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When Disaster Strikes,
TIP Cares for Bystanders

By Carrie Switzer

Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc.
Moab Chapter contacts:
Kris at 259-1135
Pat at 259-4783

For every victim of calamity, there are a number of others traumatized by the event. Almost invariably, the victims receive fast, effective and professional care by emergency services personnel. The latter are often left to fend for them selves.

This was the realization of the first group of people who formed what is now a national organization of Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc. (TIP). The first Utah Chapter was trained in Moab over the past fall and winter, and is now prepared to step in and help family members, witnesses and bystanders who need help and/or support in the unfortunate but inevitable event of accident and injury during the upcoming tourist season.

Leading Moab’s group of 11 trained TIP professionals are Kris Hurlburt, program manager, and Patrice Mott, the group’s media representative. Pat Wucherer is the assistant program manager.

Kris Hurlburt and Patrice Mott 

Kris brings to the group a background as a Red Cross volunteer who, with a Master’s degree in psychology, assisted victims of war and natural disaster for 10 years. She knows first hand the premise of “emotional first aid” that the TIP program is based on, and after using these skills abroad, is anxious to bring them to fruition in her own community.

“Pain is pain,” Kris says matter-of-factly. “This is such a practical, common-sense program and really helps people. It’s painful and traumatic for those who witness a tragedy and we can help with practical arrangements such as places to stay, making phone calls – just making sure families and friends are safe until somebody can come for them or they can get home.”

Kris uses the example of a visitor to Moab whose family has been in an accident. One person or more may be hospitalized, others are okay, physically. The ambulance, police and firefighters have left the scene. A TIP volunteer can be of invaluable assistance at that point.

“With so many visitors here, they may not know where to go for help,” Patrice adds. “This is a small community, very isolated and we have tons of tourists.”

TIP volunteers have to be invited to a scene, and Kris and Patrice have done some footwork to establish relationships with local emergency service providers so that their very specialized services may be used as well. It is an all-volunteer organization, but volunteers receive 55 hours of initial training in such things as emotional first aid, confidentiality, working with myriad agencies and how to respect the needs of others while offering assistance. Volunteers then commit to three additional hours of training every month to maintain their certification and are on call for three, 72-hour shifts per month.

“It’s very intensive training,” Kris said. “Just about everybody has been affected by something that has happened either to them or around them, and this training brings a lot of this stuff up.”

Volunteers are also scrutinized by the larger organization before they can be certified. Each volunteer goes through a background check and must have a driving record free of reckless driving or drug or alcohol-related incidences. There are guidelines and bylaw, policies and procedures all volunteers must observe, though some vary from chapter to chapter depending on local needs.

The original, and largest TIP Chapter is located in San Diego, where TIP was founded. “The needs of San Diego are obviously going to be a little different from ours,” Kris notes.

TIP is also a very inexpensive program to run. Moab’s Chapter operates on about $10,000 a year. Volunteers provide their own pagers and transportation, while the parent group provides liability insurance and training. The money is raised through fundraisers and donations.

Moab TIP will offer two training sessions a year, the next one planned for mid-summer. The group will also be assembling a board of directors this year, whose members can help bring different perspectives and expertise in the services provided.

For more information about upcoming trainings, board membership or other ways to contribute to the early development of the local TIP Chapter, contact Kris at 259-1135, or Pat at 259-4783.

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