A calm voice in the pain
After tramatic events, Fort Worth Fire Department chaplain Cameron Brown ’98 (MDiv) '09 (DMin) helps people cope.
by Jessie Milligan
Updated: Thursday, July 30, 2009
Fort Worth Fire Department chaplain Cameron Brown ’98 (MDiv) '09 (DMin) helps first responders defuse stress after fires, car accidents, bombings and hurricanes. (Photo by Glen E. Ellman)
When the worst things happen -- fatal fires and car accidents, bombings and devastating hurricanes -- Cameron Brown ’98 (MDiv) '09 (DMin), helps first responders recover from the horrible things they witness.
As chaplain for the Fort Worth Fire Department, and a consultant to first responders nationwide, Brown’s role is to defuse the stress felt by people whose job it is to save lives.
In Fort Worth she conducts group counseling within 12 hours of what’s known as a “critical incident,” which is the terminology for “tragedy.”
“What was your role? What did you see?” she asks rescue workers not long from the scene of smoke or twisted metal, places often fraught with unspeakable grief. Brown helps first responders voice the pain and with that comes the chance for the diminishing of stress.
“What did you smell? What did you hear?” she asks. “Smells and sounds can leave an indelible imprint on the brain,” she says.
“I teach them healthy coping skills. I affirm that they are taking care of themselves,” she says.
Her 26-year-career in Fort Worth includes not only her work with the fire department, but also with other first responders. She’s counseled rescue workers after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco and after every hurricane. She also works part-time at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, where she trains doctors and nurses in handling stress, particularly after the death of a child.
Brown also works as a firefighter on Engine 38 in far north Fort Worth.
One of her specialties as chaplain is advising families of firefighters about the emotional rigors that are faced on the job and in the home.
“I had been listening to firefighters at the station talking about significant relationship issues,” Brown says. So she wrote a curriculum to educate families about what it means to be a firefighter, about all that they see and all that they do. She teaches that program around the nation.
Brown hadn’t started out wanting to be a firefighter. She joined the Air Force in the early 1970s as a way to pay for college. Inspired by the TV show “Emergency!”, she told the recruiter she wanted to work in rescue.
“Females weren’t allowed to do that back then. So I asked him, ‘What can females do where everyday is a new adventure?’ They let females work in firefighting.”
She joined, and eventually left her last station at the then-Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. She joined fire department and worked as a firefighter while she earned her master’s in pastoral theology and counseling from Brite Divinity School at TCU. She also is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Her husband, Gary Brown, is a captain in the Fort Worth Fire Department and her daughter, Courtney Brown, is studying nursing at TCU.