Illinois Firefighter Peer Support


We probably all remember our first day in the firehouse. You probably also remember the training program. Whether it was in-house training or a local academy, you no doubt learned the basics. As they should, they likely stressed the importance of how to safely enter a life-threatening atmosphere— fully encapsulated for your safety, remembering to keep your mask on through overhaul and keeping your hood up so that no skin is exposed.

While all of that is very important, the one thing we have never taken time to teach about is the importance of protecting your mental health. Whether you are in a busy urban firehouse or, on a rural department, you will without question be faced with some horrific situations. While some of us have a good structure of people that can help us process some of the things we see, not all of us do. There is a limited pool of people for first responders to talk to because most people just do not have the life experience to relate to the things we see.

This is where Illinois Fire Fighter Peer Support comes in. We are a group of trained firefighters and emergency responders who answer the call to their brothers and sisters in need, regardless of what that need is. ILFFPS is here for all fire and EMS first responders throughout the state including full-time, part-time, urban, and rural. We even help our neighboring states when the need arises. We receive calls from our 8-5-5 number or through the website. After pairing up two peers, the original request is deleted. ILFFPS never has and never will keep personal information. Everything is anonymous.

When meeting with a peer, our mantra is, “Listen / Relate / Validate.” We train our peers on listening skills so that they can be a presence for the person that requests help. Additionally, all our peers are current or retired first responders, they have had similar experiences and can easily relate to your struggles. The last piece is validation. Because of our shared experience, we can say that we have been there. It’s ok to not be ok, today. Most situations are what we call a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. The latest studies indicate that in order to decrease the likelihood of PTSD, the window for reaching out after a traumatic event is ten days. Reaching out can include talking to a trusted friend, a chaplain, or a peer. What is important is that we make it safe to reach out, make it safe to say “something affected me.”

For more information please check us out on Facebook or visit us on the web at

Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Inaugural Symposium March 21-22, 2019 Double Tree by Hilton 1909 Spring Road Oak Brook, IL 60523

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