In my household we have a term that we use with our 5 children called “first responders.” We have made songs about it, drawn pictures about it and I’ve read inspiring stories about heroes that have lived it. In an effort to shape the culture of our family: that we celebrate the philosophy of being a first responder. 

We are passionate about this subject because my wife and I spent 14 years in humanitarian work all over the world including doing first responder work in Haiti 8 days after the earthquake. We have given our lives, finances, and time for over a decade to mobilizing young people on behalf of the causes facing this generation.

My own dad was a first responder as a crisis response mental health worker and he served at Ground Zero after 9/11 for a few weeks just days after the planes struck the Twin Towers. I remember as a kid hearing his stories of counseling traumatized firefighters and facilitating reconciliation between NYPD and NYFD amid the stress of the unfolding disaster. Just the act of him taking the time to do that left an imprint on me and has inspired me to always look for ways to be helpful regardless of the circumstance. 

Now that we are facing a global pandemic with Covid-19, we are taking that passion that has been modeled for us and asking the question: 

What does leadership in light of this global crisis look like?

I don’t just mean world leaders, I mean: local leaders, faith leaders, business leaders, influencers, and even just the trait of “leadership” being expressed by an individual in a friend group or neighborhood — all of these people are exhibiting leadership and all of us can too.

No matter the pressures we are facing we all have the responsibility or as I like to say, response-ability to lead and bring value to others. Our tendency when faced with emergency situations is to self-protect, but if you are reading this article you most likely have said yes to being a person who looks out for more than just yourself and is committed to being a pillar of strength to those around you. 

So because you are already passionate about helping others, let’s devote the remainder of the article to unpacking the attributes of effective emergency leadership.

Here are 7 areas that we need to focus on to be the most helpful:

Communication

Being able to effectively communicate with a person or community, in a high pressure situation, is a very important part of a first responder’s role. Calming and motivating people with key directives can mean the difference between life and death. The last thing we would want to do is try to help only to make the problem worse. Communication is also crucial for explaining the situation to other emergency care providers.

Activate: In this Coronavirus situation how are you communicating? Are you being a voice of calm and of motivator of others to take necessary action? 


Empathy

Being able to put yourself in the mindset of the victim is a useful trait as it helps the responder understand that person’s perspective and to frame events positively. Listening and seeking to understand is incredibly powerful especially when de-escalating a situation. We never force people to do things, so learning to meet people where they are at is crucial to build rapport to be able to move them in the right direction. 

Activate: How much are you listening during this pandemic? How much have you taken time to consider how this crisis could feel to different cohorts in society? Before you judge someone’s response what would happen if you responded with thoughtful questions that would help calm the situation? 


Fitness

A range of emergencies take place in remote or awkward locations. So having someone who is physically fit enough to get to the victim, get them out of a situation or get to the emergency services, is important.

Activate: In this pandemic circumstance fitness takes on a whole new dimension because what is being compromised is our health! Our position is strengthened if we have been in a place of taking care of ourselves physically. Both to weather the virus, and also to serve those around you. Take steps now to take care of your personal health. 


Initiative

In the most basic sense being a person of initiative means that if you happen upon an emergency situation you take action. You do not wait for others to do it. You do it. You are a person of action. 

Activate: What are you doing to bring value to others? What are your giftings? How can you be creative to care for those in your community in this time of social distancing? 


Positivity

A person who believes that there can be a positive outcome, no matter what hurdles lie ahead, is far more likely to come to a person’s aid in what looks like a dire situation. These types of people also have a strong belief in their ability to tackle challenges and beat the odds.

Activate: Optimism is powerful and gives people hope. There is an old saying, “He who hopes the most, leads the most.” So how are you expressing positivity? How have your phone calls been? How has your social media presence been? Have you been using your voice as one of encouragement and hope? 


Vigilance

A first responder must be able to quickly assess the situation and establish the potential risks to themselves and the victim. Think of the airline stewardess reminding passengers to put on their oxygen mask first before helping others. This is because if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others. So simply put, self care is strategic for focusing on helping others. 

Activate: Are you in a place of strength to serve right now? Make sure you have a foundation to take care of your needs before trying to help others. In this season of social distancing make sure to take the steps to be in a healthy place mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually and then you will be able to be a healthy influence in the lives of others in your relationship circle. 


Courage

Fear immobilizes action. Leadership in light of crisis involves being brave and confident, to not shrink back but to do what you can to help. Courage is one of the foundational traits of a first responder which is why they are such inspiring figures to aspire to be like. 

Activate: Fear is one of the most unhelpful attitudes to adopt or to influence others with right now. Fear and the stress it produces actually compromise immune function. So the last thing we need on many levels personally, economically, and emotionally is fear. So overcome fear personally and be a person who actively dismantles fear with your influence.


Honest Media is not just the name of our business, it is a concept that we seek to embody. We believe that media has a role to be helpful and a force for good on the earth. Thanks for reading this 2nd article in “This Awkward Opportunity.” More to come!

Thank you Aid Training for being an inspiration for this article.

Jeremy Bardwell

Jeremy Bardwell

Jeremy is the Co-Founder Honest Media alongside his wife Natalie. Together they have 5 children. Jeremy and Natalie are community builders and catalysts. They also love their giant Newfoundland named North. :)

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"Honesty is the Revolution."