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Training Security Personnel in Psychological first Aid

In the wake of disaster and trauma, the immediate response can significantly influence the trajectory of recovery for those affected. The integration of Psychological First Aid (PFA) into the training of security personnel as first responders represents a profound step forward in our ability to serve communities in crisis with both sensitivity and effectiveness. I designed and integrated both Maslow's hierarchy of needs, communication, NLP, and the principles outlined by the recognised practitioners in PFA, The US National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the US National Center for PTSD, this article explores the benefits and implications of such training as initially introduced in 2018 and modified for purpose in 2022.

The essence of Psychological First Aid lies in its evidence-informed approach, designed to mitigate immediate distress and foster adaptive functioning post-disaster or terrorism. It is a testament to the understanding that while physical wounds may be the most visible, psychological scars can be equally debilitating if left unaddressed. By extending this training to those on the front lines, we equip them not only with the skills to provide physical security but also to address the emotional and psychological wellbeing of those they are sworn to protect.

The broad applicability of PFA, spanning across children, adolescents, adults, and families, ensures that responders are prepared to meet the diverse needs of affected populations. This inclusivity is crucial, recognising that trauma does not discriminate by age or background and that each individual's response to a traumatic event is unique. Training in PFA equips security personnel with the understanding and flexibility to provide support that is both developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive.

One of the core strengths of Psychological First Aid is its focus on resilience and adaptive coping mechanisms. By promoting these qualities, security personnel help individuals find strength in the aftermath of trauma, guiding them towards a path of recovery rather than despair. The training emphasises practical assistance and the importance of establishing a connection, enhancing safety, and providing comfort. These objectives are not just lofty ideals but actionable strategies that can be employed in the chaos that often follows a disaster.

Furthermore, the professionalism required in delivering PFA—staying within authorised roles, modelling healthy responses, and maintaining confidentiality—is in alignment with the fundamental principles of security work. It reinforces the importance of a calm, collected presence that can offer reassurance and stability in times of turmoil.

However, the implementation of Psychological First Aid training extends beyond the immediate aftermath of a crisis. It fosters a culture of empathy and understanding within the security profession, challenging the stereotype of security personnel as solely enforcers of law and order. Instead, it presents them as key players in the holistic recovery of a community, capable of addressing both physical and psychological needs.

Having trained over 700 security personnel and over half of them in PFA, it has been an honour to watch the impact those competent in the training have had on the industry and our community as a whole. There good work and value invigorating me to remain in a training industry that seldom financially rewards the effort and time trainers and assessors commit to their students.

The incorporation of Psychological First Aid into the training of security personnel as first responders is not just an enhancement of their professional capabilities; it is a critical evolution in our collective response to trauma. It recognises the complexity of human resilience and the multifaceted nature of recovery, offering a more compassionate and comprehensive approach to crisis intervention. As we continue to witness the unpredictable nature of disasters and terrorism, the value of such training cannot be overstated. It is a beacon of hope and humanity in the darkest of times, ensuring that those on the front lines are as prepared to heal as they are to protect.

From the author.

The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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