By Dave Pearce
Even though most Posey County residents don’t even know it, they should be able to sleep a little easier after this past weekend. Some 21 members of local fire departments, emergency responders, and police departments took advantage of 24 hours of training that was held in Mount Vernon.
As a result of seeing a need and finding a way to meet it, International Critical Incident Stress Foundation instructor Jerry Baker came to the southwestern corner of southern Indiana for the first time ever to conduct a class.
“ICISF is a world-wide trainer of first responders to disasters,” Baker explained. “One of the things we do a lot of times is respond to incidents where public safety officers have been involved in a critical accident…critically injured in a fire or wreck or perhaps in a shooting or even killed in the line of duty. And what we are doing is providing training to these officers down here to respond to those types of situations. We look at the physical and psychological needs to make sure that surviving officers and family members are able to get through these types of situations in a healthy way.”
Baker paid local law enforcement, fire departments, and the prosecutor’s office a tremendous compliment at the end of the three-day 24-hour course saying he has taught hundreds of these classes and never has he seen a more engaged and serious group than he had this weekend. The event was held at the Four Seasons Motel Conference Center in Mount Vernon.
“I was extremely impressed with this group,” Baker said. “I have been teaching this for several years and this is one of the most committed and dedicated groups of people I have ever run into.”
Baker is actually with the Indiana University Police Department based in Indianapolis but this is something Baker has done for not only that organization but also for the State FOP Memorial team, a state-wide organization of police officers throughout the state who respond to critical accidents.
“Most of the problem here has been a lack of resources for having this type of training available in this part of the state,” Baker explained. “It’s excellent to have officers down here from both the police and the fire side who respond to these types of incidents.”
Baker went on to explain that usually classes like this are attended by 10 to 12 people but the class in Posey County was attended by 21 individuals who realized the need for this type of information and training.
“The interest in this type of subject matter also speaks to what the sheriff has been able to do to garner interest and how he cares about the people of this community,” Baker said of Posey County Sheriff Greg Oeth. “This will ensure a healthy workforce and he obviously cares about his people who are exposed to these types of situations. This provides them with ways and means to be able to cope with those types of situations.”
Baker said the community benefits particularly if there is an event at a public entity such as a school or a manufacturing plant.
“If there’s an event where there is a lot of media and a lot of trauma associated with it, then he will have members of these departments to respond and provide the public safety things we think about such as law and order but also provide that other component that will help these people get back to normal and recover psychologically,” Baker said. “There has been this need for such a long time and Sheriff Oeth put the training together and invited us down to do the instructing.”
Baker said the class was in the planning stages for over two months and the members of local agencies took their own time to attend the training.
“FEMA has a plan implemented at the state level and one of the components in that is to have a psychological response component in place,” Baker explained. “Now that these folks have had that training and are certified, they are prepared to meet that need.”