As I was headed to the grocery store last week for our family’s new bi-monthly grocery trip, the traffic light I was approaching suddenly changed to red. This wasn’t your typical traffic light at a cross street, but rather the driveway to a fire station. I watched the bay doors open and an ambulance and fire truck pull out.
Normally I wouldn’t give much thought to such an event. I witness ambulances and fire trucks pass by all the time. But this time, while I was waiting for the light to change, I actively considered what type of incident those first responders might be heading toward. Was it a car accident, a house fire, a person in distress or something else entirely? And did all of those fire fighters and emergency medical technicians (EMT) have the proper protective equipment (PPE) they needed to ensure they could safely approach the scene, complete their tasks and return home to their families once their shift ended? Or did the fire station around the corner from my house face a shortage of supplies? Or a shortage of healthy first responders? Could my safety – or the safety of my family – potentially be at risk if we ever required their services in an emergency situation?
Once I got to the grocery store, I put on my homemade mask and started my shopping. However, my mind remained focused on the situation at hand and the tremendous impacts that COVID-19 has had on first responders in particular.
I know the level of preparedness that public safety agencies around the world maintain is quite sophisticated, and redundancies are in place in case “plan A, B, and C” fail to work. But in the times of an unpredictable global pandemic, where we could see “plan X, Y, or Z” come into play…what then? How do we know we’re safe when none of us have seen this before?
Trust in our first responders and public safety agencies is more essential than ever.
Given the situations that police, firefighters and EMTs are put in every day and the “unknown” variables that could arise at any moment, they have become accustomed to relying on their training, experience and instincts to make the right call. They also utilize the information they have available in that moment – actionable intelligence, as we call it at Zebra – as well as their specialized equipment and technology tools to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible, no matter the incident.
They have a unique vantage point on every situation – COVID-19 included – and we should trust in the accuracy of the information they are sharing with the public as well as their recommended actions. I’ve become so much more aware of the challenging task that these fine people step up to tackle in our local communities, to help keep us safe and healthy, and I thank them for their efforts. A great way to stay informed of local community information is to follow local fire and police departments on social media. Accident and traffic updates, siren testing, hydrant flushing and other typical news is informative and helpful.
You may also find it beneficial to engage with community liaison officers and other first responders more frequently on an informal level. Unless you personally know a public safety professional, it can be easy to forget that they are our neighbors first and foremost and that they truly have our best interest at heart in everything they do. It is not unusual for them to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the well-being of those they serve.
For example, police departments will often visit schools for a monthly story time and read to a classroom, but with most of the country’s schools being closed for the academic year, this tradition has been paused. Instead, officers with an already-heightened sense of alertness are continuing their community outreach efforts digitally, utilizing the same technology and connectivity they rely on to do their jobs to bring five or 10 minutes of respite to kids and their parents who are now at home, e-learning and working together.
Searching #booksandbadges on Facebook will net you at least 100 different videos of officers around the country – including command staff, patrol officers and even chiefs of police – reading children’s books, on video from their vehicles, offices and more in an effort to continue making appearances in their communities and ensure kids retain access to books. This is vital in so many ways.
But so is the work that these public safety professionals do day in and day out, all year round, to help us maintain a sense of normalcy in our lives – even as the definition of “normal” evolves.
Expressing Gratitude Through Mindfulness
I will never again just watch a fire truck or police car drive by with sirens blaring without wondering about the emergency to which they are responding. Nor will I take for granted the selfless acts of kindness they demonstrate every day in both an official and unofficial capacity.
Their individual dedication to public service makes the communities they serve safer, and my family is eternally grateful for the sense of security we have knowing that a first responder is just around the corner.
To that extent, I am particularly grateful right now that the first responders in my community have the PPE necessary to allow them to keep working during this time and that they can go home to their families when their shift concludes to read a book to their kids – or to my kids, virtually.
However, I know there are public safety professionals who have fallen ill and given their lives because of their exposure to the virus in the line of duty. This is our opportunity – as individual citizens, families and even companies – to step up and support these first responders and their families as they heal, and to ensure PPE remains readily available in the coming months to help protect those who protect us.
There are a number of ways that you can show your gratitude for first responders. For example, you can help make masks and face shields as many Zebras have done, donate food and supplies or just send a thank you card to let them know that you are keeping them top of mind.
Learn more about how Zebra is stepping up to empower front-line heroes, including public safety professionals, and how you can join in our efforts: