Government of New Brunswick

A program for New Brunswick's Emergency First Responders

What is a critical incident?

A critical incident is a situation that is traumatic for the emergency first responders involved. The incident causes the worker to experience an unusually strong emotional reaction either during or after the incident.

Examples of critical incidents include:

  • serious injury or death of a co-worker in the line of duty;
  • loss of a patient after prolonged rescue attempts;
  • incidents that attract considerable media
  • personal identification with a victim or his/her
  • suicide of a co-worker;
  • serious injury or death of a person; and,
  • death of, or violence towards, a child.

What is the program?

The program is intended to reduce the buildup of stress in emergency first responders who work in high stress fields and to promote a culture of wellness and positive mental health in the workplaces of New Brunswick’s valued emergency first responders. A provincial team, made up of mental health and addiction professionals and emergency first responder peer support personnel trained in critical incident stress management, has been established in collaboration with Addiction and Mental Health Services and the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick. The team is responsible for providing stress management education, creating a culture of wellness in the workplace, and responding to individuals and groups following critical incidents.

Why is it needed?

There is a commonly held belief that emergency first responders are super-human and immune to the stress they routinely encounter in their jobs. However, no one is fully prepared to deal with things like loss of life and human suffering on a regular basis. When stress builds up it may contribute to burn-out, disruption in normal routine, or the loss of emergency first responders from their chosen field. Understanding the impact of critical incident stress and applying appropriate interventions when incidents occur have been found to be helpful to emergency first responders in dealing with the abnormal stress they may encounter in their daily work. This can improve job satisfaction and morale in the workplace and reduce time lost due to illness.

What are the services?

Critical incident stress management services are a range of interventions aimed at educating emergency first responders about stress and its impact, making recommendations that create a healthy workplace and responding to individuals impacted by critical incidents.

  • stress awareness sessions, offered in the workplace;
  • defusing for individuals or work teams immediately after a critical incident response has been completed;
  • debriefing for multi-agency groups of emergency first responders following a critical incident response, to enable workers to share their thoughts and reactions while discussing the incident. This is an educational session. Confidentiality is emphasized;
  • follow-up contact and referral of individuals to addiction and mental health or private service providers for further assistance, if needed;
  • demobilization for emergency first responders during the course of an ongoing, major response to a critical incident;
  • on-going education and training for team members.

Who and where are the teams?

The New Brunswick CISM team is made up of representatives from 14 regionally-based Critical Incident Stress Management teams located in the province’s Addiction and Mental Health Services. Team members include addiction and mental health professionals, such as psychologists, social workers and nurses. In addition, there are also peer support personnel from front line professions, such as firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, hospital emergency room staff, to name just a few.

Who to contact?

Your regional Addiction and Mental Health Services will be able to provide you with the name and phone number of the regional Critical Incident Stress Management team coordinator. That person is responsible for arranging any CISM interventions as needed.

Addiction and Mental Health Services





Saint John




St. Stephen








Grand Falls





547-2086 (Addiction Services)







Gambling information line: 1-800-461-1234

If you need help or are in distress, please contact a trusted CISM peer, friends, family members, physician, CHIMO helpline 1-800-667-5005 or Addiction and Mental Health Services.

Provincial Contacts

To reach the provincial contact, call Department of Health at (506) 444-4442.