Protecting Those Who Protect You

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Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Ian Wilson, Managing Director of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF), as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.

We seldom think of first responders as people we need to watch out for.

They are the men and women on the front lines of medical emergencies, they run into burning buildings, and they go to places – physical and psychological places – that no one wants to go.

They are mentally, physically and psychologically strong.

Yet, first responders are human and they are vulnerable.

A clear illustration of this occurred on Sept. 29, 2000 at a warehouse in Calgary, Alberta. Police responded to an alarm call and began searching for an intruder. Const. John Petropoulos climbed up to a mezzanine level and, as he searched the building, he stepped from a safe surface onto a false ceiling. The ceiling gave way and John fell 9 feet. His head struck the concrete floor and the blow was fatal.

As it turned out, there was no intruder in the building. It wasn’t a “bad guy” that killed John. It was a dangerous workplace that claimed his life – not exactly the kind of police fatality you typically see on TV, at the movies or in the news. An investigation revealed that a simple safety railing would have saved John’s life.

Despite the apparent lack of glory surrounding John’s death, his passing at age 32 left an enormous hole. Left behind were his parents, a brother, a sister and his widow. His stunned colleagues also struggled to make sense of the tragedy.


const.johnpetropoulosJohn’s death didn’t bring with it the usual questions that accompany a police fatality. His training was not an issue – he had done nothing wrong during the search. No failing of the justice system led to his passing. Nonetheless, something went wrong and the negligence needed to be addressed.

With that in mind, John’s widow – Maryanne Pope – and his recruit classmates created the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF), an organization committed to educating the public about steps they can take to create safer workplaces for first responders.

Workplace safety from the perspective of emergency responders – including police, firefighters and EMS personnel – became the calling card of the JPMF, which became a non-profit society in 2005 and a registered charity in 2011. The charity sought to create a world where first responders could return home safely to their families after every shift. Their safety initiatives included traffic safety messages because the workplace of first responders is everywhere, including work sites, residences and roadways.


As we created safety messages that would fulfill our mission – public service announcements (PSAs) in print, radio and video form – we discovered that while we were striving to create a safer world for first responders, a side effect was that this would also create a safer world for everybody. First responders don’t work in a bubble, so any steps that the public takes to create safer homes, workplaces and roads would make the world safer for all.

Our PSAs have now aired on TV throughout North America over one million times. They’ve also been viewed online thousands of times and been heard on the radio across Canada.

We have delivered over 200 safety presentations – using John’s death as a powerful example – to more than 15,000 people.

It’s difficult to measure with certainty how many fatalities and injuries we’ve prevented, but we will continue to look out for first responders and ask others to do so as well. By raising awareness about first responder safety and educating the public, we’re helping to create a world where first responders can focus on their jobs and return home safely to their families. In the meantime, we’re also creating safer conditions for everyone so they can return home safely to their families too.

To learn more about JPMF, please visit their charity profile page >>>

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