Angels in our Midst (LT Cliff Ragsdale) - WEAR ABC Channel 3 - Tuesday, March 19, 2013, (brought to you by Sacred Heart Children's Hospital)

Firefighters and law enforcement officers take an oath to protect and to serve. It is often the little things they do above and beyond the call of duty that go unnoticed. Recently, the Trauma Intervention Program honored several of these protectors for doing more than the job. One of the honorees was LT. Cliff Ragsdale of the Pensacola Fire Department.

LT. Cliff Ragsdale, Pensacola Fire Department; "We got a call in. It was a structure fire with possible entrapment." Lieutenant Cliff Ragsdale was on the crew that answered that call in the early morning hours of February 6th, 2012.

Lt. Ragsdale; "I have a five year old. And, you know, when we hear children of any type involved in any situation, it amps up everything, all your emotions, everything, and multiplies it times a hundred, a thousand."

Laurie Ford, Trauma Intervention Volunteer; "You see these big strong firefighters; very muscular, big; and you don't realize that they have a big heart, too." Laurie Ford was the Trauma Intervention Volunteer who was also on that call. She was there to give comfort to the family but found herself being comforted over the deaths of eight and ten year old sisters.

Laurie Ford; "All's I could see was his eyes because he had his helmet on. So, I didn't even know who he was, but what he said, the heart that he had that night when he told the mom."

Laurie; "He knelt down in front of her and looked her right in the eyes and he put his hand on her shoulder ..."

Laurie; "And that gentle voice. He was so calm with all the sirens and all the water running down the streets and all the chaos."

Laurie; "He said, 'Mama, we did everything we could. We tried. We did everything we could but we couldn't save your babies.'"

Lt. Ragsdale; "If my mom was in that situation or my grandmother or someone that I know, I would pray that someone would take that same kind of consideration."

Lt. Ragsdale; "I don't know how much it actually helped her in that moment, but I just wanted to let her know that we care; that we're people, too. We're firemen, but we care." And it is those moments, even when words may fail, it is simply that act of kindness that will long be remembered. For Lieutenant Ragsdale, those acts of kindness are second nature.

Deanna Smith, Trauma Intervention Crisis Team Mgr.; "This little boy, the house was burned out, the firemen were still working on it. And he told me, I'm really getting cold. So, I told him, Hold on just a moment, let me run to my car." Before Deanna Smith could get back with a blanket, Cliff had also noticed a little boy shivering on the side of the street.

Deanna; "You don't want this blanket any more do you? He said, 'No, I'm good.' And it was so heartwarming because he was exactly where he needed to be with that jacket on."

Lt. Ragsdale; "It's rewarding. It's rewarding It's a rewarding job."

Laurie; "He's got that big heart and to me, he was my hero that night."

Angels in our Midst is brought to you by Sacred Heart Children's Hospital. Read More at:

February, 2013

Escambia County Commissioner Gene Valentino interviews Director Deanna Smith about how TIP volunteers benefit both the emergency responders and the victims in our community. (TIP interview begins at minute 21:30)

Thursday, February 21 2013

(with Amber Southard

From house fires to violent crimes first responders take charge of a scene. But in the background survivors may be struggling to cope. That's where "Tip" comes in. The trauma intervention program. Volunteers are there to lend an ear or a helping hand.

Now teen volunteers are helping other young people in crisis.

"When you dial 911 this is one of the first things you see on scene, but not too far behind are tip volunteers offering emotional assistance to those in need."

Deanna Smith has been a tip volunteer for the past three years and now helps train others. Volunteers go through eight days of training and are on call for three 12-hour shifts a month. Smith says 90-percent of the calls she answers are death related...

Once on scene she offers anything from a shoulder to cry on to help calling family members. She's prepared for any situation. "I always have something for children whether it be coloring books, I bring puppets, I have wet wipes, I typically have snacks for them as well, I bring a bottle of water as well."

Tip now has a teen division. Sisters Megan Drake 18 and Madison 13- have been in the program since August "I enjoy being that shoulder to cry on."

"A lot of times when we go there and they'll just talk to us. We won't do much talking. They'll be the ones talking to us telling us memories that they have and we try to get them to laugh sometimes to get them to tell stories."

"To look at these young women giving their time, their compassion, it says so much about their character."

