On guard against PTSD

Your role as an executive should include stress management techniques for your security officer force


Addressing Stress is Essential for Security Professionals

The longer security professionals are exposed to a traumatic event, the greater the potential for PTS and PTSD. In any traumatic event, if the security professional’s concept of safety and the ability to respond to the event comes into question, this becomes the basis from which PTSD arises. That sudden, unpredictable event that lasts for an extended period of time, and contains real or threatened danger that recurs or is likely to recur, thereby creates this sense of total loss of control.

The need to address the effects of stress and traumatic exposure on security professionals becomes essential and should be part of the operational equation. Training, psychological support, and participation all increases the likelihood that security managers will understand and feel comfortable with this realization.

The ability to see new possibilities and to create new opportunities enables security managers to develop alternatives to address the effects of stress and traumatic exposure. The road to recovery and growth is obviously different for each individual; however, the key to this discussion is the recognition that security professionals are at high risk for suffering the effects of stress and trauma and operational policies and procedures need to be in place to ensure the continued mental health of each individual.

7 Steps to Managing Traumatic Stress

A Critical Incident Stress Management program (CISM) is one proven approach to creating those operational policies and procedures to help security professionals deal with traumatic stress. When dealing with the complexities of stress management, it is imperative to have a systematic, comprehensive approach to treatment, which CISM provides. There are seven core components in the CISM process:

1. Pre-Crisis preparation: Psychological preparedness training is a primary technique and if implemented prior to an actual crisis event, will set the appropriate expectations while enhancing the behavioral response. You can equate this technique to a type of mental preparedness training for high-risk personnel. Information should be communicated about stress and trauma, specifically, the common signs and symptoms of psychological distress.

2. Demobilization: Used at mass disaster sites for large groups, to assist personal transition from the site to home or work. The process should be conducted away from the site and be an informational briefing on stress, trauma and coping techniques.

3. Defusing: A time-sensitive intervention and should be conducted within the first 12 hours, post event. This is designed to reduce acute stress and tension levels.

4. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD): Small group discussions concerning the crisis event. They are detailed and structured and are normally conducted 2-10 days post-event.

5. Individual Crisis Intervention: Can be an on-scene (during the event) technique or any time after the event. It is normally conducted as a one-on-one intervention.

6. Family CISM: The objectives of Family CISM teams are to define critical incident stress from the family perspective, look at the impact on the families, and provide resources and strategies, and CISM family interventions.

7. Follow-up Referral: Can be done at any time post-intervention and are usually symptom-driven. The key is to assess the mental status of the individual(s) and ensure they have access to a higher level of care.

Employment in private security is projected to more than double that of public law enforcement for the foreseeable future, according to ASIS International, and Freedonia projects U.S. demand for privately contracted security professionals to increase 5.4 percent annually to $64.5 billion in 2016. As professional security service demand continues to rise, so does the chance your security force will be exposed to traumatic stress. As a security or business executive, these concepts should give you a baseline to ensure the continued mental health of your guard force.