Encore: How to Lighten the Load for Those Who Bear It with Sue Farren and Bailey Farren


 “Don’t isolate first responders by making them into heroes. The greatest thing that anyone can do is just say, ‘thank you for your service.’” -Susan Farren


“We owe it to our first responders to do whatever we can to help make their jobs easier.” -Bailey Farren


Our first responders and healthcare workers sacrifice so much to care for our communities during times of crisis. They put their own health and safety at risk on a daily basis to save lives. However, the trauma and stress of responding to disaster after disaster take a tremendous toll. Thus, we must find ways to support their well-being. Truly, our first responders deserve nothing less for their selfless service. 


In this episode, Jennifer interviews two outstanding pioneers in this field, Susan Farren, Founder of First Responders Resiliency, a nonprofit organization that provides proactive training to help mitigate the effects of trauma and stress for first responders, and Bailey Farren, CEO and co-founder of Perimeter, a map-based platform to provide real-time situational information to first responders and citizens. With over 33 years of experience as a paramedic, Sue was inspired to start First Responders Resiliency after being diagnosed with kidney cancer and learning about the health impacts experienced by many in the first responder community. On the other hand, Bailey was motivated to start Perimeter after seeing how first responders and those affected lacked access to up-to-date information.

Join in as Jennifer, Sue, and Bailey dive deep into the increasing toll that responding to massive, fast-moving wildfires is taking on first responders’ mental and physical health. They also highlight ways to create innovative solutions to support first responders, the challenges of funding organizations in this space, scaling technology to reach more communities, and valuable insights into how communities can better partner with and care for the public servants risking their lives every day to keep us safe.




  • 01:17 Different but Effective Ways to Help the Helpers
  • 09:38 Improving Disaster Response Through Geospatial Mapping
  • 12:29 First Responders Mental Health
  • 16:07 Fire Safety and Tech to Reduce Anxiety for First Responders
  • 24:40 Funding Challenges
  • 32:20 Showing Support and Gratitude
  • 40:14 Community Preparedness for Disasters
  • 43:07 Resiliency Centers for First Responders



Help the helpers! This week, @AfterTheFireUSA sits with mother and daughter, Susan Farren, Founder of @Resiliency1st and @bailey_farren, CEO and co-founder of Perimeter to discuss practical ways and techniques to help first responders overcome stress and trauma from the frontlines. #Recover #Rebuild #Reimagine #NorthBay #podcast #wildfire #disaster #privatesector #firstresponders #welfare #health



07:46 “When you walk in the door, and you’ve been exposed to trauma, your families can feel it, whether or not you’re saying it with your mouth.” -Susan Farren

08:41 “Stress suppresses your immune system. So the best thing any of us can do is to have daily regular techniques and skill sets that we utilize to keep that stress at bay.”  -Susan Farren

14:51 “When you’ve been gone, your families have nothing to relate to other than what they’re seeing on the television. So the impact on the first responders psychologically and emotionally is increasing beyond anything any of us have experienced in the past.” -Susan Farren

21:18 “The old way of doing things isn’t going to cut it for the types of fire seasons that we’re seeing now.” -Bailey Farren

28:32 “This is not just about me, these are about the people that I love and have worked beside my whole life. And so there’s a passion in me, a fire that will not be quenched.”  -Susan Farren

33:53 “Departments are losing a dozen officers, and they’re talking about having to bring all these young people on who don’t have any experience. That can be super detrimental in our industry because we need the senior folks to lead the younger ones down the trenches so they know how to keep themselves safe.” -Susan Farren

34:40 “Don’t isolate first responders by making them into heroes.” -Susan Farren

34:55 “There must be a way to express our gratitude. We make them heroes- we make it so they don’t need and they do need- they’re human.” -Jennifer Thompson

35:10 “The greatest thing that anyone can do is just say, ‘thank you for your service.’” -Susan Farren

40:29 “We tend to hope for and expect public safety to come in to save us. But during these instances where our public safety is stretched so thin, citizens have to take their safety into their hands.” -Bailey Farren

