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Critical Incident Management

Critical Incident Management

Human service organizations are often entrusted with the well-being of vulnerable populations.  There are a number of external authorities that require specific legal regulations and responses to safeguard and protect the persons served, personnel and others.  When an adverse incident occurs that falls outside of routine care, a system must be implemented to investigate, track and correct.  Foremost in critical incident planning is prevention.  Well written policies and procedures that are conveyed to personnel and implemented throughout the organization will reduce the overall number of incidents incurred.  Incidents must be thoroughly investigated and resolved.  Incident details are collected and analyzed.  Collected data is used to initiate corrective actions to avoid future incidents.  Corrective actions might include changes to policies and training or disciplinary action.

External Authorities

Organizations are required to adhere to requirements and regulations imposed by various external authorities. The terminology of critical incidents may vary based on differing authorities. In addition to CARF national standards, organizations may be required to adhere to local and federal jurisdictions, licensing agencies, protection and advocacy agencies, funding sources, etc.  When designing your critical incident reporting system care should be taken to include the specific regulations pertinent to your organization.

Key Documents

There are many key documents that should be created and implemented to assist in preventing critical incidents.  Your Risk Reduction and Critical Incident Reporting policy will detail the steps necessary when an incident occurs. You can choose the Accreditation Now Risk Reduction and Critical Incident Reporting template based on the size of your organization.  The template will guide you in selecting the appropriate contact entities for your organization.

There are three major documents designed to work in conjunction for risk management.  The Risk Management Policy provides the framework for guiding your organization in risk reduction practices.  The Risk Management Assessment Form will identify potential risk factors. The Risk Management Plan seeks to rectify any deficiencies identified in your assessment.  These templates, examples, tips and suggestions are located in the Accreditation Now Documents section Group One, Section G. Risk Management.

Due to the extensive scope of potential critical incidents, nearly all of your policies and procedures should be written with the intent to prevent critical incidents.

Key Personnel

Critical Incident Officer (Coordinator) – Many people within the organization may be involved in the investigation, analysis and corrective actions involving critical incidents.  It’s important to have an individual assigned the duties of a Critical Incident Officer.  Responsibilities would include:

  • Coordinating investigations into individual incidents
  • Complete the critical incident response form
  • Ensure compliance with record keeping regulations
  • Notify appropriate authorities
  • Ensures the organizations procedures are followed
  • Coordinates appropriate information to critical incident committee(s)
  • Provides a written analysis of critical incidents at least annually
  • Ensures an analysis is complete for each service/program provided
  • Recommends actions for improvement


Critical Incident Committees

One or more committees may be formed to review, analyze and make recommendations for corrective action regarding critical incidents. Examples of Critical Incident Committees:

  • Critical Incident Response Team
  • Health and Safety Committee
  • Audit and Risk Management Committee
  • Human Resource or Personnel Relations Committee
  • Human Rights Committee
  • Emergency Medical Committee


Key team members must be well versed in critical incident standards.  The CARF manual provides detailed information on the development and expectations of your CI systems and processes.  All personnel must be trained in identifying critical incidents and your organizations critical incident reporting procedures.  Accreditation Now provides a prepared training that all personnel should take upon hire and annually.  In addition to the prepared training provided, you will need to add custom trainings for your specific incident reporting structure.  Health and safety standards training may be provided through a variety of training tools including custom written trainings, in-house demonstrations and group classroom training.  Contact Accreditation Now for assistance in developing your training program.


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