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There is more to us than meets the eye

Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 2:54 p.m. CDT
Caption
Channahon Fire Chief John Petrakis

Imagine you are out eating with your family, and from a distance you see an ambulance and fire engine approaching and swiftly cruise past the restaurant. Your kids shout with much excitement, “Look, mom and dad!” As the sirens fade, your son or daughter verbally ponders, “I wonder where they are going?”  Everyone shrugs their shoulders and takes another bite of their lunch.

No one really gives much thought what local fire and emergency medical services do … until they require their services. Even then, we still do not know what our local emergency service organizations and their firefighters and paramedics really do and why they do it. As a citizen, we will call 911 and expect within a short amount of time that an ambulance will arrive when a love one is seriously ill or fire engine will come fast as your report a house fire.

Currently, we are in the process of formulating our strategic plan within the Channahon Fire Protection District. As part of the process, we hosted a community strategic planning session where we invited local residents, business managers and other external stakeholders to provide their perspectives to help formulate a well-rounded plan.

During one of the activities, one specific participant indicated on a survey that we “need to tell our story.” As much information as our participants felt they gained from the experience, I felt we gained more. One of the most important points our external panel shared with me is the concept of marketing who we are and what we do.

Most people had no idea what we really do within the community until they left the planning session. It was a fantastic learning experience for me as a fire chief and provided inspiration to reach out and tell not only our story but that of modern emergency response.

Part of what I intend to accomplish as part of this publication’s mission, is to market our local fire and emergency medical services and communicate our duties and capabilities to the local area. Periodically, you will see columns written by me or other local emergency responders who serve you.

Ultimately, it is our objective to market the “who,” “what,” and “why” of the modern emergency services. As I write this, I am reminded of “perception.” Each and everyone one of us has our own awareness of what something is or is not, much like your take on a critical service, such as emergency response and public safety. Much of where we gain these perspectives typically originates from news media, watching a movie or television show, or reading about a recent emergency event in your community. Although these various mediums provide a certain idea as to how you view firefighters, paramedics, and what they do, they do not represent what truly is real. 

My goal is to help sharpen this perception and promote what your local fire and emergency medical services are capable of doing should you ever summons us during your greatest time of need. I will share not only the programs and services we offer, but also focusing on the men and women who are the heart and soul of human service delivery. We will discuss many national, state, and local trends and topics that drive what we offer to the community.

Traditionally, we are known for putting out fires and responding if someone is hurt or ill. Our mission is founded on fire suppression and ambulance response. As time has progressed, emergency services have taken on many roles and responsibilities outside of fires and sick people as we have implemented comprehensive community education programs, life safety inspections and established special operations teams, which encompass water, hazardous materials, rope, confined space and collapse rescue.

Since the emergency services were founded by Ben Franklin in 1736, the primary tool the fire service used has been response. Response is and always will be a primary objective of the fire service, but future generations will also focus on prevention of emergencies and the proactive measures that can be taken to reduce emergencies. As concepts change, it is important for local fire and emergency medical services to promote the state of the art features they are capable of offering.

As these new methods evolve, service will change and perceptions will be altered. Walk with me as I show you how what we do serves you and how we capitalize on evolution to establish and maintenance of high quality service.

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