42:38 “Spending a little bit of time in advance of fire season to understand the risks in your communities, and if there’s something that you or any of the organizations that you’re involved with, can do to mitigate some of those risks, we’ll have, safer communities across the nation.” -Bailey Farren

42:58 “We owe it to our first responders to do whatever we can to help make their jobs easier.” -Bailey Farren


Meet Sue:

Susan Farren is the founder of First Responders Resiliency Inc. A graduate of the Stanford paramedic program, Susan has served her entire career in the industry of pre-hospital care. Serving in both the private and public sectors as a paramedic, supervisor, operations manager, peer counselor, clinical manager, EMS educator, and consultant throughout the greater Bay Area. After being diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2016, Susan had to come to grips with the physical, emotional, and mental impact the career had taken on her – and the Resiliency Training Program was born. After her treatment and recovery, Susan dove into the research and subsequent data discovered involving the mental and physical impacts the industry had taken on her. Armed with that knowledge she pulled together a team of experts from every division of the industry who are working as a team to change the lives of First Responders. A regularly sought-after inspirational speaker and the published author of The Fireman’s Wife, A Memoir. Her second book, Firestorm, A Survivor’s Story is released in 2019


Meet Bailey:

Bailey Farren is the Co-Founder of Perimeter, a team designed to put out fires. She heads the team as CEO, directing sales, fundraising, and team operations. Coming from a family of first responders, she was inspired to develop Perimeter after experiencing the Tubbs Fire in her hometown of Santa Rosa. She brings over six years of technology sales experience to the team and extensive knowledge of data-driven business models. 




Jennifer Gray Thompson: Welcome to How To Disaster, a playbook to recover, rebuild and reimagine. My name is Jennifer Gray Thompson. And it is my distinct, it is my pleasure to introduce you to two powerhouse women making a difference in the lives of first responders. Our first guest is Bailey Farren. Bailey is the CEO and Founder of a startup for profit called Perimeter. And our other guest, her mother, Susan Farren, she’s the CEO and Founder of First Responders Resiliency

Welcome, ladies.

Susan Farren: Thank you, Jennifer

Bailey Farren: Thanks.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Thank you. Well, let’s go ahead. I do like to start with the source of it all. So I’m hoping to actually start with Susan Farren. What I would love for you to do, Susan, is tell us a little bit about First Responders Resiliency. And then we’ll move over to Bailey, and then she can talk to us about Perimeter. Specifically, what is your organization, and what problem does it solve?

Susan Farren: Thanks, Jennifer. Thanks for having us on. First Responder Resiliency is a nonprofit organization that is run for first responders by first responders. What we do is we do proactive training for first responders, helping them to prepare for the trauma and stress that they’re going to be exposed to in their careers. And in my career as a paramedic, 33 years, everything that was afforded to us was after we got sick with the symptoms of post traumatic stress. So we work with all first responders, nurses, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, doctors, dispatchers and their families training them in the science and research related to what’s happening to them, and what they can do to prevent and mitigate the symptoms of post traumatic stress.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Now, I’m going to go over to Bailey next. And then I’m going to come back to you, Susan. Because I do want to talk about how each of your organizations actually solves a problem in a new and innovative way. One of the things that we love at RebBuild North Bay Foundation is really smart people. We’re working on really important problems, but coming up with different answers that we haven’t thought about. So Bailey, why don’t you tell us about Perimeter and why you started? What problem are you solving?

Bailey Farren: Yeah, absolutely. So Perimeter is a map based platform for situational intelligence. Really, it’s an app and a web link that users who are in a disaster, whether they are first responders or citizens can use to access information that can help them make better decisions during a disaster. So I started the platform after being evacuated from the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa of the year 2017. And at that time, my mom was evacuating. I drove up from school to help her do so. I was really shocked at the fact that first responders and citizens had so little access to real time information. So after that fire, myself and my team set out to create a platform that got that real time information into the hands of those who needed it most.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Thank you. Susan, I’m gonna come back to you and spend a couple more moments on that. So Susan, how does your organization solve this issue in a different way from say, we know that therapists are available for first responders, but what is it about your organization that’s entirely different and possibly more effective?

