Mental health resources available to firefighters searching Surfside collapse site

‘We will be there for you:’ Peer Support group to help first responders deal with trauma

City of Orlando Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale said his 13 firefighters in Surfside with the Central Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4, have been assisting in the rescue efforts.
City of Orlando Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale said his 13 firefighters in Surfside with the Central Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4, have been assisting in the rescue efforts.

City of Orlando Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale said his 13 firefighters in Surfside with the Central Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 4, have been assisting in the rescue efforts.

“They have found several of the victims, they were a part of that,” Barksdale said, recounting the heartbreaking discoveries his colleagues have made.

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Barksdale said his team has been working through the night on 12-hour shifts, risking their lives in the search for survivors.

In a Facebook post today, the Florida US&R Task Force 4 said, “All members of TF-4 are currently safe and resting at our base of operation. We were pulled off the pile at 2 a.m. over concerns of structural stability of the remaining building. A large group of structural engineers are currently collaborating to confirm the building’s integrity. Command’s primary concern is rescuer safety and we will not resume work until that is assured.”

Barksdale called the incident traumatic and said first responders have mental health resources available to them both on-site and when they return. He said some of the resources include their chaplain and a group called UCF Restores, along with a program through the fire department called Peer Support.

Lt. Jazz Zombo with the Seminole County Fire Department said she’s a member of their Peer Support program. She said it’s their job to connect their fellow firefighters that have just experienced something traumatic, with resources that can help.

“I may not know the extent of the trauma that you’ve seen, but I will be there for you, we will be there for you, when you come back,” Zombo said.


About the Author:

Lauren Cervantes was born and raised in the Midwest but calls Florida her second home. She joined News 6 in August 2019 as a reporter.