Residents in the western Panhandle wishing to assist victims of various traumatic events can sign up for a training program that kicks off Thursday.
Trauma Intervention Programs Inc. is a national non-profit. Its Northwest Florida chapter is seeking to expand from the current number of 30+ volunteers in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa Counties.
Deanna Smith is chapter president. TIP helps family members confronted with natural or unexpected deaths; crime victims; disoriented or lonely older persons; victims of traffic accidents; and anyone emotionally traumatized by a crisis event.
“When we are called on-scene, we go to wherever this traumatic even has happened,” says Smith. “More often it is someone’s home, but it can be by the riverside if they’re searching for a drowning victim. We are providing support to the family members on-scene.”
The course teaches how to give emotional and practical support to traumatized people immediately after a tragedy strikes. Smith says TIP volunteers provide a type of victims’ advocate support – a hand on the shoulder, so to speak.
The classes will be held at Pensacola Police Department headquarters on North Hayne Street. Covering 35 hours over eight days, through April 12th, the course features such topics as “Dealing with Death,” “Street Smarts” and “Working with Emergency Responders.”
TIP volunteers respond to calls 24/7 from hospital personnel, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. No past experience is necessary, and there are no age restrictions other than one must be at least 18 years old.
Along with first responders, chapter President Deanna Smith says they also have ties to Pensacola International Airport, helping out family and friends in the event of the death of a member of the military.
Once trained and certified, TIP volunteers are obligated to serve three, 12-hour shifts per month. The shifts are 7 am to 7 pm and vice-versa. The shifts are not assigned; instead, the volunteers have their choice.
“They can work it around to whatever their schedule is,” Smith says. “So a lot of our full-time students either take nighttime shifts or weekend shifts. A lot of our full-time working people do the same thing. And then you have a lot of retired people, who are able to take those daytime shifts. It seems to work out beautifully.”
More information on the local TIP program and the classes that begin Thursday can be found at www.tip-ser.org, or by calling (850) 612-1068.