Susan Farren: Thank you. It’s a great question. Well, what we do here is we allow people to get ahead of the curve. So what’s happened historically in this industry is we’ve been afforded things like the employee assistance program, which can put you in touch with a therapist who may or may not have any experience with what you do for a living. We’ve had peer counseling and something called a debriefing. And as I mentioned before, all of these are reactive approaches. Once you begin to have symptoms of depression, isolation, maybe substance abuse, broken families and relationships, once those symptoms begin to exhibit, then these things are afforded to the first responders. When I began this organization, which whenever you want I’ll tell you about why this program was implemented?

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Go ahead and do it now. I think now’s a good time.

Susan Farren: So I had been a paramedic for just shy of 30 years when I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and initially that diagnosis was terminal. And when I had my surgery to remove half of my kidney and my tumor, one of the surgeons made a comment about seeing a lot of this in the first responder. First responders. And I said: “A lot of what?” And he said: “Organ cancer.” So I was aware that we had an issue with substance abuse and depression. I had partners who were medicated and struggling emotionally and financially, and there had been issues around suicide. But I’d never heard anyone discuss something like organ cancer. And that started me into the research of what was happening to first responders, and it was very similar to what was happening to war veterans. So we had very similar symptoms, they were cumulative, so it would sometimes take place over a series of years in our careers. And as I began to research this, I began to reverse engineer. Wait, if we could figure out what the end result was, then why can’t we get to the beginning? Where was this all beginning? 

And the first thing that I discovered was that there were neural anatomical changes. The actual human brain was changing by repeated exposures to trauma and stress. And then that led me into the psychology and the physical impacts of suppressing our emotions in our careers. I refer to it as like a non-smoking and a smoking section. You can’t be exposed to this at work in the smoking section and go home and pretend like you’re not still going to smell like smoke. And that’s kind of a bad analogy, but it fits the situation. And what I did was, as I began to reverse engineer this, I looked at everything involving human physiology and anatomy. And I created a program that allowed people to understand these changes will take place, whether you intend them to or not. And here are things you can do to mitigate those symptoms. So we train them in Nervous System control, how to discharge energy from their bodies after they’ve been on the line, or exposed to traumatic events, or repeated events in the emergency room, or even dispatching where they don’t get any release, no discharge release from all that energy. We train them in science and the research, then we give them modalities that they can utilize. 

So our internal mission statement is starting with ourselves, we train those who save others, to save themselves, and we give them the keys to their own castle. So we show them how they can work with their own physiology to stay well, stay healthy, stay balanced and be able to do the work that they love, and maintain their family relationships as well. So it’s the first time that I had ever heard of anything being proactive. So we’ve got really one of the first programs in the nation that offers proactive assistance to first responders. And as I mentioned, it’s not just us as first responders, we are law enforcement, fire, EMS folks, doctors, nurses, dispatchers, but we also work with Loma Linda University and UCLA. And we get empirical data to show that what we’re doing is working. So it’s been a tremendous experience.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I also like the fact that you attend to the entire family, and that you see trauma as more of a system of care. Can you spend a couple minutes talking about that? And then I’ll move over to Bailey.

Susan Farren: Yeah, absolutely. So what I have heard, and what I believe is true is symptoms of post traumatic stress are contagious. The first responders often say: “Why don’t you want to take my work home, so I don’t discuss it with my family members.” Well, when you walk in the door and you’ve been exposed to trauma, your family can feel it, whether or not you’re saying it with your mouth. So the families know. And they’re often very stressed out because they feel disconnected from the first responder, they’re not sharing what’s going on in their lives at work. So what we do is we train the families. When we host our three day conferences, we bring the families in on the third day, and we give them almost like a miniature conference. We introduce them to what’s happening physiologically to the first responder. Why they have some of these non coping coping skills, because it seems to be working at work. So clearly, it must work at home, which isn’t true. And then we talk about what techniques we’ve given them to care for themselves. And then we give the families the same modalities so that the families are not put in a position to try to rescue or fix the first responder. But they’re given the same skills on how to mitigate the symptoms of stress. And even just in our environment with COVID, when you’re under stress that actually suppresses your immune system. So the best thing any of us can do is have daily regular techniques and skill sets that we utilize to keep that stress at bay.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Great, thank you. Now Bailey, I am super fascinated with Perimeter because I love the fact that you are an entrepreneur like your mom. But I am also interested in the problem that you’re trying to solve. Can you talk to us about, I mean, you sort of outlined the problem, you’re going to solve it, one thing to go from an idea of, we can’t track where we should be evacuating to, where the fire is to actually move this into a thing, it’s an entire thing. So you’re taking an idea and you’re making it into a real service, in a real startup. Can you talk to us about why you are unique in this space, and how important it is? Especially for first responders to have real time information about where to go and how to use science to mitigate some of the risks.

