by Lt. Jeffrey Katz



What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us;
what we have done for others
and the world remains and is immortal.

Albert Pike

Think back to the beginning of your career. Do you remember the excitement you experienced when it came time to intervene in an emergency? Despite this initial excitement, if you are like most rescue personnel, these experiences have become increasingly less thrilling over time. Psychologists refer to this as “habituation” and it is completely normal. Habituation occurs when exposure to certain stimuli – in this case, life and death situations – causes us to view these incidents as commonplace.  

It is important to remember that while you play a role in many of the emergencies in your community, the people you help are not typically habituated to crisis. This is a critical distinction because it underscores the paradox between your concept of routine and what others may consider a life-changing event. 

You may be asking yourself why this little nugget of psychological insight is important to emergency services personnel. After all, chances are you are paid to lock up criminals, extinguish fires, or aid the injured. Technically, these courageous acts do not require conscious insight into the workings of the mind. Similarly, you do not need to have a stethoscope to check a patient’s pulse, an automobile to chase down a fleeing burglar, or a ladder truck to extinguish a two-story apartment fire… but wouldn’t these supplemental tools maximize the likelihood of your success?  

The insights shared by Dr. Walsh are intended to augment your existing skills and enhance crucial people-helping competencies. Irrespective of our specialization, each of us is charged with interceding in crisis and restoring equilibrium to our respective communities. This process begins and ends with effective interpersonal interaction. The information contained within this Handbook will prove useful in several ways:

Enhance the likelihood of contributing to someone’s recovery.

In our basic training, many of us learned that persons with survivable injuries might actually die of shock. We often help people who are impacted by sudden and traumatic events. The unexpected nature of these events complicates the psychological impact suffered by survivors. Emergency personnel who calm and reassure victims will help them combat the perils of shock. This is one of the underlying themes espoused by Dr. Walsh and arguably a valuable professional tool. 

Avoid unwarranted complaints. 

Has a citizen ever mistaken your steely demeanor for indifference or apathy? Has well-intended humor ever come back to haunt you? Has your behavior ever been misinterpreted? Remember, we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions while others judge us by our actions. In order to effectively help others, we must learn to demonstrate behavior congruent with our intentions and consistent with the expectations of those in crisis. This is easier said than done! Such an alignment is only possible through keen self-awareness and a conscious understanding of many of the interpersonal dynamics covered within this book.  

Increase support for your organization.

Perhaps now more than ever, as the public becomes increasingly – and rightfully – insistent on maximizing the value of their tax dollars, customer service is essential in our line of work. For example, research has shown that “specific and teachable communication behaviors” can be attributed to reducing malpractice claims. Why? Because we routinely interact with others during volatile times in their lives. These occasions merit the type of thoughtful communication highlighted in the coming pages.      

In summary, the focus of this text is to help you understand how the human mind works following an emergency. Many of the people with whom you come into contact will be suffering from physical and psychological injury. Your awareness to this reality – as well as your recollection of core concepts covered in this text – will improve the quality of these experiences for everyone involved and increase your effectiveness as an emergency responder! 

Jeffrey S. Katz,
Lieutenant, Boynton Beach Police Department
Doctoral Student, Walden University USA



© Walsh Seminars Ltd.  Box 963  Victoria BC  V8W 2R9  Canada