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Reach Out and Heal Someone

Kelli-300x225Last week myself, Kelli Krupa, and Paul Gardner had the privilege of delivering the ILFFPS message to firefighters in MABAS 21 which was hosted by the Chicago Ridge Fire Department.  Two weeks prior to this event, I presented the message to the firefighter candidates at the Moraine Valley Fire Academy.  My thoughts about those few days will be included in the next team newsletter, but it really got me thinking about the two main reasons we exist as a team.

First, we exist to help other firefighters in need by providing the actual peer support.  There is not a week or two that goes by where a brother or sister contacts us for help either through the established channels or through our own departments.  As Josh said in the video, it may take an hour or less for him to receive a handful of responses from members ready and willing to help someone in need.  After all, that is why we joined this team so we can spring into action similar to the we react when the bell goes off for another EMS or fire run.  I cannot think of a more gratifying experience than to change another person’s life for the better just by listening and sharing.  Every member of this team in his or her own right has walked a green mile that enables us to empathize with peers because we have been there, and done that.  Given all this, what other role do we carry out to support our mission statement?

In the fire service, the role of public education and prevention is one of the most important tasks we carry out on a frequent basis.  We all like to play at a fire, but in order for this to happen, a citizen has to suffer what can be devastating losses to him/her.  Public education seeks to reduce these number of incidents in order to save lives and reduce losses by instilling the situational awareness (of fire safety) in the public at large.  So what does this have to do with the ILFFPS?  Let me explain.
Much like fire safety education, our public outreach efforts where we spread the word of our mission and existence is there to offer hope to others who are currently hiding in the shadows of behavioral health issues. Ultimately, our goal should be to help reduce the number of firefighters leaving the job prematurely(or taking their own life) because they became too physically, mentally, and emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted by the demands imposed on them.  We must take it to the streets (so to speak) and increase our exposure with all departments across the state.  Although we have been in existence for close to two years now, there are many firefighters who still do not know we are here for them.  I spoke with a few such persons at the Chicago Ridge event.  So what can we do as team members to get noticed?

·         Complete the Post-training presentation to your department ASAP, and on an annual basis (or whenever you get new personnel).
·         Be willing to step up and present to other departments, because the more we get noticed, the busier we will become, and the several that present regularly will need all the help they can get.
·         Approach your local EMS system and fire academies and ask if you can present to their students/candidates.
·         Encourage others to apply for future peer support trainings, especially if you feel they will make an excellent resource for others.
·         Do what you can to assist the team without overextending yourself.
·         Participate in the Rosecrance Florian peer support experience.

Illinois Fire Chiefs Association Annual Symposium

This is not an all-inclusive list, so do not hesitate to contact your peer coordinator and offer other innovative ways we can get our presence felt in all firehouses across Illinois and beyond.  The most important part of the public outreach is that you get the chance to tell your story over and over again.  I said this before, but it is bears repeating: The more you tell your story, the easier it becomes.  Therefore, reach out and heal someone- because that someone you may be healing is you.  Until next time,

Be well and stay safe,

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