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Critical Incident Debriefing


What is a Critical Incident?

A "critical incident" is any event that causes an unusually intense stress reaction.  The distress people experience after a critical incident limits their ability to cope, impairs their ability to adjust, and negatively impacts the work environment.  Examples of traumatic events that produce such reactions include:

Critical Incident Stress Debriefing is a process that prevents or limits the development of post-traumatic stress in people exposed to critical incidents.  Professionally conducted debriefings help people cope with, and recover from an incident's aftereffects.  CISD enables participants to understand that they are not alone in their reactions to a distressing event, and provides them with an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings in a controlled, safe environment.  Optimally, CISD occurs within 24 to 72 hours of an incident.

Violent incidents in the workplace should be reported in accordance with the University of Washington Policy and Procedure on Workplace Violence.

Critical Incident Debriefing Services

Any staff member may identify an incident and report it through his/her department manager. A unit may arrange directly for CISD services or may wish to first consult with the Human Resources Consultant (HRC) for their unit.

Harborview Medical Center and University of Washington Medical Center each have their own critical incident response programs.

Harborview Medical Center only:

University of Washington Medical Center only call: 598-4374

For the UW Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma campuses, CISD services are available through three different providers. Please direct questions about services to the provider. Your HRC can also assist in arranging for CISD services. Charges for CISD services are paid by the unit securing the service.

Provider Telephone Number Availability Cost
UW CareLink
Faculty and Staff Assistance Services
24-hour hotline:
24 hours per day
7 days a week
No charge.
Harborview Medical Center
Critical Incident Debriefing Program
206-731-4052 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays $110 first hour
$85 second and third hours
$70 fourth hour
Family Services of King County 1-800-553-7798
(therapist staffed intake line)
24 hours per day
7 days a week
Call for rates.