Bailey Farren: Yeah, absolutely. I think just piggybacking off of what my mom said during a natural disaster, and during any kind of stressful situation, you’re really using different parts of your brain to respond. And something that we have seen to be the case time and time again, during something like an event that you might need to evacuate from is people are incredibly stressed. And when you’re stressed, you’re not using the part of your brain that makes the most intelligent types of decision making. So what we want to do as a company is get people’s information in the simplest, most efficient and relevant way possible. Right now, today, if you as a citizen were being evacuated from a wildfire, for example, you would be at best sent a text alert that described the zone that you would be evacuating from. And maybe on a regular day, if you were asked to draw a polygon using different types of text based directions to figure out where the fire is, where the evacuation zone is and what you need to do, you might be able to do that. But during an evacuation, something that is incredibly high stress, it’s increasingly difficult to actually figure out what’s the best decision to make for you and your family to be as safe as possible. 

So one of the big problems that we set out to solve was just the fact that people have so little effective geospatial map based information about where to go and how to get there during a disaster. And when we learned about this problem for citizens, it got me asking a lot of questions, starting with my dad’s department in Petaluma, California, and branching into a lot of other fire departments in California and on the west coast. What I learned is that first responders are also depending on not real time information, but oftentimes, relying on paper maps and radios to make a lot of decisions when it comes to containment of one of these incidents. 

So at Perimeter, we look at both these scenarios. We’d recognize that there’s only a few specific essential types of information that both first responders and citizens need to be able to make the most effective decisions possible. Our goal is to create that platform, and not only provide the most relevant information for both parties, but also to give them an interface that allows them to have the gap bridge, the communication gap bridged between the two different types of people during one of these situations. We believe that by bringing first responders and public safety into and in conversation with the general public by getting them the information that they need to make decisions. We’re going to have much more effective processes when it comes to evacuation, containment and many other things during all types of disasters.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Thank you. I want to come back in a minute to how it went this fire season with Steve Akre at Sonoma Valley Fire Rescue Authority because I did a little bit of seed funding for you, really, because we also want the world to step up. We’re hoping that they see the wisdom of perimeter and invest in YouTube. So full disclosure, that’s part of the deal. But I’m going to go back to your mom for just a minute. I’m going to actually ask you the same question. One of our big concerns is about how fire has changed. We’re seeing very different wildfires in the past three to five years, really starting with the Valley Fire, and then really showing its hand during the 2017 fires here. 2018 campfire, the Thomas Fire also in 2018. And then this past fire season was absolutely horrendous. And I think it’s probably just about over. It was really very challenging. Susan, what are you seeing in first responders having to not only respond to fighting fires during a global pandemic to stay safe, and that extra added stress. But in addition to that, the type, speed and size of these fires. So what are you seeing there?

Susan Farren: Well, Jen, I think the biggest thing that we’re noticing is because of the size of these fires. The firefighters are oftentimes as you well know in our area coming in from out of the area. So we’re getting firefighters from Los Angeles all over the state, sometimes out of state coming to help us, and many of these firefighters from the state agencies and local agencies will be on the line. Sometimes, they’re on just for days or weeks at a time. But sometimes, you’re on for more than a month. So specifically related to things like Cal Fire. You can have firefighters out there for 39, 40 days, they’re away from their families. And sometimes, there’s the loss of life of one of their own colleagues while they’re still having to fight fire. They’re trying to process grief, which they can’t really do while they’re currently actively trying to fight fire, but they know that their colleagues are sometimes having to be rescued. There’s just this constant stress. What we deal with primarily is that sympathetic response that fight or flight, that’s this chronic dump of adrenaline and cortisol into their bloodstream and their systems, and it just completely wears them out. And I think one of the hardest things is the families, when they come back to their families after they’ve been gone all this time. 

