RECOGNIZING THE GOOD IN EMERGENCY RESPONDERS
On July 1st, TIP of Orange County began serving Anaheim, CA. In the days and weeks since then, there has been a significant amount of unrest in Anaheim related to two officer involved shootings. Anaheim (home of Disneyland) certainly hasn't been the “happiest place on earth”. Residents and outsiders have been protesting these shootings, and in some cases the protests have turned into violence and resulted in damage to small businesses. TIP Volunteers have been right in "the thick of things," and have been helpful to many of the residents affected.
Not surprisingly, the media in Orange County has focused relentlessly on the officer involved shootings and on how angry residents are at the Anaheim police. We have been trying to interest the media in doing a positive story about the police along the lines of "Anaheim Police partnering with Citizens Helping Citizens program," with no success.
What has been very interesting for me over the last two weeks has been the contrast between the media's portrayal of the Anaheim police and the Orange County TIP Volunteers' perceptions of Anaheim police officers. On TIP Calls, TIP Volunteers have found that Anaheim police officers are very compassionate and kind to residents who are emotionally traumatized. In fact, Orange County volunteers have already nominated two Anaheim police officers for a Heroes With Heart Award. On a number of occasions I've wanted to yell at the TV as I watched coverage of the unrest in Anaheim: "The Anaheim police are caring for residents every day behind the scenes!"
This experience has increased my resolve to recognize the "good" done by emergency responders whenever possible, and to encourage all TIP Leaders to do the same.
TIP Volunteers are in a unique position to observe the little kindnesses provided by emergency responders to survivors of tragic events. We are on emergency scenes on a daily basis and observe firsthand the performance of first responders. Rarely does the media report on these "everyday tragedies", and they don't see what we see. Also, TIP clients and their loved ones are in no position to give responders positive feedback. That leaves us!
I believe that with the opportunity we have to help on emergency scenes comes the responsibility to report on the positive actions performed by emergency responders. I know that our TIP Affiliates are already doing this. I just want to reinforce what we are already doing and encourage TIP Leaders to "kick it up a notch", if possible.
How can we recognize the good we see emergency responders doing? Here are just a few ways....
• Continually encourage volunteers to pay attention to and report on the "acts of compassion" they observe on TIP Calls.
• Encourage volunteers to give positive feedback right on the scene to emergency responders, if appropriate.
• Encourage TIP Volunteers to write a note to responders appreciating their acts of kindness.
• Write letters from TIP to compassionate emergency responders with a copy to their bosses.
• Recognize Heroes With Heart at an annual dinner.
• Send press releases to the media profiling compassionate responders and announcing the Heroes With Heart event.
There are probably many other ways of ways of appreciating and recognizing emergency responders "with heart." I welcome your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wayne Fortin, Founder
Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc.
More Words from Wayne...
THE BEST KEPT SECRET
Over the years, TIP Leaders and Volunteers have observed that TIP is not known by many residents in their communities. This observation is usually expressed in a sentence like: "I was talking to the supermarket cashier and she never heard about us!" The fact that TIP is a "best kept secret" is also expressed in thank you letters from our clients who write... "I never heard of this wonderful organization before."
There is no doubt that TIP is not a household word, nor are we known like organizations such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. The question is... "Why?" Is the reason that we are relatively unknown because we aren't effective at garnering media attention, or because we don't have a worthwhile mission?
No, the reason we are "a best kept secret" is that what we do is usually done "in secret." What I mean is that typically our volunteers respond to quiet singular tragedies which do not get the attention of the media. Our volunteers work behind closed doors in a home or in a hospital. Also, they don't have an identifiable role (like social worker), and they don't wear uniforms.
Furthermore, our volunteers do not talk about their calls after the fact. They return from their TIP Calls and just go about their business. In short, TIP volunteers can be described as "stealth helpers" who respond quietly without fanfare. That's probably why our clients refer to our volunteers as "angels" in their thank you letters. TIP volunteers appear seemingly out of nowhere and then disappear.
Should we be complacent about being "the best kept secret?" No. I believe we should look for any opportunity we can to promote ourselves in the community. But I do believe that because of the nature of the work we do, we will never be known in our communities like the Red Cross and other high profile organizations. We will always encounter people in the community who have never heard of TIP. I suggest that we accept that fact, and that we don't criticize ourselves for it.
Instead of being frustrated by our low profile in the community, I suggest that we focus on being "the best known organization" to those who really matter to our ability to fulfill our mission. I'm referring to emergency and healthcare professions, elected officials, community leaders, our donors and everyone associated with our own volunteers. These are the people who need to know about TIP, and they need know us well. These are our "constituents" who need to be the focus of our PR efforts.
On an uplifting note, hardly a week goes by that a TIP leader or a TIP volunteer doesn't tell me that he has encountered someone who has received TIP services or knows someone who has received TIP services. Usually, those recipients of our services don't know much about TIP, but they remember that "a kind person was there with me/my friend/my family member."
Although a poll of community members would undoubtedly conclude that TIP does not have widespread name recognition, I'm certain that we are embedded in the hearts and minds of those we've helped as a caring memory or as a warm touch. And that's good enough for me.
Wayne Fortin, Founder
Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc.
See all of Wayne's My Views at www.tipnational.org