When it comes to help, firefighters are often better at giving it than asking for it, said Cedar Rapids Fire Captain Eric Vandewater.
But since the beginning of 2015, Vandewater and others at the fire department — with the assistance of Dr. Jim Coyle, a counselor with Cedar Memorial who specializes in sudden and unexpected life loss — are working to shift that way of thinking.
“We’re trying to change a culture,” Vandewater said.
The fire department formed a Critical Incident Stress Team in 2015 and, after more than a year of training 20 officers at Cedar Memorial with Coyle, unveiled the initiative this week. The team strives to provide emotional, physical and spiritual support for firefighters, civilian employees and their families through a tiered approach of interactions.
“The team was put together to provide an immediate response to an unexpected, tragic event,” Coyle said.
Cedar Rapids Fire Chief Mark English said he immediately approved the team when it was proposed by Vandewater and Coyle, who has worked with the department through its chaplains program.
“It’s a very valuable resource for us,” English said. “Our people see a lot of things they’d rather not see ... It doesn’t have to be the biggest, baddest, most gruesome incident.”