Jennifer Taylor, left, working with San Diego firefighter Ben Vernon, who was stabbed by a patient in 2015.
As detailed in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal, violence against first responders has become a serious issue in many countries across the Western world. Unfortunately, with no adequate system in place to track these incidents, and with many responders feeling pressure not to report patient violence against them, we have very little understanding about the scope or cause of the problem.
Jennifer Taylor, a researcher and founding director of the Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends (FIRST) at Drexel University, is trying to change that. With a $1.5 million Assistance to Firefighters grant—the first given for a project addressing the EMS side of the fire service—Taylor and her researchers are working with fire departments in four pilot cities to better understand how often violence happens on the job, and to test procedures the Drexel team has developed to cutback the number of attacks.
“If the organizations make these changes, we should see the needles move on lower burnout, higher engagement with work, better morale, and less anxiety and depression—those are our expectations for what we’re doing,” Taylor said in an interview.
To learn much more on the project, and how Taylor and her team aim to achieve their ambitious aims, read “Responder Advocate,” which accompanies the recent cover story, “The Toll of Violence,” in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal.
On a similar note, NFPA Journal “First Responder” columnist John Montes wrote this month about the efforts underway to get first responders the mental health support they need. As on-the-job-violence increases, responders of all stripes have growing rates of depression, substance abuse, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Newer methods, such as peer-to-peer support groups and working with therapists with responder backgrounds, are increasingly popular and effective ways of helping firefighters, police, and EMS workers deal with the stresses of their work.