Challenges in creating/maintaining CIRT teams
One of the biggest challenges of any judicial affairs office has to be helping to create and maintain a highly effective critical incident response team(CIRT). I have had the pleasure to observe and interact with the members of our CIRT on numerous occasions and have been a witness to the fast, effective, thoughtful and collaborative responses they provide to students in crisis. Based on the number of cases that I see our team handling I am well aware that the number of students who need services and support from this group as well as those who need an intervention on their behalf is growing.
One of the biggest challenges with building these teams is ensuring that the right people are “on the bus” and that they are equally committed to the same mission. Oregon State is lucky because Oregon State troopers patrol the campus and their Lieutenant as part of the CIRTteam. This allows for quick and professional responses to any case that requires law enforcement. The OSU CIRT team also includes the Director and Associate Director of Student Conduct, the Directors of Counseling and Psychological Services, Disability Access Services, Student Health Services, and the Dean of Student Life. Among this group there is a great deal of experience and also a great deal of trust. There are many times when members find it necessary to share confidential information and by pass standard protocols and procedures in order to ensure students’ safety and well-being. If there is even one member of the team who does not feel comfortable sharing this information or does not follow through on the steps they say they will take to connect with a student, then that student may slip through the cracks and not get the help they need.
Another challenge with such teams is ensuring that all members participate in regular team meetings. It is important that CIRT teams meet regularly to provide updates on students of interest, discuss follow-up strategies, identify new incidents, discuss up and coming issues in the area of crisis response, participate in professional development, and most importantly build the personal connections and trust that will serve them well in a crisis situation. OSU’s CIRT team meets once a week to do all of these things.
CIRT teams must ensure that faculty, staff and students understand their mission, have access to the groups meetings (when appropriate), know what type of incidents the CIRT team deals with and feel comfortable reporting incidents that they feel deserve attention. The CIRT team is useless if not for the eyes and ears of the campus community. Faculty and staff are often the first ones to identify students who are having difficulties or acting in inappropriate manners. It is important the CIRT teams develop a good reputation among these groups and work to keep a good reputation by welcoming appropriate participation and keeping stake-holders aware of their actions.
Lastly, CIRT teams must be equipped with high level technology in order to track students who show signs of needing assistance. It is imperative that all members of CIRT teams have access to information concerning the when, how and now what associated with critical incident response.