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Peer support teams sent to help Las Vegas first responders for PTSD

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

With this unthinkable tragedy unfolding in Las Vegas, special support is also on its way to help first responders cope with what they're seeing and experiencing while working the scenes.

The moment the International Association of Fire Fighters found out the scope of this tragic incident, they made the call to send in help immediately.

They're sending in "peer support teams" which we also have locally in Colorado Springs to help our first responders deal with PTSD.

In the moments after gunfire showered into a crowd watching a concert on the Las Vegas strip, first responders rushed into the chaos to help.

"It's critically important to get the behavioral health support immediately following an incident," Jim Brinkley, Director of Occupational Health and Safety for the International Association of Fire Fighters said.

Seeing the worst of it, dozens killed and hundreds injured, that's why the IAFF was quick to send in a dozen of their trained peer supporters, coming from both Phoenix and New York City.

"The sooner we can get to them and help them process what they've just experienced and understand the signs and symptoms are of post-traumatic stress or acute anxiety, then we can start the recovery process for them," Brinkley said.

Working in teams of two going to all of the affected stations to talk about some of the things these firefighters might experience after this kind of traumatic exposure.

"As the incident is over and they start to realize what they've just experienced, and how fortunate they are in many cases that they own families were not affected, it really starts to take a toll on their emotional and mental well being," he said.

Many fire departments across the country have their own "peer support team" set up including the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

"Immediately I start thinking about the firefighters, the paramedics, the law enforcement individuals that are responding that scene and what they're going to see and how hard that's going to be on them," Lt. Don Watkins of the Colorado Springs Fire Department said.

Their trusted team is made up of members of every rank and they've been working to support their firefighters locally for eleven years now through our own tragedies, including the New Life Church shooting back in 2007 and the Planned Parenthood shooting nearly two years ago.

"Many people have some support system outside of our job and then sometimes they can't understand what we're going through so we have to look back toward the people that we work with everyday," Watkins said.

They say even just having a small conversation with someone who's experienced something similar can make a big difference. 

The IAFF peer support team will be on the ground by Tuesday afternoon working with the local fire stations in Las Vegas to get through this tragedy and help any of their first responders that might be struggling with PTSD.

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