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Need increases for training to help first responders deal with trauma


Tressa Black, left, visits with John Almond after he spoke during Exchange Club at Lion Hills Center Thursday.

Tressa Black, left, visits with John Almond after he spoke during Exchange Club at Lion Hills Center Thursday. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff


Isabelle Altman



John Almond knows of a police officer who, on his first day of work, was the first to respond to the scene of an 11-year-old who was accidentally shot. 


Almond, who serves as commander of International Fellowship of Chaplains Golden Triangle Chaplain's Corps and senior chaplain at the Columbus YMCA, is specially trained in critical incident stress management (CISM), designed to help first responders, military personnel and others at risk for post traumatic stress disorder. He sat in on the debriefing for that officer. 


"This is his first day on the job (when) a boy died in his arms of a gunshot wound," Almond said. "... How does he process that?" 


Almond spoke to the Columbus Exchange Club Thursday about the importance of CISM training for local first responders and invited them to be part of a training course over April 10-12 at the Trotter Convention Center. 


"This is an area that we really, really have need," he said. 


At one point, there were about 40 people in the Lowndes County area who were trained to help police officers, firefighters and other first responders vent their feelings and process trauma they witnessed, Almond said. Now there are fewer than 10 in the Golden Triangle. 


It was a concern echoed by Duane Hughes, assistant chief of Columbus Fire and Rescue, which employs about five of those CISM-trained individuals. One of those employees actually worked with Lowndes County volunteer firefighters who responded to a fatal wreck last month in which two children and their grandmother were killed, he said. 


Incidents like that one have become more common for local first responders, Hughes said. Meanwhile, attitudes toward how to cope with that stress have changed. 


"You have these Type A personalities, and there's a lot of macho attitude that 'I can deal with it, I can take it,'" Hughes said. "But that whole attitude has changed, especially in the profession of firefighters, especially since 9/11. ... Basically what we're seeing is post traumatic stress disorder. It's no different than what our troops face when they're returning from overseas. ... And it's from internalizing it and not having avenues to vent and to express these feelings over these things and situations that they're dealing with." 


As those attitudes change, the need increased for individuals -- especially first responders -- who are trained to deal with people at risk for PTSD, Hughes said. 


"You've got firefighters that are responding to just about every emergency call you can think of," he said. "When you have the shootings, the firefighters are there, the paramedics are going to be there. ... You're going on medical calls, you're going on suicides, you're going on house fires with fatalities. You're seeing them in higher numbers, and it's definitely going to affect the mental psyche of these people who are responding to it." 


The CISM training is free, Almond and Hughes said. To sign up for the training, go to, go to the ministries tab and register under crisis response training. 


Seating is limited for the training event.




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