About Us

A Brief History

The origins of CISM in Nova Scotia trace back to 1989 when Dr. William Brooks, a Truro-based firefighter and psychologist, conducted workshops on stress management for various fire departments across the province. Following these workshops, Carl Shaw (from Colchester Fire Services), Ed Bowdridge (Platoon Chief, Halifax Fire Department), and Tom Makin (Provincial Fire Marshal) approached Dr. Brooks, requesting the development of a program to address critical incident impacts on firefighters.

In 1990, responding to this demand, Dr. Brooks presented the International Critical Incident Stress Model (then CISD, now CISM) to the Fire Officers Association (now FSANS), proposing an integrated crisis intervention system for mitigating the effects of critical incidents. The association endorsed the proposal enthusiastically.


Chief Murray Elliott of the Cole Harbour Fire Department was subsequently appointed Chair of an FSANS committee tasked with implementing the CISM program. This committee eventually evolved into today's CISMT. Murray Elliott chaired the committee from 1990 to 2005, succeeded by Thys Molenaar from 2005 to 2019, John White from 2019 to 2021, and Wendy Rafuse from 2021 to the present.


Over the past three decades, our interventions have provided support to thousands of firefighters and other first responders.

Who We Are

The Critical Incident Stress Management Team (CISMT) of the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia (FSANS) is a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to supporting firefighters in the prevention, crisis stabilization and symptom mitigation from critical incidents they encounter as a result of their work. The committee operates in accordance with the FSANS policy (2020-21) and is comprised of firefighter peers, mental health professionals and may also include paramedics, clergy, retired military personnel, healthcare workers, communications personnel and community members who are all trained in the ICISF model.

Our Mandate

The mandate of our Team is to provide the broad range of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) services to firefighters. For the past several years the FSANS CISM team has had an informal agreement to provide CISM services to Ground Search and Rescue personnel across the province. Currently the Executive of the FSANS CISM team is working on creating a scope of practice that clearly defines our mandate outside of the fire service.

Involvement Outside Our Mandate

In the past, some of our members have been called upon to assist with other critical situations.  Examples include Swissair Flight 111 disaster, Canada’s Operation Parasol supporting the refugees from Kosovo, various industrial fatalities and, more recently, the Justice Department of Nova Scotia in connection with the Portapique mass casualty tragedy.

Our Affiliation with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF)

We are a registered team with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation and all our members are ICISF trained and certified. Currently three (3) of our members are certified ICISF trainers for specific courses.

We are guided by the ICISF model of CISM which is a comprehensive integrated, systematic and multi-component program specifically designed to meet the needs of emergency responders seeking support after being impacted by a critical incident or traumatic event. The model utilizes trained peer helpers and mental health professionals to support emergency responders (monitor pre- and post-incident psychological responses to stress) individually and in groups. CISM is not psychological therapy.  Firefighters who exhibit persistent critical incident stress symptoms are referred to appropriate mental health professionals for further support.


As a not-for-profit organization, the CISM Team depends upon annual donations from fire departments, an annual grant from the Fire Marshal’s Office and grants from the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia to support their work. These funds cover operating costs, as well as professional development for the team. All CISM team members offer their services at no cost.

Professional Development

Every Fall, the Team meets for two (2) days of required professional development. Training/education is provided by both outside experts and qualified team members.

Team members are also asked to participate in a one-day Spring Training event where adjacent teams come together to hone their skills and review best practices in crisis interventions. Throughout the year individual zones often engage in their own training activities / zone meetings.  Additionally, the Executive Committee supports the attendance of members at other professional development opportunities presented by ICISF and similar relevant organizations.

How We’re Organized

Our team consists of members divided into the following four (4) zones (see map below):

NOTE:  The FSANS CISM Team does not serve the Halifax Regional Municipality.