Thursday, October 20, 2016

First-responders PTSD is real

Some of the speakers at graduations, events, funerals and victim impact speeches have shared advice that I hear as journalist and apply to my own life.

I reported on Bobby Petrocelli, originally of New York, who lost his wife Ava to a drunk driver who crashed into his Texas home. He told his story to Pennsylvania State Police and Chester County municipal police officers. Ava was trapped, still alive, under the drunk driver’s truck.

“You guys and girls know this greater than anybody, life does not happen and change in one day, life happens and changes in one moment,” Petrocelli said. After he was treated at the hospital for his injuries, Petrocelli learned that Ava died at their house. “I knew at that moment the life I once knew would never be the same again.”

Petrocelli later heard that one of the other paramedics from that night had committed suicide years later because she was so distraught that she could not save Ava.

Image result for bobby Petrocelli
Photo by Vinny Tennis, Daily Local News - Bobby Petrocelli speaks to Pennsylvania State Police and Chester County police officers about the night he lost his wife Ava to a drunk driver. Petrocelli, also injured in the crash, now speaks to first-responders to encourage them to seek help after they respond to a traumatic experience.
“(The paramedic) dedicated her life to saving others. She did everything that she could to restore my family that night and it just didn’t happen. She tried her best. She carried that shame and that guilt around with her,” Petrocelli said. “You will see things; you have seen things that sometimes will work on you.”

Petrocelli now speaks to first-responders to urge them to confide in each other when they need help. He told the officers to find a way to cope. He encouraged the police to talk with someone when overwhelmed by what they have experienced. A person of faith, Petrocelli urged them to talk, pray and even cry with someone about it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fire prevention week teaches people of all ages to be safe

Firefighters nationwide during fire prevention week are teaching elementary school students how to “stop, drop and roll.”

Firefighters visit students at their schools in October to talk about fire prevention and safety measures. Kids get excited when they see the firefighters arrive on their apparatus.The firefighters gear up in their protective  clothing and SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus)  to show kids what they will look like during an emergency, as a way to show the kids they are not scary, but rather, they are there to help them.  Firefighters show them how to crawl low in smoky conditions and what to do in the event of a fire.

I remember attending these school programs and open houses at fire stations throughout Delaware County when I was a kid and how I found everything exciting – there was so much to see on the ambulances, the fire apparatus and in the respective stations.

Whether I’m at such events as a volunteer firefighter or a journalist, I noticed that some students are not shy about asking the firefighters questions. Asking questions is another way to learn.

Firefighters encourage students to practice fire drills at home, similar to the fire drills they practice at school with their classmates and teachers. They encourage families to designate a safe meeting spot, such as at a neighbor’s house where they can call 911 during an emergency. Practicing such drills helps kids know what to do when the smoke detector sounds.