Message from Tommy, Crisis Team Director
The following article was featured in the May, 2006 Emerald Coast Edition of the healthy living magazine "Natural Awakenings."
This is a national magazine with local content that featured TIP as May's Community Spotlight!
Trauma Intervention Program
(A TIP for us All)
The sirens have barely had time to die down. Emergency personnel are busily tending to the injured, the damaged, the details. Another first aid provider arrives, walking past the EMTs and the blinking lights, past the police officers and firefighters who are so intent on their critical duties, to the quiet, stunned person standing alone on the fringes, unable to fully grasp the tragedy that has just occurred, uncertain of where their next breath will come from, much less what steps they need to take next.
“Hello,” says the new arrival. “I am from the Trauma Intervention Program. I’m here to help you.”
They have many times been likened to angels. They are the volunteers of TIP, a group of specially trained citizen volunteers who provide emotional and practical support to victims of traumatic events and their families in the first few hours following a tragedy.
“We call it emotional first aid,” explains Tommy Carter, Director of the NW Florida Chapter of TIP, serving Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa Counties. “Emergency workers often have to devote their attention to victims needing immediate physical care, or to the details surrounding an unexpected death or a crime. The survivors have to wait until family, friends, or local organizations can be contacted. In the meantime, those survivors are in tremendous emotional distress. We are called by police, hospitals, fire fighters, Life Flight, any emergency group, really, to help provide support to those who have been emotionally injured. We fill in the gap between the crisis and the arrival of support.”
A national program, TIP first came to Tommy’s attention about five years ago. “I had moved to the Florida coast from northern Alabama and was in awe of the beauty and the lifestyle. It was just like a Wonderland. But the dream wasn’t perfect. I started to hear about drownings and other tragedies in the area, and I wondered how the families would cope, especially if they were visitors. I felt like something was missing in this Paradise. Then one morning I picked up the paper and read about TIP, and I said ‘THAT is what’s missing,’ and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.” Tommy and his wife, Katherine, both became volunteers.
Anyone can become a TIP volunteer, according to Tommy, because there are no prerequisites. “All we ask is that you have a cool head and a warm heart, and TIP provides the rest.” Volunteers attend a free 55-hour training course, taught by national trainers. A three-hour continuing education class is offered once per month. Classes meet on evenings and weekends, allowing volunteers to continue their daily work schedules. After training, volunteers choose their own on-call schedule of three twelve-hour shifts per month. They might not be called during that time, but if they are, they must be able to “drop and go” at a moment’s notice.
Calls might involve an elderly woman suddenly faced with the death of her spouse, or a child traumatized by the death of his pet. A family might be facing the loss of their burned-out home, or a single mom and her kids may be afraid to enter their home after a burglary. Although the situations vary considerably, one constant remains: These people won’t have to face their crisis alone if TIP is there.
Asked about specific gratifying experiences with TIP, Tommy finds it impossible to single out just one. “TIP volunteers are put in situations they never dreamed they would be able to handle. But they do handle it, and they do incredible jobs. It’s a constant gratification. We make a difference in people’s lives.”
Want to help? TIP is a non-profit tax exempt organization. It is funded through government grants, fund-raising events, and individual contributions. You can offer to help by writing Tommy at 1269 Holiday Drive, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563, or by calling (850) 934-6654, or by emailing TommyC@tip-ser.org. If you would like to become a TIP volunteer, check our website (www.tip-ser.org) for updated training sessions being held in the Pensacola area and the Okaloosa County area. The training schedule can also be viewed on the national website (www.tipnational.org), and volunteers can register directly from the national site.
The Trauma Intervention Program was founded in San Diego County, CA, in 1985, and in 1991 won the prestigious Innovations in State and Local Government Award from Harvard University and the Ford Foundation. There are currently 18 regional Chapters serving over 75 cities, 100 hospitals, 67 police departments, and 55 fire departments. Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc., is the largest operator of emergency services volunteer programs in the nation.
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