1stAlliance seeks to ensure those who need care get they care they need
By Karen Solomon
More than 240 million calls are placed to 911 each year in the United States alone: 240 million instances in which a first responder can be emotionally and/or physically injured. It happens more often than people realize. Once a first responder is traumatized by what he or she experiences, where do they turn to heal their wounds? Should they be burned in a fire or struck by a bullet or knife, what happens next? It’s a question they often ask themselves.
In my experience too many of injured and traumatized first responders will sit alone in front of a computer looking for someone to help them. They will seek someone who understands and won’t look upon them as if they are weak, who knows how to get them what they need without broadcasting it over the radio. It’s not an easy task. When they are in crisis, it becomes frustrating to the point that some will give up. Some will commit suicide.
Firefighters, peace officers, emergency medical technicians, corrections officers and dispatchers too often find themselves standing over an abyss of turmoil from which they can’t walk away. We’re going to change that. We’re going to find them the help they need. It’s a simple concept: A central database that doesn’t store any of their information and can point each and every one in the right direction.
What We’re Doing
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputies Steven Hough and Jeffrey McGill know what it’s like to experience a critical incident and find themselves without the proper assistance to recover. They longed for a collaboration of the first responder resources scattered around their country, and a way to reach the people who need those resources. I joined them to form 1stAlliance, and from there a database was born.
Thanks to a collaboration with another injured officer, Bourne Massachusetts Officer Jared P. MacDonald, 1stAlliance is a 501(c)3 charitable organization whose sole mission is to provide a way for first responders to find their way out of the darkness.
On June 1 of this year 1stHelp.net will be launched: a free, confidential way for first responders to find emotional, financial and spiritual assistance. If they’re in immediate crisis, they’ll be provided with a 24/7 resource to call. If they’re not in immediate crisis, they’ll be able to enter some basic criteria and be matched with resources that match their needs. They can take their time selecting the best fit. But, most importantly, they’ll have a starting point.
This endeavor is not a short-term bandage. We have partnered with Avatar Computing and plan to develop this into a free, downloadable app over the next six months. Avatar has been incredibly generous and will be redesigning both sites, logos and assisting with the long-term development of the organization. We’re also collecting suicide statistics, and we have a five-year plan to provide baseline data that can tell us a story about what’s happening to our first responders.
We also want to hear about the PTSD experiences of first responders. Those stories help us understand where we should focus our efforts. Our goal is to find out what first responders need most, identify those resources, and present them in a simple, confidential manner. No judgement. No fear of reprisal.
It’s important to note that we aren’t competing with the established organizations. We are instead providing a vehicle for more people to find them. We have nearly 100 vetted resources in the United States, Canada, and Australia that are trained to assist first responders. What became a quiet national project is blossoming into a global endeavor. Through the chat forums that will be installed this summer, providers can collaborate best practices and ideas on a global scale, all with an eye to improving the quality of life of those that serve us.
If you’d like more information, please feel free to visit our website www.1alliance.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This project has been funded to date through private donations and we continue to seek long-term corporate partners.
We are also providing free informational cards to any individual or department that would like to hand them out to their members. These cards bear our logo and the website and are a handy reminder that you are never alone. Simply visit our website and we’ll find you a safer outlook.
Do you provide services to first responders? Register for inclusion in the database here. If you’re a first responder, bookmark our site, share your PTSD story with us or let us know when someone completes suicide. Our success is your success.