercise, alternated with relaxation will alleviate some of the physical reactions.
  • Structure your time; keep busy.
  • You're normal and having normal reactions; don't label yourself crazy.
  • Talk to people; talk is the most healing medicine. 
  • Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol, you don't need to complicate this with a substance abuse problem.
  • Reach out; people do care.
  • Maintain as normal a schedule as possible.
  • Spend time with others.
  • Help your co-workers as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they are doing.
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
  • Keep a journal; write your way through those sleepless hours.
  • Do things that feel good to you.
  • Realize those around you are under stress.
  • Don't make any big life changes.
  • Do make as many daily decisions as possible that will give you a feeling of control over your life i.e., if someone asks you what you want to eat, answer him even if you're not sure.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Don't try to fight reoccurring thoughts, dreams or flashbacks--they are normal and will decrease overtime and become less painful.
  • Eat well-balanced and regular meals (even if you don't feel like it).


  • Listen carefully.
  • Spend time with the traumatized person.
  • Offer your assistance and a listening ear if s/he has not asked for help.
  • Reassure him/her that s/he is safe,
  • Help him/her with everyday tasks like cleaning, cooking, caring for the family, minding children.
  • Give him/her some private time.
  • Don't take his/her anger or other feelings personally.
  • Don't tell him/her that s/he is "lucky it wasn't worse;" a traumatized person is not consoled by those statements. Instead, tell him/her that you are sorry such an event has occurred and you want to understand and assist.


CIRT Brochure - Printable brochure containing info on our program.

CIRT Education - Detailed presentation on all aspects of the program. 

CIRT Application - Apply to be a member of our team.