Someone sits with tears in their eyes. Something horrible just happened. There is no one nearby who feels their pain; their house just burned, they just lost a loved one, they were a victim of a crime...they need an ear to listen.
Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc. (TIP), is a national non-profit organization founded in 1985. They supply volunteers to support emotionally traumatized citizens immediately after tragedy strikes.
Charlie Batson, crisis team manager for Santa Rosa and Escambia counties, says TIP volunteers provide emotional support when it's needed most, right after the tragedy happens and before the victim's support system arrives.
Batson says when first responders access the situation, they will call the TIP dispatcher for assistance. "We are part of the first responder team," he says.
When a tragedy happens, TIP volunteers shoot for a twenty minute response time. They arrive on the scene, receive a briefing from a first responder, and they sit with the victim in need.
"We provide whatever they need," says Batson, "tissues, water, or answers. If they have lost a loved one and cannot pay for a burial, we give them contacts to agencies who can help. We give them the information where they can make the call. We do this to empower them. We match them with the appropriate agencies to meet their need." Answers to questions are vital to their state of mind, he says.
"If their question is, 'why did this happen?' our answer is 'we don't know why this happened, but we're there to listen'" he explains. TIP volunteers wait until Red Cross arrives and/or their support system like their family or friends, he says.
Volunteers are encouraged to fade away once their assistance is no longer needed. This keeps emotional bonding from happening between the volunteer and victim.
A volunteer is trained to make only one follow-up phone call if needed to help them keep from getting attached, says Batson, although it does happen. "Our job is to bridge the gap," he says, "although sometimes they (victims) do call back."
TIP volunteers are always needed. Within Santa Rosa County, Batson says they have 14 people who are available to meet this need. Within the tri-county area there are 35 volunteers.
Volunteers are trained with a ten day course to be certified. He says the classes are offered twice a year with 35 hours of instruction. There is a $30 tax deductible registration fee required to attend. Once a person becomes a TIP volunteer, they serve 3 on call 12 hour shifts.
During the shift, he says, the volunteer can go about their business. But once a call comes, they drop what they're doing and respond. Batson says volunteers come from all walks of life: housewives, retirees, college students. "They need to be good listeners, and sympathetic," he says.