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2 Hoover firefighters deployed to Surfside, Fla. to provide emotional support for first responders working building collapse

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 8:28 AM CDT
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HOOVER, Ala. (WBRC) - Two Hoover Firefighters, Lieutenant Jeff Harris and District Captain Toby Rigsby, were deployed on July 8 to the building collapse in Surfside, Florida.

Fire officials say these two men are a part of a 14-member crew from departments across the nation. All members of this crew are members of the International Association of Firefighters.

The purpose of the deployment is to provide emotional support for the first responders that are working the building collapse incident. The deployed crews have been trained by the International Association of Firefighters in a Peer Support Program. This program trains firefighters to provide peer support to combat the emotional and psychological effects of working traumatic incidents.

Fire officials say unfortunately, the profession of firefighting experiences a high rate of suicide. This peer support program was developed as a first line of defense in response to this occupational hazard. Here is a link to the program for reference. The incident in Surfside is an exceptional incident with a high loss of life. Firefighters may relate easier to a peer who understands the emotional rigors of the profession, rather than not seeking professional help. Peer Support Firefighters are trained to recognize the signs of stress and provide early intervention. As a peer firefighter builds rapport with the affected firefighter they can refer them to appropriate resources as needed.

The deployed crews initially conducted fire station visits to speak with the affected firefighters. The crews were then broken into teams to work shifts around the clock at the collapse incident site. The crews worked alongside the search teams as victims are still being recovered. The crews are expected to return to their departments on Tuesday, July 13.

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