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   Undertoad  Wednesday Mar 5 11:58 AM

3/5/2003: Columbia reconstruction room

Thanks to Elspode for passing this along.

So far, thay've only found 10% of the shuttle Columbia... and here some of it is, in a big room marked off in a grid pattern that they're using to reconstruct it to try to figure out exactly what happened. The details are in the story here, along with another image that clarifies: the above shot is only a small area of the entire large room, a hangar that's obviously larger than the shuttle itself.

Details in the story are interesting: Only about 10 percent of the shuttle's weight, 270,000 pounds, has been recovered, or about 8,110 pieces of debris. Of that, 5,297 pieces have been identified.

But also interesting was this thought: The shuttle reconstruction gives employees something to do so they don't sit idle while the space shuttle fleet is grounded indefinitely.


wolf  Wednesday Mar 5 12:27 PM

I have seen photos of commercial aircraft reconstructions following crashes, including the Lockerbie bombing and the ValueJet and TWA flight 800 crashes. (I'm a Criticial Incident Stress Debriefer, so these usually show up at the international conference held by the largest debriefing organization ... I ALSO got to see the Branch Davidian autopsy photos that way. Icky, but cool nonetheless.)

It's absolutely incredible to see a series of these photos taken over time ... starting from a pile of scraps of varying sizes that used to be a plane, and the final product which looks amazingly like the original, only one that's been through hell and back.

It's kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle ... you know what the picture on the box looked like, and you even get really detailed diagrams of the whole thing. Only problem is that none of the pieces are tidily cut ... and you don't have the vaguest clue about where you have pieces missing. I'm impressed by the ability and patience of the engineers involved as far as putting it back together. Oh, and their intestinal fortitude. Sometimes there are bits of the passengers found on the pieces. (which is why it becomes a debriefing issue)

Beletseri  Wednesday Mar 5 05:44 PM

Wolf, what qualifies one for your job and are their people who debrief you of stress? It sounds like an interesting but demanding job. Do you travel from disastor to disastor?

wolf  Thursday Mar 6 01:50 AM

I don't travel from disaster to disaster, but am prepared to do so if necessary. (for example, folks from my local team did go to NYC to provide debriefings for the folks working at the WTC site in 10/01 as well as since that time.)

There's enough going on locally to keep teams busy though.

My particular training is through an organization called the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation which provides training in one particular debriefing model. I've had multiple hours of classes through that organization, although there are several other models used, including something called "Nova" and another which is offered through the Red Cross.

The primary focus of the ICISF is to work with emergency services providers of all kinds ... police, firefighters, EMTS/paramedics, and so forth, who have been exposed to what is considered a 'critical incident' ... basically a call or event that is SOO bad that folks have trouble dealing with memories, images, or reminders of that event. A critical incident can be a big one ... like the Oklahoma City Bombing, or it can be a 'lesser' event, such as a call involving the death of a child, a death of a member of the squad, esp. line of duty death, multiple fatality accidents, that kind of thing. The purpose of debriefing is to make it less likely that individuals will be less likely to develop PTSD, reduce the risk and amount of burnout, keep people functional in the field.

In addition to the ICISF training specifically related to post traumatic stress and their debriefing process, I have a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology. As I've mentioned elsewhere here, I'm a mental health commitment officer and crisis intervention specialist. (The debriefing stuff is volunteer, by the way. most of the ICISF debriefers are PEERS ... they are firefighters, dispatchers, police officers, and EMT/paramedics who have been exposed to the process and sought the training ... there are actually fewer pure mental health folks involved.)

And yes, there ARE people who debrief me. In addition to the informal debriefing that ordinarily occurs after a debriefing session (which can involve multiple people and last several hours) there's also a specific process called 'Debriefing the Debriefers' ... it's recognized that you can't help someone else when you yourself are getting crispy around the edges.

ndetroit  Thursday Mar 6 12:45 PM

Sorry to semi-hijack the thread, but... wolf, that's really fascinating stuff...

What made you first interested in getting into something like this? How long have you been doing it?

Is there a "half-life" for people like yourselves? (ie: After 3 years, you just can't do it any more)...

Also: it seems like you are basically counselling the teams that respond to disasters, not the actual victems themselves, right?

