Crisis Intervention by Social Workers in Fire Departments: An Innovative Role for Social Workers
This article describes a unique use of social workers as crisis response team (CRT) members in a nontraditional host setting, municipal fire departments in Arizona. The role of modern-day firefighters has changed dramatically and now includes responding to a wide variety of crises and emergencies other than fires, such as motor vehicle accidents, family abuse, suicides, mental health incidents, accidents, and shootings. These traumatic events can lead to compassion fatigue in medically trained first responders who lack training to address the emotional needs of those involved in these crisis situations or to provide follow-up to ensure that their needs are met postemergency. Originally, CRTs were developed in these fire departments to address the needs of firefighters themselves. However, their functions have expanded to address the needs of customers served by the fire department, both at the scene and during the postintervention period. Using principles of crisis intervention and trauma theory, social workers and social work students placed in these agencies are benefiting both firefighters and community members served by the fire department.