Summit Focuses on Peer Support for Burn-Injured Firefighters
Peer support for burn-injured firefighters and their families was the topic of a 2-day summit held in Phoenix, Arizona, in January 2013.
Representatives of the Phoenix Society’s Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery (SOAR) program, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Charitable Foundation, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), and the University of Kentucky College of Social Work gathered to discuss the specific support needs of burn-injured firefighters and their families. SOAR instructors, coordinators, and peer supporters; IAFF district coordinators; and representatives of burn foundations and the NFFF were among those who took part in the discussion.
Participants learned about the Phoenix Society’s SOAR program in general, as well as the firefighter-specific component that has been recently added. That module plays a key role in the Society’s efforts to ensure access to peer support for firefighters who risk injury in the line of duty, as well as their families.
Summit participants developed goals for future work and began a discussion of dissemination strategies. They plan to continue exploration of these topics at the meeting at the American Burn Association this spring. The Society will be moving forward with the development of online resources and working to ensure the sustainability of the SOAR program.
Gretta Wilkinson, a SOAR instructor and summit participant, said, “I enjoyed meeting and working with everyone at the Educational Summit in Phoenix. I thought the meeting was so informative and inspirational in what we do with the Soar Program. As always, the survivors make it such a humbling experience and reinforce and encourage us to continue with our efforts.”
“The Firefighter Peer Support Summit was an eye opener to all in attendance,“ said summit participant Rob Kokko, a firefighter who experienced a burn injury 13 years ago and has trained as a SOAR volunteer. Rob saw the summit as an opportunity for the groups involved “to get the proper game plan down, to come together as one” as they work toward common goals. Rob describes SOAR peer support as a way to extend a helping hand while survivors and their families are dealing with a horrific experience—to let them know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that there are caring people available to listen to their stories and to help them along their journey of recovery.
Stressing the importance of the cooperative spirit among the participants, Phoenix Society Program Director Pam Peterson said, “This exciting effort would not have been possible without the investment and interest of all of those individuals and organizations involved. We especially would like to extend our gratitude to the burninjured firefighters and their spouses who participated in the focus groups and surveys that initially explored peer support as a resource for firefighters. They have provided the foundation on which this project has been built. We would also like to thank everyone who participated in the summit, which has furthered the Society’s goal of ensuring access to peer support for anyone affected by a burn injury.”