A critical incident is defined as a traumatic event, or threat of an event, which causes extreme stress, fear, or injury.
Critical incidents may include, but are not limited to:
- serious injury, illness, or death of a staff member;
- staff members lost or injured during fieldwork experiences;
- a missing staff member;
- severe verbal or psychological aggression;
- physical assault;
- staff members witnessing a serious accident or incidence of violence;
- natural disaster e.g. epidemic, earthquake, flood, windstorm, hailstorm, or extremes of temperature;
- traumatic incident within an international staff member’s home country, such as a political coup,
- religious persecution, natural disaster;
- fire, bomb-threat, explosion, gas or chemical hazard; or
- social issues e.g. sexual assault, drug use, alcohol abuse, internet abuse.
Critical incidents may trigger a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms, including increased heart rate, high blood pressure and anxiety. The initial action of the Trauma Centre of Australia is to calm staff members following a critical incident and to ensure that their immediate needs are met. A member of staff, who was not involved in the incident, or affected by it, is responsible for this initial action.
Strategies to help manage the critical incident include:
- Contact emergency services if necessary.
- Convene a meeting for those involved as soon as possible.
- Summarise the incident and clarify uncertainties.
- Invite questions and discuss issues of concern.
- Show care and support.
- Draw up a plan of action, taking into account the needs of the staff.
- Make short-term arrangements for work responsibilities.
- Offer information on defusing and debriefing.