Clinton, Iowa glowed a bright shade of red this winter, as light after porch light was replaced with a crimson bulb in honor of Lt. Eric Hosette, a Clinton firefighter who lost his life in the line of duty.
In January, an explosion claimed the life of Hosette and badly injured fellow firefighter Adam Cain, blanketing the entire community with shock and sadness. Publicly, red lights shined, red ribbons decorated the town, crosses popped up in windows and flowers piled up at the fire station – all a symbol of support and solidarity.
But behind the scenes, even more was taking place. In the aftermath of the tragedy, a group had assembled, ready to comfort the firefighters and emergency responders who were grappling with the loss of one of their own.
“It’s just the right thing to do to be there for those folks,” said Jamie Temple, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) Manger of EMS and Public Safety.
In addition to his duties at EICC, Temple, who has been working as a paramedic for more than 25 years, helps manage the Quad City Regional Critical Incident Stress Management Team (QCRCISM). Made up of emergency responders from all disciplines, the volunteer group springs into action whenever their support is needed.
“The public sometimes doesn’t understand there is a cost to do what we do,” Temple said. “Sometimes it’s really minor and no one worries about it, but sometimes people leave the profession because the cost was too great. The goal of this group is to help those folks through and keep them doing the job.”
Providing someone they can talk to is important, especially someone that knows the job, what they are talking about and what they are going through. Offering that peer to peer support makes up a large part of what the team does.
“It’s hard for people sometimes to just throw their feelings out there. But we let them know it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to cry. It can take a little while, but then they figure out ‘the guy next to me feels the same thing…it’s not just me…maybe it’s not so bad.’ It’s peer driven, it’s a very important concept,” Temple said.
Entirely volunteer-based, specialized training for team members is required and the group also works with mental health providers to ensure those that may need a little extra support have access to the help they need.
The team covers both sides of the river, with services stretching as far as Jackson and Cedar counties in Iowa and Joe Daviess and Whiteside counties in Illinois. They have even been called upon for national emergencies, such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
“There’s a network across the country and there is an international foundation for these things and if you need help, or if something happens in our part of the world and we need people to come in, that can be facilitated.”
Temple said while the connection he shares with fellow emergency responders is universal, when responding to local incidents this connection often goes beyond sharing the profession. As one of the leading organizations providing EMT/EMS training in the Quad Cities, EICC has trained dozens of local emergency workers.
“We have quite a few paramedics that work for the Clinton fire department and many other local departments, we’re connected to those folks through here, so I’m often helping people I’ve bonded with and made relationships with for years,” he said.
While Temple admits the work is not always easy, he’s seen first-hand the difference it can make in people’s lives and that’s why this team of dedicated emergency responders help their peers no matter what the situation or time of day they call.
“We believe in it; we believe it helps people deal with some of the really terrible things they are involved with as a part of their job.”
For more information about the Quad City Regional Critical Incident Stress Management Team or EICC’s Emergency Medical Services/Paramedic programs, contact Jamie Temple at 563-336-3448 or firstname.lastname@example.org