The girls were inspired by their father who's also a tip volunteer. They have advice for other teens who are thinking of joining the program.

"If you're the kind of person who loves to help out and maybe your parents would like to do it with you I think that would be great."

"I don't know that a lot of teens could handle it if they've been through something that would kind of touch home to them."

"If you or anyone you know would like to become a tip volunteer you can log onto our website at and click on Newslinks.


The following article was featured in the May, 2006 Emerald Coast Edition of the healthy living magazine "Natural Awakenings." This is a national magazine with local content that featured TIP as May's Community Spotlight!

Trauma Intervention Program
(A TIP for us All)

The sirens have barely had time to die down. Emergency personnel are busily tending to the injured, the damaged, the details. Another first aid provider arrives, walking past the EMTs and the blinking lights, past the police officers and firefighters who are so intent on their critical duties, to the quiet, stunned person standing alone on the fringes, unable to fully grasp the tragedy that has just occurred, uncertain of where their next breath will come from, much less what steps they need to take next.

            “Hello,” says the new arrival.  “I am from the Trauma Intervention Program.  I’m here to help you.”

            They have many times been likened to angels. They are the volunteers of TIP, a group of specially trained citizen volunteers who provide emotional and practical support to victims of traumatic events and their families in the first few hours following a tragedy.

            “We call it emotional first aid,” explains Tommy Carter, Director of the NW Florida Chapter of TIP, serving Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa Counties. “Emergency workers often have to devote their attention to victims needing immediate physical care, or to the details surrounding an unexpected death or a crime. The survivors have to wait until family, friends, or local organizations can be contacted. In the meantime, those survivors are in tremendous emotional distress. We are called by police, hospitals, fire fighters, Life Flight, any emergency group, really, to help provide support to those who have been emotionally injured. We fill in the gap between the crisis and the arrival of support.”

            A national program, TIP first came to Tommy’s attention about five years ago. “I had moved to the Florida coast from northern Alabama and was in awe of the beauty and the lifestyle. It was just like a Wonderland. But the dream wasn’t perfect. I started to hear about drownings and other tragedies in the area, and I wondered how the families would cope, especially if they were visitors. I felt like something was missing in this Paradise. Then one morning I picked up the paper and read about TIP, and I said ‘THAT is what’s missing,’ and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.” Tommy and his wife, Katherine, both became volunteers.

            Anyone can become a TIP volunteer, according to Tommy, because there are no prerequisites. “All we ask is that you have a cool head and a warm heart, and TIP provides the rest.” Volunteers attend a free 55-hour training course, taught by national trainers. A three-hour continuing education class is offered once per month. Classes meet on evenings and weekends, allowing volunteers to continue their daily work schedules. After training, volunteers choose their own on-call schedule of three twelve-hour shifts per month. They might not be called during that time, but if they are, they must be able to “drop and go” at a moment’s notice. 

            Calls might involve an elderly woman suddenly faced with the death of her spouse, or a child traumatized by the death of his pet. A family might be facing the loss of their burned-out home, or a single mom and her kids may be afraid to enter their home after a burglary. Although the situations vary considerably, one constant remains: These people won’t have to face their crisis alone if TIP is there.

            Asked about specific gratifying experiences with TIP, Tommy finds it impossible to single out just one. “TIP volunteers are put in situations they never dreamed they would be able to handle. But they do handle it, and they do incredible jobs. It’s a constant gratification. We make a difference in people’s lives.”

            Want to help? TIP is a non-profit tax exempt organization. It is funded through government grants, fund-raising events, and individual contributions. You can offer to help by writing Tommy at 1269 Holiday Drive, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563, or by calling (850) 934-6654, or by emailing If you would like to become a TIP volunteer, check our website ( for updated training sessions being held in the Pensacola area and the Okaloosa County area. The training schedule can also be viewed on the national website (, and volunteers can register directly from the national site.

The Trauma Intervention Program was founded in San Diego County, CA, in 1985, and in 1991 won the prestigious Innovations in State and Local Government Award from Harvard University and the Ford Foundation. There are currently 18 regional Chapters serving over 75 cities, 100 hospitals, 67 police departments, and 55 fire departments. Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc., is the largest operator of emergency services volunteer programs in the nation.