Magazine article Security Management

Emergency! Stress in Security!

Magazine article Security Management

Emergency! Stress in Security!

Article excerpt

Emergency! Stress in Security!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 11, 1991. JOHN reported to his post at 6:00 pm sharp, the same way he had reported almost every Friday for the past six years. He was a young, aggressive, well-educated officer, soon to be promoted to sergeant. Well known for his smile and willingness to help, John was a welcome relief to the thousands of travelers making their way through the airport each day.

Fridays were busy at the airport, and today was no exception. People pushed and shoved their way through ticket lines and terminal gates at a frantic pace. To the masses of people fighting their way home for the weekend, it was just another hectic Friday commute. But something was missing. The upbeat mood and smile that John had become known for were nowhere to be found. Instead, John was pensive, tense, and preoccupied due to the stress at work and at home.

The argument with his wife just prior to leaving for work had been the worst yet. It was unlike John to argue, but he was exhausted. With two officers out injured, his shift had been running short on coverage for the last several weeks. John had been averaging three additional shifts a week for more than a month now, a fact his wife found extremely distressing in view of the recent arrival of their first child.

The pressure of the upcoming sergeant's exam was weighing heavily on John as well and had been the source of several heated discussions at home. The threat of war in the Persian Gulf had increased security at the airport to its highest level, creating longer than usual lines and angry travelers.

As the tension mounted in the endless line before him, so too did the pounding in John's head. The pain of the headache was so intense that John was finding it hard to concentrate or even focus. Distracted and exhausted, he was caught off guard and unprepared when it happened.

The first explosion shook the building with a force equal to a severe earthquake. The plate-glass window to his left disintegrated into thousands of tiny pieces, creating an explosive, synthetic rain that swept over most of the people in line. The second explosion followed quickly, producing an enormous fireball and billows of hot, acrid smoke.

John fought his way through the terrified crowd to the exit door that led to the runway. It was at that point that he caught his first glimpse of the ill-fated 747. The massive plane had collided with a smaller commuter aircraft taxiing for takeoff.

The fuselage was torn away in three different places, and the aircraft was fully engulfed in flames. The rescue mission John was about to take part in would continue for the next 14 hours. The paper would report 26 dead and 73 others seriously injured.

Reporters and news crews would interview victims and their families, telling of the tragedy and stress associated with the unfortunate incident. For the next two or three days readers would discover how the accident had affected its victims, the environment, air travel, and the economy. Sad to say, there would not be any article on how the accident had affected John or his other coworkers.

ALTHOUGH CRITICAL INCIDENT STRESS is most frequently associated with fire fighters and police officers, it certainly plays an important role in the life of the security professional as well. Security officers are exposed to the same traumatic incidents, the same extreme working conditions, the same grueling shift work, and the same challenge of balancing a personal and professional life.

It only makes sense that the dedicated members of this profession be offered the same opportunity and help that their peers have been provided. Developing a critical incident stress team within your organization will help to protect your most important and valuable resource--your personnel.

Emergency response providers, including fire fighters, police, security professionals, and rescue personnel, are continually called on to respond to incidents involving trauma outside the range of normal human emotion. …

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