In an effort to make workplaces safer for emergency services providers, a Western Canada foundation has released several public service announcements (PSAs) aimed at educating business owners about unsafe practices that could be hazardous to responders.
The campaign, called "Put Yourself in Our Boots," is sponsored by the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF), headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The organization takes its name from the late Constable John Petropoulos, a police officer with the Calgary Police Service who died in 2000 at the age of 32. The officer died from brain injuries sustained after falling through a false ceiling at a business which had no safety railings or any posted warning. He had responded to a reported burglary in progress and fell while searching the building. The call turned out to be a false alarm.
In an effort to prevent that kind of accident from happening again, colleagues and fellow officers started the non-profit society in 2005 and raised money through grants and the sales of pins.
On Jan. 30, the foundation released a series of 30-second PSA videos to be televised across Western Canada over the next 14 months and to be available on-line in the United States. The society expects each of the three spots - one focused on EMS providers, another on police officers and the third on firefighters - will be aired 14,000 times.
The videos, filmed in July 2009, feature actual emergency responders from the Calgary Police Service, Calgary Fire Department and Alberta Health Services EMS -- Calgary Zone.
The theme of the campaign reflects the dangers faced by responders in workplaces by pointing out that a business becomes the workplace of responders without the advantage of familiarity, lights and knowledge of dangers.
For EMS providers, the PSA features an ambulance transporting a patient, Code 3, with an attendant and a patient in the back and a driver negotiating the streets. An inattentive driver on a cell phone pulls into the path of the ambulance and an accident follows. The video closes with an unresponsive attendant in the back of the ambulance on the floor and a tag line that says, "Sometimes the biggest risk isn't the emergency.... It could be you. Put yourself in our boots."
The PSA for the fire service features two firefighters in turnout gear advancing a line to a fire in a warehouse. Debris falls on the hose, making it impossible to pull and blocking the path from which they came. The firefighters then head to a lit exit sign only to find the door is blocked by file cabinets and furniture on the opposite side, making the door impossible to open. The video concludes with the tag line, "Sometimes the biggest danger isn't the fire....It's the building. Is your work place safe for everyone"? And, the final line says "Put yourself in our boots," as a
down firefighter is wheeled to an ambulance on a gurney.
The one for the police PSA is eerily similar to the scenario that claimed the officer's life that was the inspiration for the foundation. Officers are searching a building with flashlights in the dark with an alarm in the background. One officer goes up to a mezzanine and steps off the edge, on to a false ceiling, falling to the floor below. The tag line for this PSA says, "Sometimes the killer isn't a person... It's the building." The video ends with the familiar lines about building safety and asking the viewer to put his or herself in the responder's situation. The officer's partner finds the fallen comrade on the floor below, unresponsive.
"We want to create a culture where safety for emergency responders is an integral aspect of every workplace," says JPMF board chair Maryanne Pope, who is also the widow of the foundation's namesake. "Companies often think about workplace safety from the perspective of their own employees. We want them to consider the fact that emergency responders -- police, fire and EMS personnel -- may need to respond to their businesses at any time of day and often when no one is around. Is your workplace safe for everyone?"
In addition to the PSA, the JPMF campaign also features a DVD that provides a summary of workplace and traffic safety tips and calls on viewers to think about workplace safety from a different perspective, particularly that of someone entering an unfamiliar workplace after hours, in poor lighting and during highly stressful situations, such as a fire, medical emergency or a crime in progress.
The video, which is available for purchase through the foundation, has a safety quiz and extended interviews for safety training and recruit classes.
Campaign organizers are also pleading with the public for help getting the word out by asking them to check with their local television stations about airing the PSAs and asking all news outlets about their interest in doing stories about workplace safety and how it affects emergency responders. The kit has video, radio and print PSAs and can be downloaded to personal computers for use in communities.
"Ultimately, by making workplaces safer for emergency responders, we're making workplaces safer for everyone else," said Pope. "It's not just police officers, firefighters and paramedics who will benefit from this."
Information about the "Put Yourself in Our Boots," campaign can be found at http://www.ourboots.ca.
Information about the foundation can be found at http://www.jpmf.ca.