The news is filled with tragedy and heartbreak. Each day stories of trauma captivates the captions. Periodically a story will have an effect on us as a whole. It can be hard for us to forget distressing details and events.
Behind each of those headlines stands the heroes trying to save the day. For the firefighters, law enforcement, dispatch, EMS, and other health care providers who are in these situations, it can be devastating and cause difficulties in personal life, as well as in careers.
Local protagonist Marci Edwards is dedicated to serving others who serve in the community. She has been part of the Utah Critical Incident Stress Management Program (CISM) for 16 years coordinating efforts to support and encourage first responders who have encountered extreme experiences that are overwhelming.
“I feel like a very small piece,” Edwards says of her work to assist those she holds in high revere.
While Edwards feels she is just a small piece, the Utah CISM feels she is an integral part to the organization. On Sept. 28 Marci Edwards was presented the Don Arends Award at the Park City Peeks during an annual conference.
“I feel honored to be involved with that caliber of people,” Edwards explained as she talked of the first responders and the work they do for the community. While she feels undeserving of the award, she is honored they would recognize her service and appreciate her efforts.
Edwards admires the EMS, dispatch, fire fighters, law enforcement, mental health experts, and medical health experts who work in the community. She knows of their hard work first hand, after spending eight years working in dispatch and continuing her affiliation through the years since that time.
This group of service-oriented careers holds individuals dedicated to helping others. They see and do many hard things each day and are prepared to do the impossible. Some circumstances require the emergency workers to see and do very difficult things that affect them beyond the standard call.
When these workers have been part of an extremely traumatic event that they are suffering from, Edwards and colleagues coordinate volunteers from the mental health industry, as well as peers of the affected emergency responders. For example, a call that involved law enforcement only may have a debriefing with a mental health expert and law enforcement peers.
Seldom is only one area affected. More often it will include several or all the different groups including dispatch, who are essentially first on the scene, to the medical workers at the hospital and everyone who aided them in between. These groups can be small or large. Typically around 10 to 15, these groups have grown to 100 plus or have been as small as one, depending on the number of people affected and how they feel the need to work through it as a team.
Selected from the entire team, Edwards was chosen for her effectiveness. Dick Southwick, the person who oversees the program along with the Executive Board Committee, recognized Edwards because she is quick to come up with ideas that improve the effectiveness of the team. For example, she organized “a very remarkable training” that went through her region and extended its influence throughout the state. In addition to overseeing one of the largest regions, she also serves as an assistant Call Down volunteer, another significant position. The committee also recognized that she is responsible, thoughtful, quick to volunteer, goes the extra mile, creative at programming, and effective at bringing team members together. These are not quick words they rattled off but thoughtful words to describe a woman the organization appreciates and respects. In addition to the comments given by the committee, they agree she has a sparkling personality. “She has done just an outstanding job,” Southwick explained.
Edwards has been dedicated and reliable through the years of service even though she is often needed at inconvenient times. The hardest part of volunteering with the organization is dealing with time restraints. There is no schedule of extreme circumstances and no holidays or vacation off of disasters that come when they please. Edwards, as well as the other coordinators around the state, recognize the need for immediate help for those who are affected by these difficult situations and strive to coordinate debriefings within the first 24-48 hours. Maneuvering her schedule to fulfill her duty and requesting peers and mental health experts to do the same can be demanding and frustrating at times. She knows the demands of a full-time job, family and other obligations. At times she has felt like giving up this incredible task; however, her compassion to those she helps and her understanding of the events they go through keeps her there.
“It means too much to me,” Edwards says. “It’s near and dear to my heart.”
Edwards shares her passion for the program with her husband, Kevin, who volunteers as a law enforcement peer and serves on the executive board of directors. Selected at the recent conference, Kevin Edwards will serve as the second vice chair, then the first vice chair, then chair and finally post-chair over the organization. This four-year commitment speaks highly of his devotion and the caliber of his service. He was present at the ceremony where Marci was presented the Don Arends Award. Few spouses would have been present for such an event, as it is not known who will receive it until presented; however, because the service-oriented couple were both there, they were able to share in this special moment.
As a community we would like to thank Marci Edwards for her service to those who serve us and congratulate her on her award. We are grateful for her service as well as for all of the emergency responders who work to help us every day.