FEMA Region 1 monthly “TalkShop” for EMT, CERT, MRC VOAD leaders. Subject: Emotional Resilience for Responders

Start Date: 2020-10-08

Description: Yesterday I received this unexpected request from the FEMA Region1, Individual & Community Preparedness Officer: “Ned,.... I can’t think of anyone who understands the need for emotional support that leads to resilience than you and Brinkley. TalkShop is the once a month, topic driven conversation I open up to local emergency managers, CERT leaders, MRC leads and VOADs. Previous talks have explored everything from training, disaster recovery, faith based participation in emergency management, volunteers and addressing the needs of children. Last month we chatted about volunteers during Covid 19. It was a difficult chat and we ran over our hour. The experience you had this spring at the Soldiers Home is devastating. If the opportunity seems right is it alright if I ask you to talk about the work you did at the Soldiers Home? It is important for some of the Ems on the call to hear about the positive affects of a simple thing like petting a dog can offer. Hope you can join us tomorrow. Miss you and Brinkley, Ned!” So: I spoke about the secondary stress of losing 100 good friends to Covid at the VA Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke MA. Overcoming after two months the daily compulsion to review newspaper obituaries. Finding one good memory about each of them to recall pleasantly: the Tuskegee airman who followed Brinkley around every Thursday for over 8 years. General Patton’s Jeep driver. Leo the chief guard at the Nuremberg trials—brought Herman Goering up from his cell each day to the courtroom—Goering demanded water constantly, complained constantly about Americanish Wasser (chlorinated); so one day Leo presented Goering with a glass dipped from the toilet—Gutes Wasser! With a wink, Leo assured us he flushed it first. Jim who never spoke of his war experiences until he was in his 70s and saw an article debunking the Holocaust—he had his son take him to the Holocaust Museum in Springfield where he presented them with the photos he took as the official Army photographer at the liberation of Auschwitz. I also commented on humor, sometimes dark humor, contributing to resilience: In October 2013, one month after the Washington Navy Yard shootings, the 2000+ occupants relocated temporarily to the former Coast Guard headquarters about a mile away. This was the first time they had all come back together at work. The Hope dogs were called to come back to provide their special comfort. (We’ve spent four weeks over two years at the Navy Yard). We were sent in to visit a group who had witnessed THREE of their coworkers killed. In their makeshift coffee break room, they had mounted a large poster of this Far Side image on the wall: Photo attached. That’s Resilience! Also: It’s important for responders to remember to talk to each other, ESPECIALLY new recruits. At a UMass mass sheltering drill a few years ago a new CERT team recruit spent a lot of time with our dogs. He finally told me he had just come back from his first deployment: An auto accident in which the driver was decapitated. Clearly no ambulance need, the coroner was summoned. The CERT recruit was shocked to hear his leader chat cheerfully with the coroner about “good to see you....how are the kids... we’ve got to have dinner....”. I told him that there are many ways to de-stress and protect yourself from stress and burnout. And this was one of them.

Agency: FEMA Region 1
Teams: None