SEASIDE - Times of crisis require support, sometimes from friends and relatives and at other times from strangers.
The Clatsop County chapter of Trauma Prevention Programs Inc. is one such group of strangers who may show up as support after an accident, fire or other traumatic event.
"Your mind replays tragic events," said Clatsop County TIP Manager Alice Kero Wood. According to Wood, the goal of TIP is to make the trauma of an event less painful and help those not medically injured. Some of the scenes volunteers have been called to include the homes of the elderly when a person passed away at home, accidents involving tourists and houses that had burned down.
When a volunteer arrives on a scene, they are there to comfort the victims, to give them support by listening and give them a hand to hold.
"The main goal is that we don't want people to be alone for what could be the worst moment of their lives," said Wood.
She was careful to point out that the presence of TIP is not a time during which volunteers share their stories and say, "I know exactly how you feel," but rather a time when they offer an ear for those who need one. In keeping with being a listening ear, volunteers may check back with a person whom they have helped once or twice, but there are strict guidelines prohibiting volunteers from developing relationships based upon meeting during a traumatic experience.
"We spend anywhere from an hour to a few hours with a victim," said Wood. "Then we try to reconnect them with their normal support system."
A training session for volunteers had been planned to begin next week, but was postponed. This has caused some worry for Wood, who said that numbers in the Clatsop County chapter are going down.
"It's a time commitment," said Wood. "We ask that volunteers be on call for three 12-hour shifts a month and attend required monthly training."
Another part of that commitment is in the training itself, which is roughly 40 hours of work spread over the span of 10 days. Some of the days are devoted to learning the TIP model for helping victims deal with trauma, others teach the skills necessary to divert a victim's attention through role playing and there is a day that involves a visit from the medical examiner.
"We call it 'death day,'" said Wood. "The medical examiner comes in and we try to give people an idea of what it might be like to deal with a death."
Despite the commitment of time and the occasional stresses involved, Wood says TIP is a program that is a worthwhile resume builder for anyone considering social service or for someone looking to give back to the community.
Wood herself has a 20-year history of working with people in crisis and also works with Family-to-Family as well.
"It's a very rewarding experience," she said. "It's a neat way to give back to the community."
The next Clatsop County chapter training is scheduled for the autumn. Those interested in being part of the program can contact Wood at 338-0582 or via e-mail at (firstname.lastname@example.org). The next training event in Oregon is through the Portland/Vancouver chapter and will be held Aug. 16 through Sept. 4 at the Portland Fire Bureau Training Center in Portland.