Alabama firefighters helped first responders deal with trauma, stress following Surfside condo collapse

Local News

PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Recovery operations continue weeks after a condominium building collapsed in Surfside, Florida with first responders working around the clock to find those missing in the debris.

To help provide support to first responders, a group from Alabama traveled down to Miami to do just that.

A firefighter from Pelham and two from Hoover were part of a 14-member crew that traveled down to Surfside to provide resources on how to cope with a such a traumatic event.

“It’s a bad scene and every scene that a first responder goes on in its own way is a bad scene,” said Jim Terrell, with the Pelham Fire Department.

Terrell, along with 14 others, spent five days in Surfside, working four to five-hour shifts at a time.

“We were going down to shadow the peer support team that the IAFF had in place already and we shadowed for an hour because it dumped right into being active,” Terrell said.

Terrell helped first responders deal with the mental and emotional impact of the ongoing search and recovery efforts.

“We’re there when they take a break to let them vent a little bit if they need to but also to let them know that it’s okay to not be okay when this is over,” he said.

“People they can call and talk to if they need to if they start to experience some of the detrimental side effects but just mostly giving them a shoulder to lean on, ” said Matt Russell, executive director of the Alabama Fire School who helped coordinate the trip to Surfside.

Russell said the experiences first responders had in Surfside will help them grow.

“This is where you really learn your craft so the federal resources that are available the relationships, they made the contracts and the mentorship they received will pay dividends for first responders in the state of Alabama,” he said.

Russell says the peer support group started only a year ago and they are hoping to grow the program get more first responders trained in peer support in the near future.

Click here for mental health support for first responders.

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