2016 Responder of the Year

The Responder of the Year for 2016 was awarded to

Portage Fire Fighter Mike Norris

On September 19, 2016, MCRA President, Susan Elben, awarded Mike Norris, Portage Fire Fighter and CISM Coordination of the Gryphon Place/5th District CISM Team, with the 2016 MCRA Responder of the Year Award during the 28th Annual Michigan Crisis Response Association training conference that was held at the Michigan 4-H Foundation Kettunen Center in Tustin, Michigan.


Mike was nominated by two individuals for his outstanding service as an active CISM member.  Roxanne Affholter wrote “Mike oversaw major crisis interventions for the west side of Michigan.  The Kalamazoo shooting/murder rampage, the cyclist tragedy, and the bailiff murders in Berrien County.  There is no doubt that his facilitation of these interventions impacted the lives of many in ways that will never be realized by Mike, and those who responded with him.


I don't know a lot of the details, only what was reported during our MCRA board meetings through Mike.  The most impressive thing about hearing Mike speak was his humble approach to a very significant thing that he did.  Mike's gentle unassuming way of briefing the group on the CISM responses to these various traumatic events almost felt as though he didn't play a big role in these responses, when we all know he did.”


Deb Schauer also nominated Mike for this award.  Deb shared some of Mike's outstanding service beginning with the Kalamazoo Uber shootings in February 2016 to the summer multiple fatality bicycle accident also in Kalamazoo County.


"Mike arranged for, participated in, and lead a CMB, Defusing, Debriefings and one on ones for First Responders involved with the Uber Driver Shootings across Kalamazoo County.  Bangor Fire Department had a gunshot wound to the head and face by young 23 year old man whose father is a Sherriff in a small rural area where many of the first responders knew and grew up with making it that much more traumatic.  Bangor Fire also had a double fatal from a head on collision on M-43 highway that Mike coordinated, lead, and participated in the debriefing.  Mike coordinated, lead, and participated in two debriefings with the Colon Fire Department for a rollover fatality and a suicide by gunshot wound to the face; again in a small community where “everyone knows everyone”.  Mike coordinated, lead, and participated in debriefings related to the death of the 11 year old son of a Supervisor at Life EMS that has been with that company for many years.  Mike debriefed two paramedics from Pride Care ambulance who knew that they were struggling to do their jobs and requested assistance following the drowning fatality of a 6 year old that was on the shirt tails of a number of other hard calls over the fourth of July weekend.  


While doing a debriefing for the Kalamazoo County Dive team in regards to a fatal drowning on Gull Lake, we were advised of the multiple fatality bicycle accident on the other side of Kalamazoo.  We were advised that the initial call was 30 bicyclists, mainly children, were struck down outside of Markin Glen Park.  After our debriefing with the Dive Team Mike said “let’s head out there and see how we can help”.  Once arriving at the Eastwood Fire Station we saw one of the Debriefers from the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department Team that Mike had been working to break down barriers between our team and theirs.  Mike’s diligent work surrounding the Uber shootings and offering his experience and expertise to that team whenever able made it easier for us to couple together on this large scale incident effecting numerous agencies.  Mike has continued to have regular meetings with the coordinators and team members of the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department team trying to continue to build that bridge with that team to help make the District 5 Team through Gryphon Place even stronger for our First Responders in our community.


There were also a number of interventions that were outside of Kalamazoo County including being requested to go out to the Berrien County Court house following the court house shooting in which two deputies were shot and killed while doing their job protecting people in the court house.  Mike went out there on two consecutive days in which he took time off from his job as a Fire Fighter but feeling strongly that his skills were required and they were.  On the second day at the Court House in Berrien County there were more than 100 people who needed CISM responses in a number of formats over the entire day.


Mike set up a meeting with the new administration at the Gryphon Place Helpline which is the agency that has provided support to the District 5 area CISM Team for First Responders.  We talked about the change in leadership there as well as the need for added support to keep this team active and well trained.  Mike came with an agenda and talking points of things that are needed and ways in which the agency can help not only the First Responder CISM team but also their community and school teams to be more effective and well trained to be able to remain active longer and in a healthy way.  

Mike has also been looking at ways to help to have the community and himself be healthier as well.  He has been meeting regularly with local area Chaplains to educate them on what people who may be struggling could benefit from when they are working with people who work in the First Responder roles; as well as community persons at large.  Mike also assisted with coordinating and disseminating information about the Two the Rescue program doing a two day training for Portage and Kalamazoo area Police and Fire.  Mike has also presented a program called “Self-care for the First Responder” for St Joseph County CIT program for the past two years.  Mike assisted with a GRIN training in the fall of 2015 at Borgess Medical Center training community and first responders.  Mike also serves on the MCRA board as well as the Tustin committee."

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