And I’m not trying to make this exactly the same as war. But when you’ve been gone that period of time and you come back and your families have nothing to relate to other than what they’re seeing on the television, they’ve had very little contact with you. Sometimes, there’s not even cell coverage in some of these areas. So the impact on the first responders psychologically and emotionally is increasing. I mean, beyond anything, any of us have experienced in the past. And I would say that it’s fair to relate this back to, like I said, being gone for more than a month at a time, the impact. 

And here’s the really interesting thing that we’re discovering is that the following year when fire season is about to begin, firefighters are beginning to call into these programs like EAP, because they’re having anxiety attacks. So they’re not even thinking about the fires, but their nervous systems are responding to the fact that they recognize the time and season. And the first responders are beginning to have these sort of unconscious and unwanted responses, even though they love their jobs, their nervous system is scared and rightfully so. So enormous impact with the fires, it’s just, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that this would not just be the Tubbs Fire, the Paradise Fire, the Campfire, the Kincade fire, but it would just go on and on and on. So huge impacts on them psychologically, emotionally, physiologically.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: So I was in Southern Oregon a couple of weeks ago doing a community to community COVID tour essentially for the CZU Lightning Complex in Santa Cruz, and then I’ll meet a fire. I’ll meet a fire actually from arson. The CZU Lightning Complex is obviously from lightning. And when I was in Oregon, one of the fire chiefs was in this public meeting. He said he was sort of stunned. And he said, we’ve not had these fires here, we’ve done mutual aid in California. But all of a sudden, like that was their fire season where a lot of Oregon was on fire for that month. And the same is true for Colorado and Washington. So I foresee, and a greater need for actually both of your services coming up in the future. And Bailey, I’m going to turn back to you because one of the things that I like about Perimeter is it does increase safety. And I think there’s a direct relationship to how a firefighter might reduce his or her anxiety going into fire season. But also the families. I mean, can you talk about how exactly it works? Is it an app on your phone? Is it like, how exactly does Perimeter work? And how might it mitigate not only the dangers, but the stress for these overworked public servants?

Bailey Farren: Yeah, absolutely. So there are currently two interfaces for Perimeter. One of them is simply a cross platform web app. That means that if I sent you a link to your phone, you’d click it, it would take you to a website, and it would show you where you are on the map, and what kind of emergency incident information that would be most relevant to you where that is, as well. So we see the web link being something that will probably be primarily accessed by citizens who need to be able to make a quick decision and might not have time to download an app. However, we see the app itself as being incredibly valuable for the first responders because, in part, something that they deal with on a regular basis is, for example, losing connectivity, and they need to make sure that information is actually saved locally to their devices. 

So I think one thing that we’ll be able to do for the first responders that we work with, that can definitely minimize some aspects of the stress that they face is our platform will be automatically saving the information about the incident to their phone in a way that they don’t have to think about it, they don’t have to remember to download anything. As soon as they have any kind of connectivity, they have access to the map and any kind of relevant incident information, it’s already saved. And when they’re out in the middle of nowhere and they don’t have that connectivity, they still have access to the information that might make a huge difference in their lives. And the way that it works right now is, there is some information out there that we can kind of gather together or aggregate in a way that is really valuable for first responders. For example, wind speed and wind direction is a factor that drastically influences the cause and direction of a fire. And that’s something that we can provide to first responders in real time and in an incredibly intuitive way. Whereas for citizens, something that we’re really focused on, like I mentioned earlier, is all around the evacuation use case. It’s showing citizens gear you are in space, here’s the evacuation zone, and here are the routes that have been recommended for your evacuation, here are the temporary refuge areas that you might want to be going to. So that’s the type of thing information that we’re providing. And I think knowing that there’s one place for that information is absolutely essential to knowing that you can have things under control.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I know you did a pilot here in ReBuild North Bay was really proud to provide some funding for that. But is your product scalable? And do you plan on scaling? And if so, where and what’s your timeline,