I can only imagine what those shuttle employees are going through right now.. It's probably doubly upsetting: first the loss of the lives of those astronauts, in the pieces of vehicle that you are reconstructing, and second, the fact that their entire lives were devoted to building/maintaining that vehicle, and now they have to look at it every day, in horrible twisted pieces.. kind of a brutal reminder.

I guess it's times like this that I can be thankful that I have a nice boring desk job.

Degrees  Thursday Mar 6 02:58 PM

OT: thanks to Wolf for the work.

Back when I worked for the local Health Department, we had a small incident. (To digress a little, I worked in the computer room, but my boss was the County Dog-Catcher (Animal Control Officer) because management could not get funding for an IT manager. So they hired him, and paid him out of the Animal Control funds. Sure enough, we actually needed an Animal Control Officer, so Bill was told to put on the uniform and get in the truck.... )

Eventually, we hired a real A.C.O. Of course, all the people who apply for the position are animal lovers - friendly, sensitive kind of folk.

Long story short, this animal control officer needed counseling. I was going to tell the story of just how bad an incident she experienced. It was really bad. But why re-live the pain (and spread it around even more)?

So really, I just want to say thank you to Wolf, and the people in his position. You provide a service that helps people down to the core of their being. Those people have taken on some of the toughest jobs, and without people like you, it would be *so* much harder.

Thank you.

dave  Thursday Mar 6 03:27 PM

Curious jerks like me need to know. PM or something, but what did she experience?

Degrees  Thursday Mar 6 04:35 PM

OT: incident

Let us just say that when you are really old, and no-one checks up on you very often - when you die, eventually, a public servant will have to deal with the situation. It can be horrifying.

wolf  Friday Mar 7 02:57 AM


Like many things in my life, I just kind of "happened" into this. the story of how I became a crisis counsellor is posted on the cellar elsewhere. Probably several elsewheres. The short version is that I was working as a computer geek for a company that went out of business. I needed another job REALLY fast and a friend of mine said there was a temp job at the psych hospital. (That was over ten years ago, incidentally.) Since then I've completed a master's in psych and am considering going for the PhD, once I get a couple other things settled.

How I got involved in critical incident stress management is a slightly different tale. I have been hanging out with emergency services people for most of my life. never 'joined up' myself, although i'd several times considered taking EMT class, but never had the time or money. I knew two of the founding members of the Critical Incident Stress Managment team from before the time that the team was started, and they always encouraged me to get involved. Never did. Then I got tricked into it. The team was getting bigger and bigger and they needed someone to act as their secretary/clerk/maid of all work ... I took the (unpaid) position on the condition that my title in the table of organization would be "Administrative Goddess" (which it was). I've been involved ever since. I eventually took the training and got involved more directly, as it was building on the skills I already had (accidentally) acquired in crisis intervention and mental health.

You are correct ... primarily I deal with the responders to disasters, however, because of a mandate from the State of Pennsylvania related to Homeland Security we are expanding our team to provide services to the victims of disasters and their families. Should be interesting.

There is no particular half-life or length of service for emergency services providers, but the concept of burn out is WELL known in any high stress field. Our purpose is to buffer that as best we can, to try to keep people functional longer.

Bitman  Friday Mar 7 05:10 PM

Originally posted by wolf
Our purpose is to buffer that as best we can, to try to keep people functional longer.
Sound like your job is to dilute the horror .. The front line people counsel the victims, you debrief the counselors, and some meta-debriefers debrief you. Does anyone debrief them? How far back does this go before people can deal with it on their own?

wolf  Saturday Mar 8 02:23 AM

This would be one of those circumstances where the answer is "depends".

Some folks do fine with no additional assistance.

Some folks improve after a single debriefing session.

Some folks needs follow up.

Some folks need referral to a mental health professional.

Just like resistance to physical disease, some people are more resilient than others. And any one person's "resistance" can change at varying times in their lives. What they were okay with last month turns them into a quivering pile of mush this month. It builds up.

Undertoad  Saturday Mar 8 10:48 AM

Does it have to do with how emotional one is in general?

Some people are Vulcans and others cry when they lose a button.

wolf  Saturday Mar 8 02:18 PM

Sometimes the "Vulcans" crack the worst. Think Mr. Spock in "This Side of Paradise" or "Amok Time".

Your reply here?

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