Future First Responders Learn Resilience Training

"I wish I would have been taught this"

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – We first introduced you to Sioux Falls Fire Rescue apparatus operator Kirk Rangel back in May, when he talked about the stress of the job taking a toll on him, and his coworkers. Thursday, he’s highlighting this to the next wave of EMS workers, in hopes to decrease the number of first responders taking their lives.

Kirk Rangel remembers being in EMS students’ shoes.

“I actually see myself just like you, with my arms folded, like what is this guy going to tell me this morning,” he jokes to one of the students.

But he doesn’t remember learning the topic he’s teaching today: resilience. That’s because the lesson didn’t exist back then.

“There’s so many important components that are apart of resilience that I wish I would have been taught,” says Rangel.

Rangel isn’t the only one who’s missed out.

“When I was an EMT student many years ago, the stress section was buried in the way last chapter of the book, almost as an afterthought,” says program director for the Avera McKennan School of EMS, Julie Swenson.

That’s why the School of EMS and Rangel area teaming up to educate on how to cope with stress.

“We just want to make sure that people understand what they are getting themselves into,” explains Rangel.

Last year, Rangel conducted a survey within Sioux Falls Fire Rescue asking how many have contemplated suicide; 19 percent of the members said they have. And Since 2005, five firefighters have died by suicide.

“I think the culture is that we need to be big and tough and not let anyone bother us,” says Swenson. “The fact of the matter is people are people, and even people in emergency services, they see things that can bother them.”

The pair is teaching EMS students to have a plan on how to handle these situations before they’re in the field experiencing them.

“Find someone that you can trust to talk and work through it,” explains Swenson.

“Understanding that death isn’t something we can control, what we can control is my attitude, my thoughts, my thinking,” adds Rangel. “Practice calming your breathing, box breathing, meditation, those skills are part of that resilience.”

The stress and resilience presentation also teaches students how to take care of their bodies, including eating healthy, drinking plenty of fluids and getting at least 8 hours of sleep.

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