Citizen volunteers in N.NV who respond on-scene with emergency responders to provide emotional & practical support to survivors of tragedy.
To really understand the importance of what TIP volunteers do, you need to understand what we call the horrible hour, whichoccurs immediately following a tragic event. That hour is often the worst period of their entire lives. There are 5 aspects of the horrible hour that make it important for a TIP volunteer to be there.
1. The horrible hour involves a huge loss in a person’s life. It may be the loss of a spouse of 50 years, the loss of a child, or the loss of a home. We experience smaller losses as we go through our daily lives, but when TIP is called to help, someone has experienced the BIG ONE.
2. The horrible hour is something our clients never planned for. They are taken totally by surprise. In many cases, those we have been called to help have just made a terrible discovery — a woman returns from shopping and finds her husband dead, for example. That discovery begins her horrible hour.
3. Those we are called to help are not experiencing their horrible hour in a nice, quiet, & familiar environment. Rather, the environment is often chaotic. It may be in a noisy emergency department, or on the side of a freeway or in the person’s home with emergency personnel coming and going.
4. Often, the person experiencing the horrible hour is alone. Loved ones haven’t arrived yet. The people who are there may be…emergency responders who appear cold and uncaring…or well intentioned helpers who say and do the wrong things…or family members who are themselves traumatized.
5. The person experiencing the horrible hour is often asked to make dreadful decisions . . .
. . . ‘What mortuary should I use to pick-up my child?’
. . . ‘Should I donate his organs?’
. . . ‘How should I tell my child his father killed himself?’
Unfortunately, the person faced with these decisions does not have the experience, the information, or a clear head to make them.
These horrible situations leave those we are called to assist devastated. Each person reacts differently, but it’s very common for our volunteers to encounter people who are shocked, confused, shaking, sobbing, angry, feeling guilty, and filled with questions. But the word which best characterizes people who we are called to help is lost. TIP volunteers arrive to guide them through the worst hours of their lives.
What TIP volunteers do . . .
. . . First, they provide emotional support. They listen and let the person know that ‘You are not alone . . . I am here for you.’
. . . Second, TIP volunteers serve as protectors. If necessary, volunteers protect their clients from unhelpful helpers, the media, carnage, or the consequences of their own forgetful or impulsive behavior.
. . . Third, TIP volunteers are information advocates. They obtain information about the situation from emergency responders for those who desperately need it. Our volunteers also function as educators. For example, they may explain what their clients are feeling is normal; or they may educate a parent about how to talk to her 5-year-old about the death of his father.
…Fourth, TIP volunteers help their clients develop a simple plan that will guide them through the horrible hours ahead. This plan may include information about mortuaries, the coroner’s procedures, clean-up services, and the tasks that need to be done after death has occurred.
. . . Finally, TIP volunteers help our clients to make a tragic event the very personal event it is. Volunteers may help a client say goodbye to his loved one, obtain a lock of hair, or retrieve a wedding ring.
In summary, our volunteers walk into chaotic situations to help people who are alone and temporarily incapacitated. TIP Volunteers serve as guides throughout what we call the ‘horrible hour’. By providing the services described, our volunteers help traumatized clients regain a small sense of control. While our clients are certainly nowhere near ‘OK’ when our volunteers leave, they do have the information and the support they need to move forward.