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CMBC defusers provide emotional first aid to bus operators

Video from the Vancouver Sun

A “defuser” may sound like an electronic device but in the context of Coast Mountain Bus Company, it means something much more personal and important.

A CMBC defuser provides what they like to call “emotional first aid” to employees out on the road; they help operators better cope with serious incidents. .

When the volunteers of this program are called, it’s because a driver is in need of help due to a major accident, a passenger assault or even a death.

The internationally accredited program began in 1992 and is very similar to the same resources extended to police and fire service employees after a traumatic event.

Statistics show that people who get “defusing” shortly after an incident have a much better recovery rate.

Dave McKay has been in this vital support position for 15 years and now acts as the program’s coordinator. He says they try and get a defuser out to an operator in need within hours of an incident.

“Right now we have 23 defusers. We like to have anywhere between 25 and 30. We have eight more on the way!”

All defusers are volunteers and initially were only operators but now the positions are open transit employees, including some former mental health workers.

McKay says a defuser needs empathy, listening and people skills and be able to do well in a crisis. The incidents can be very traumatic for operators and defusers are on call during all service hours.

“In these stressful situations we make sure they don’t drive, bring them to a quiet place then we take them through a defusing process which includes international critical stress management.”

And it’s not only the operators that need some support. Due to its stressful nature, all defusers have sessions themselves after responding to 10 incidents.

A defuser may not be a well-known position outside of CMBC but it is a job that makes such a difference in the lives of operators and employees and helps us keep you moving across the transit network.

Author: Adrienne Coling