When it comes to dealing with the media, Ray Francis knows a thing or two.
In this photo taken before his retirement, Ray Francis, director of community relations and training, organizes an ambulance at EMS headquarters in Moose Jaw.
Francis, who retired in 2013 after 32 years of service with the Moose Jaw EMS as a paramedic, also spent several years fielding questions from local media for the organization as its director of community relations and training.
And at the 14th annual First Responders/EMS Conference at the Heritage Inn this weekend, Francis imparted some of his hard-won knowledge on the event's participants.
He said a focus of his presentation was teaching his former peers "not to be afraid of the media."
"Use the media to your advantage to help alleviate some problems," he said. "For instance, if there's a collision on the highway, the media can divert traffic away. … There are all sorts of different avenues, but the key message is to make sure the media is your friend."
Francis's discussion highlighted several of the key "do's" and "do nots" for First Responders and EMS workers when handling the media.
"Sometimes, you have a microphone shoved in your face and a question asked, and you feel obligated to answer the question," said Francis. "That may be the completely incorrect thing to do. Maybe you aren't the person to do that. Maybe you don't have the skills, knowledge or information to do it."
Instead, he said, it's best to "treat the media respectfully," and inform them that more information will be available later, or redirect them to a source who can help.
Also notable are the potential avenues for win-win deals with the media, he said.
"We have news stories. Even if the reporter just wants to look at our equipment or training, we always have news stories for the media," said Francis.
"Why not let them put those stories out and promote the profession? It makes it good for everybody — it gives the media a story, and it helps promote us."
And promotion — as well as proper media training — is essential for modern EMS organizations, Francis suggested.
"We find there's very few EMS services that actually have a media program," he said. "We encourage more media training so everyone can experience the benefits we've seen here in Moose Jaw."