It's "summertime, and the livin' is easy"*....or at least it should be. But if you serve on a threat assessment team, summertime may not mean the vacations and downtime it means for many people. Threats and disturbing behavior can occur anytime, and they often require a quick evaluation and rapid intervention. Being on a threat assessment team can mean working on weekends, over vacations, and late into the night.
But this does not mean that team members or individual threat managers cannot take a break. Quite the contrary: threat assessment team members NEED to take a break every so often. Threat assessment work is important work. It is often urgent or time sensitive. And threat assessment work can be a matter of life and death -- literally. It is this "life and death" aspect of threat assessment and protective intelligence that can make it hard to justify taking a vacation. But it is precisely what makes taking a break so critical.
My colleagues and I have worked with several threat assessment teams that - to put it bluntly - were burnt out. In some cases the team members were managing sizable caseloads. In other cases, the team members were juggling their threat assessment responsibilities with the demands of their busy day jobs. Regardless of the reason for burn out, some ways to help guard against it can include:
- adding "term limits" into a team's policies or procedures, so that individual team members have to rotate off the team every so often;
- identifying and training alternates for each team member - individuals who are ready to step in and serve on the team for a week - or two - or three -- when needed; and,
- encouraging team members to look after each other with care - and to say something if they think a fellow team member might need a break.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discusses the parable of the goose and the golden egg, to illustrate that you can fail in your work if you fail to take good care of yourself at the same time. I think it's a lesson that's particularly appropriate for threat assessment team members to heed. Enjoy your summer.
- Marisa R. Randazzo, Ph.D.
* Lyrics from "Summertime" by George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin