Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)

When a Critical Incident occurs, no one can be sure how they will react and to what extent such an incident will effect them. What is known is that individual reactions to incidents vary considerably and are personal to the individual concerned.

Following a major incident, accident or trauma, individuals and institution in which they work are likely to experience a deviation from what might be termed ‘normal functioning’. This may manifest itself in a variety of ways but is likely to include depressed or negative mood, institutional and individual anxiety, impaired thought process and less efficient work behaviour. The result is a significantly impaired organisation and individuals. This can happen in your organisation.

CISM exists to mitigate the normal, usually negative, emotions and thoughts, which result from critical events occurring in the work environment. In doing so CISM facilitates a more rapid return to the ‘normal’ functioning and thus has benefits for the individual and the organisation in which they work.

What it is

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) is the structured assistance for a normal reaction to an abnormal event. It describes the human reaction to critical incidents - any situation faced by a controller, which causes him or her to experience unusual strong emotional reactions. All CISM activity aims to moderate the impact of Critical Incident Stress and to speed up the return to the pre-incident phase. A CISM programme consists of three phases:

  • Information
  • Training
  • Support

CISM addresses different people and services in and outside the organisation.

What it has developed

Critical Incident Stress Management User Implementation Guidelines

This guideline document facilitates and supports the implementation of a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) programme. It proposes the steps to be followed during the whole process through the phases of definition, planning, implementation and supervision of the programme.

Human Factors Module: Critical Incident Stress Management

This module provides a model for Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM). It describes the phenomenon of and the different techniques to deal with Critical Incident Stress. A CISM programme consists of three phases: Information, Training and Support, and addresses different people and services in and outside the organisation. All CISM activity aims to moderate the impact of Critical Incident Stress and to speed up the return to the pre-incident state. CISM should be an integrated part of Human Resources policy.

CISM Case Studies booklet

This brochure, prepared in 2004, describes the CISM programmes in European ATM. The business and social benefits of CISM type programmes in ATM and other industries are generally accepted by those involved. The ANSPs who contributed to this brochure are already seeing the benefits of CISM programmes, and through a EUROCONTROL sponsored user group, have begun to network and develop further CISM products to promote implementation in EUROPE.

"There are controllers who have never suffered an incident. Congratulations. But nobody can be sure they will never have an incident. And when that situation arises, when you feel that pounding in your chest, how do you react? Each person has a different reaction - and all the reactions are normal, in the sense that they belong to a person.

But, if the reactions are normal, why do we feel bad about it? That is the main question. It is because it is important to know precisely how to handle such situations, that the CISM program exists."

Nav Portugal

"A person’s capacity to cope with or manage stress reactions on his/her own depends on the critical incident itself and his/her available capacity to manage stress.

There are, however, situations in which an individual’s capacity to deal with stress is stretched so that the individual is unable to cope with them on his/her own.

Since the inability to cope with stress can lead to both physical and mental health problems, it seems logical to offer professional support to individuals in comparable circumstances. To this end, Critical Incident Stress Management has been developed which is based on the work of a peer who helps the individual cope with the situation and deal with the critical incident stress reactions."

DFS, Deutsche Flugsicherung

CISM Support team

Contact us for more information.

+352 436061 229