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26 case they needed assistance (this system actually produced · Emergency planning and drills should be incorporated into one employee referral). the recovery transition. · Employees utilized counseling services. · Managers should be aware that public safety workers are not The county set up an open-ended agreement (counsel- accustomed to lengthy efforts but rather are better suited ing and financial) with the local counseling center. to short episodic events. · The County Manager personally recognized each (44) · General Aviation (GA) is typically not prepared for this employee that had a part in the accident recovery and type of accident; the commercial air carriers have plans in each employee received three comp days, no matter their place, but not GA. role in the efforts (this was done for the purpose of vali- · The legal entity (County) should have emergency finan- dating and acknowledging employee participation). cial allocations at its disposal for clean up, hiring critical · The County Board of Commissioners was tasked with workers, consultants, etc. personally thanking each employee that was involved in · An organization should build strong and reliable relation- the recovery efforts. ships both internally and externally. · The recovery phase of this critical incident lasted approx- · The incident became a National media event, due to its imately 1 year. highly visible location (Aspen), so organizations should be 2. Community Care ready for an intensive public focus. · Initiated contact with local counseling center for com- munity access. · Encouraged bystanders, witnesses, responders, and air 3. A View from Those with Experience traffic controllers to use the counseling center. · Responded to calls from family and friends of citizens The following case study was taken from two interviews with at the scene. aircraft incident investigators with experience over several · The County provided the community educational infor- years and many incidents. They participate in these duties mation and held meetings pertaining to critical incident as members of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), bring- stress, and how to recognize symptoms of stress. ing their expertise in flight operations to the party system used by the National Transportation Safety Board in their incident The following are concluding remarks from the interview: investigation process. The discussion with these individuals is important in that · The area of concern seems to be the transition from response they have experienced the psychological trauma of the inci- to recovery mode and dealing with the human relations dent, as well as observed and supported those individuals impact. It is important to provide mental health recovery who are experiencing this type of psychological trauma for internally as at some point operations will return to nor- the first time. While their insights may not be scientifically mal, but employees will have to live and work with what based, we feel it does reflect a common operational experi- they have witnessed. ence in the activities surrounding the recovery efforts in an · An organization should ensure that the lessons learned investigation. while employees are working this type of event are recorded ALPA representatives asked to participate in an aircraft and implemented into their emergency plan once the imme- incident investigation can have varying levels of training and diate event is concluded. preparation. Individuals in this case study received training · It is the general lack of information that makes people from multiple professional entities in incident investiga- unsettled. tion (e.g., Air Force, university, NTSB, ALPA courses, etc.), · When communication doesn't flow and an organization is in addition to their experiences in multiple investigations. At in crisis, the level of stress can become extreme. the time of the interview, both ALPA members were conduct- · It may take a few days for the NTSB to get on scene, as well ing an incident investigation course for ALPA pilots involved as the American Red Cross. Family members will attempt in the organization's safety program, with the expectation that to come to the scene as soon as they can. these individuals potentially would be called to face an incident · The Incident Command Structure (ICS) works; it should to investigate. become engrained in every organization. Employees should study the ICS by taking courses and using it in everyday Preparation events just for practice so it becomes natural. · In a small community, resources may be exceeded, so The investigators noted the importance of preparation for mutual aid agreements should be utilized. individuals working in and around an aircraft incident scene.
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27 The work is very unique, with many specialists and agencies on the incident scene would trigger stress reactions. This trig- quickly converging on the scene. Individuals uncertain of their ger point developed following the birth of his first child. role and responsibilities are likely to become hesitant and over- It is apparent that ALPA's preparation also included plan- whelmed with the traumatic scene. The investigators cited sev- ning the mental health support for surviving airline crew mem- eral examples where training recovery personnel prior to the bers they are representing, family of injured or deceased crew, event would not only assist them in accomplishing their tasks, and the investigators themselves. ALPA's CIRP was developed but to support healthy adaptation to the stress associated with to address and decrease crewmembers' psychological stresses this work. during and following an investigation. This program is dis- The NTSB investigators felt that recovery personnel need cussed in more detail in the following section. a sense of duty, knowing they are part of a team to prevent this tragedy from happening again. The destructive nature of an aircraft disaster can incapacitate workers and lead to Connectedness personalizing the trauma and feeling a sense of helplessness. Both interviewees noted that connectedness with others "It's a disturbing sight to see the consequence of errors or involved in the investigation or at home were important fac- malfunctions. People identify with that . . ." One investigator tors in maintaining their personal mental health. In their quickly admitted that some aspects of the recovery process observations of others involved in incident investigations, (e.g., recovery of human remains) were emotionally more they observed outcomes that ranged from significant impair- difficult for others than for himself. He states he has learned ments and withdrawal from aviation to resilient individuals to tolerate this particular duty by acknowledging "evidence who returned to work, apparently without problems. comes in many forms and this is just one of them." Both inves- Both investigators interviewed noted a variety of coping tigators felt recovery teams in the field had to focus on their mechanisms were used (alcohol use, withdrawal, humor, and purpose to collect and preserve evidence, with the goal of iden- focusing on the job at hand) and often shared within the tifying the cause of the disaster. groups. Investigations of major disasters are known for long Preparation of the recovery team should include knowl- hours of continuous operations with associated fatigue. The edge of the NTSB incident investigation process, the design investigators noted that recovery team members would often of team structures, and policies to allow an individual to work look after each other and suggest breaks for individuals they within the system to accomplish their goals. Both investigators detected needed a reprieve. While some group members would interviewed noted training was important to keep individ- resist the suggestions early in group formation, with increas- uals working the scene to be better able to maintain focus on ing camaraderie, team members would respect the sugges- their specific jobs and not disengage or become overwhelmed tions more. The development of a team that watched after during periods when they were idle. The investigators related incidents where individuals who were not well-trained or each other was deemed an important development. would become overwhelmed at the incident scene, and that One investigator noted the intention of a group leader focusing on their specific job was one attempt to make the was similar to military operations--to form a cohesive group event less personal. and to promote each person looking out for the welfare of Another point made in the interviews was that an individ- the other members. This would apply to operational as well ual who is prepared to face difficult images of a disaster scene as mental health support. This is also the basis by which the can avoid what they consider triggers to their stress. Some CIRP provides an individual to monitor ALPA team members sights, smells, and/or situations can remind or create memo- for signs of psychological stress during and after the investiga- ries among the observers. This may be difficult or impossible tion process. The CIRP member is assigned support duties and to predict, but some investigators are familiar with common remains onsite with the ALPA team during the investigation smells or sights at disaster scenes. These may trigger memories to provide support and referral for professional mental health of feelings from prior incidents. This was a common theme support services. with both individuals interviewed. The CIRP is multi-faceted, but its central premise is to One investigator said that body part recovery was not an address the needs of crew members involved in incidents or issue for him as long as he viewed the material as evidence, ALPA members on investigation teams. Peers, imbedded with but that one trigger point in the field for him is looking at the the investigation team, are trained to identify stress-induced victims' personal effects, this causes stressful reactions and problems that would need referral to appropriate health unpleasant memories. It is apparent that trigger points for care professionals. Both ALPA members interviewed strongly stress reactions may be difficult to identify proactively. supported using peers as initial contacts, citing greater accept- Another story related was an incident investigator who had ance of the situation as they are "talking with someone who no apparent triggers but later found that children's clothing went through this already."