A critical incident is any event that overwhelms a person’s usual ability to cope (Everly/Mitchell 1993). For First Responders, some of the familiar critical incidents are:
A critical incident often produces fear, terror or helplessness (APA 1994). A First Responder could be involved in one incident to as many as hundreds of incidents throughout their career. The traumatic stress they experience may be cumulative over a number of years on the job or the number of traumatic incidents they experienced. Not all First Responders react in the same way to similar incidents.