Small business responds to massive Deepwater Horizon disaster
Pleak Village, Texas 5/4/2010
CISM International, owned and operated by Sherry Cardinal, LCSW of Pleak has been providing the Critical Incident Stress Management services to the survivors and families of the Deepwater Horizon.
"I got the call from Transocean at 4:00 AM on April 21st, just hours after the rig blew and caught on fire to deploy my team of 4 CISM specialists to the hotel in New Orleans where we were sequestered with the families that were arriving to await word about the fate of their loved ones", says Cardinal. "As you can imagine, it was a very emotional and tense time, not only for the families, but for the Transocean employees there, not knowing who survived and who was missing." "We counseled and supported everyone there while we waited for news, a wait that seemed interminable." "Two of my counselors are also ordained ministers, so we were able to comfort and minister to their spiritual needs as well."
Also known simply as CISM, critical incident stress management is a multi-faceted crisis intervention protocol, sometimes called psychological first aid. "CISM is designed to mitigate the traumatic impact that results from such an incident as the Horizon", says Sherry Cardinal. "It can also help prevent long term problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through intervening with survivors in the first hours and days after an incident.
The most inspiring scene of the event the CISM team witnessed came when the survivors came through the back door of the hotel and the families ran to then, crying and embracing in the relief of the reunion. The most difficult part was informing the families of the missing men that the rig sank and with it, hopes of finding anyone alive or even any remains. During one-on-one, group and family counseling encounters with the survivors the team heard many stories of both horror and heroics. The magnitude of the fire on the rig cannot be over-emphasized. The men described it as devouring monster, the gates of Hell and an inferno with heat so intense they had little time to escape. Many credited their safety training and fire drills for saving their lives as they did what they had been trained to do.
Once back from New Orleans, the CISM team has been at Transocean's offices in Houston providing counseling, defusing and debriefings for their employees. "The sense of grief and loss for missing and injured men is tremendous and overwhelming," says Cardinal. "Offshore work is very much a family type atmosphere and the whole company is grieving 9 of their members." This is especially true for the people directly involved with the families and survivors. CISM helps them deal with their personal reactions while enabling them to still do their jobs. According to Cardinal, Transocean is dedicated to assisting everyone in any way possible in getting through a very difficult and demanding time. "With all the finger-pointing, blame games and chaos associated with the oil spill, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the lives of thousands of people have been totally altered." None of us involved in this incident will ever be the same."
Along with Sherry Cardinal, LCSW, team members Skip Straus, NREMP-P, Dr. Mary Lou LeRoy and Pattye Spezia, LMFT responded to the incident.