The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Presentations aimed at preventing tragedies like death of Calgary police officer John Petropoulos

dealing with danger in the workplace As a 911 emergency operator, Jody Jones knows what to do when tragedy strikes.

After being informed that Calgary Police Service Const. John Petropoulos died on duty after a fatal fall, Jones knew she wanted to improve health and safety in all fields, not just for emergency workers. She was proactive by getting involved in the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF).

In 2000, Petropoulos, 32, responded to a break-and-enter call. After finding no potential criminal on the lower level of the building, there was only a mezzanine left to check. Petropoulos searched behind boxes, again to no avail. He walked across the mezzanine and onto a false ceiling that was not sealed off by a railing, which the law requires.

Petropoulos fell nine feet and hit his head, eventually dying from brain injuries.

Jones is the fund's spokesperson and travels across Alberta and Canada spreading the message of the importance of safety.

"I really get to bring that idea back to the forefront and knowing that I'm talking about an issue that a lot of people aren't talking about," said Jones, adding, "to raise that awareness."

Jones believes being able to get people to look at safety from a different perspective is not only challenging, but fun as well.

Jones added that small changes in thinking go a long way to bringing about big change.

"I also get to see that bigger picture and if I can have the impact on one person in my presentations, then give us feedback on something that they've changed, whether it be tying down equipment in the back of their pick-up truck or clearing out their entry way," she said.

Leaning on her experience as a 911 operator, Jones said her work with the memorial fund has resulted in her talking to companies about the telephone number staff use to access an outside line, or "dial out."

Many businesses use 9 to reach an outside line, she noted, and "that leads to a lot of 911 misdials — we have 300 in Calgary a day — so there have actually been companies that have changed their dial-out number because of the JPMF message and that's powerful."

Others with the memorial fund have acknowledged the hard work that Jones has done to spread their message.

"Jody is an outstanding public speaker and very experienced at delivering the JPMF workplace safety presentations," said Maryanne Pope, the widow of Petropoulos and chair of the fund.

"What this says about her character is that she is very passionate about public speaking and about the subject matter, educating the public about why and how to make their workplaces safer for "The most effective public speakers are the ones who realize they are the messenger not the hero."

- Maryanne Pope, the widow of Petropoulos and chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial fund
 everyone, including emergency responders," Pope said.

"I guess I walk in thinking of the bigger picture. I walk in thinking if I can impact one person here and then seeing the responses afterwards of when I do have an impact, that pays for itself in that," Jones said.

Pope also realizes that the bigger picture is what the fund has to focus on, an attitude that reflects why Jones has been a perfect fit for the JPMF.

"The most effective public speakers are the ones who realize they are the messenger, not the hero. The hero is actually the audience members, for it is up to them to determine whether or not they will actually take what they have learned and implement it in their own lives in some way," Pope said.

"A powerful presenter committed to effecting change in behaviour, such as Jody, understands this and delivers their presentation accordingly," she added.

Audience members seem to grasp that there is merit to what Jones and the fund are doing.

"It's something that people know is important but I think take for granted. It gets you to examine your own practices and question what you can do to improve them," said Andrew Jayrod, an attendee of a recent presentation.

 "She [Jones] was really engaging, and that really helps. People may go into these types of presentations thinking that there's nothing they can tell me that I don't know, but it is about improving as well as implementing," Jayrod said.

Produced by Ashley Grant

Jones understands that balance is tremendously important to continue discussing tragic events and family life seems to be that counter balance for Jones.

"For me, some of my biggest ones are playing with my kids, or I make sure I have time to hang out with them and just enjoy the simpler things in life and be able to not worry so much about what's going on out there," said the mother of two.

"But focus back to the real reason why every one of us goes to work every day. It's for those small little pleasures, or going to movies, or going for a walk, or going to dinner with your husband. There's such a wide variety of ways we can take care of ourselves in this field."

Though it would be ideal if the message of working in safe conditions did not need to be repeated, the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund will continue spreading its message and hopefully influencing people.

"I think it's a message that is so versatile and the message could change every single time, to talking about what's going on behind the scenes to worksite safety, that really this message has longevity," said Jones, adding the JPMF should be able to operate for a long time but "the barrier to that is funding."

Getting secure funding could help spread the memorial fund's message in-person more often than they currently do.

"We've presented all the way to Montréal and all the way to Victoria, but the funding isn't Canada-wide," Jones said. "We only have funding for Alberta so we're pretty limited in our scope as of
now, so once that falls into place this could go national."

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