Is your workplace safe for everyone, including police, fire and EMS who might have to attend during an emergency?


Not sure? Here are ten simple ways to help you find out:

  1. Take a good look around your workplace. Right now.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Imagine you are a first responder seeing the place for the first time.
  4. Open your eyes.
  5. Look around your work space again but this time, see it from their perspective.
  6. And since they likely aren’t in your workplace for a picnic, throw in some smoke in the case of fire, or perhaps an alarm in the case of a break and enter.
  7. Now ask yourself: are there any hazards that I am aware of – in the light of day under normal circumstances – but someone unfamiliar with this premise/yard/site attending during an emergency wouldn’t be able to see?
  8. If you can’t answer that question, take a quick look at the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund’s 10-minute safety video, Put Yourself in Our Boots.
  9. If you can answer that question and do see a hazard that could be a potential danger to someone unfamiliar with your premise: fix, change or remove it.
  10. Today.

Don’t think a fatality can happen at your workplace?

Think again. It can. It did.

On September 29th, 2000 Calgary police officer, Cst John Petropoulos, was searching the mezzanine level of a warehouse during the investigation of a break and enter complaint. John stepped through an unmarked false ceiling, fell into the lunchroom below and died of head injuries. There was no safety railing in place to warn him – or anyone else – of the danger. The complaint turned out to be a false alarm; there was no intruder in the building.

Here’s what the K-9 officer, who was working with John the night he fell, had to say:

Cst John Petropoulos
Cst John Petropoulos receiving police badge, 1997

“As emergency services workers, we are tasked with protecting our community in environments that are never predictable, always volatile, and often beyond our control. We tread into environments that demand skill and knowledge; where putting one foot in front of the other is a way of life. Still, there are unsafe elements that exist in our workplace that we cannot expect, where only the unexpected happens.

The work of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund brings to the forefront the issue of workplace safety after hours – when our community is asleep, we are protecting their businesses, properties and investments, which are often themselves the very menace we face. The JPMF inspires us to carefully continue putting one foot in front of the other while demanding that the community protect us as we protect them.”

– Staff Sergeant Darren Leggatt, Calgary Police Service

If you’ve never considered the safety of first responders who may have to attend your workplace in case of emergency, you’re not alone.

Here’s a candid comment by an OH&S Manager after hearing a John Petropoulos Memorial Fund workplace safety presentation:

“I have been involved in safety for 18 years and 9 years as a Manager. I am embarrassed to admit that I never thought of the Health and Safety of emergency response workers who may have to enter our property. Hearing the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund’s workplace safety presentation brought awareness about the safety of emergency workers who may have to respond at our facilities.”

Maryanne Pope was married to John Petropoulos and is the author of A Widow’s Awakening. Maryanne also writes screenplays and play scripts, including Saviour. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc  and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund.

Maryanne Pope