Bailey Farren: In terms of being able to scale, we definitely believe that not only is it very possible for an organization, like Perimeter, to be able to reach a huge number of users, but we also think that it’s probably essential as well. Because it’s really effective, for you personally, when you have access to the real time incident information, you need to make decisions. But it’s even more effective when your neighbor and the neighboring county also has that information. Because not only are we intending to provide real time data to the people who need it, but we also want to give them space to collaborate and share information that maybe only they have. Whether you’re a citizen or a first responder, there’s a lot of room in and around these disasters to share information about what you’ve seen, what you’ve been exposed to. And that information can make a huge difference in the lives of people around you. So yes, we definitely believe in the potential for our project to reach a huge number of people. And I think to start there, what we have to do is we need to have a lot of success early on and provide a lot of value for our first few organizations that we work with. So what this looks like for us and what this requires is spending a lot of time ideally in person with some organizations that have chiefs that are really on the cutting edge in the forefront of modern technology. People who can recognize that the old way of doing things, business as usual, isn’t going to cut it for these new fires, for the types of fire seasons that we’re seeing now seemingly every year. 

And Steve Akre at Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority is definitely one such chief. He’s the person that ReBuild North Bay gave us some seed funds to work with. During the pandemic, it meant that we weren’t able to spend time in person. But during this offseason, we’re hoping to be able to spend a lot more time with Chief Akre in order to really understand the processes and the workflow of a department like Sonoma, in hopes of being able to really provide a ton of value for that type of agency as a fire department. And also to better understand exactly how we can help interface the Public Safety Agency itself with the general public.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: So we’re really sure that you are, the idea behind Perimeter, one of those problems that has to be solved because there is so much anxiety from the public sector, in the public service sector, but also the private citizen sector. But I can’t keep reloading this on my phone. And I think that from what we saw, the reason why we invested was, and we invested through a nonprofit to be clear, into a pilot program. We like public private partnerships so much, that what we saw was, there’s so much anxiety, as you mentioned, around the fires. So your mom also mentioned that, but also about how we can survive these routine evacuation events that we are experiencing. So we’re very excited about that. What are some of your challenges for funding? Or how do you approach the funding issue?

Bailey Farren: Yeah, that’s a really good question. We’re definitely unique in that, we are a startup. We are building something that we hope can scale as a technology to hundreds, if not thousands of organizations and communities. However, we’re also in a really unique space, many types of at least Silicon Valley investors haven’t really heard of, or don’t pay a tremendous attention to disaster response as a vertical. Sometimes, it’s not really clear if that need really exists. Oftentimes, typical investors are really surprised at the fact that first responders are relying on paper maps and radios, and that citizens are relying on simple texts to make decisions that will inevitably change their lives. So I think that there’s a lot of surprise in the industry and for us, it really takes getting to know investors who have maybe some exposure to the problem who understand that the technology is incredibly outdated. We really look for people who recognize that, in 2020, we’re still sending first responders, firefighters, etc. We’re sending them to these fires with World War II technology, radios and paper maps. And if we’re sending them to these fires and we have this expectation that they are going to risk their lives to save hours, then we need to be equipping them with the information and the tools to make the most effective decisions possible not only for our lives in our communities, but for their lives and their families. So those are the types of investors that we’ve been working with in the past. And those are the types of people that we’re looking to work with in the future.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think the World War II technology point is a great point. And I’m sure to use that all the time. Maybe for tech investors you could say, look, it’s kind of, I mean, think of it in terms of how far technology has come since 1996. But that law has not been updated on the federal level for what’s allowed and what’s not allowed for 25 years. So if you think of it, maybe in terms of that, but also World War II ended in 1945, which is quite a lot. That was actually 50 years before the internet laws that they’re trying to navigate at the same time. So I think it’s cool. This year, we also had Scott Adams do a Communication Failures in Disaster. And [inaudible] is our first scholar in residence, and specifically studied those issues. And I believe you’re interviewed in that. We’re hoping that this sort of thing will solve X, that this becomes more and more of a priority for investors, for nonprofits, for the public agencies. We’re seeing some of that. But I think COVID actually put another layer of it, emergency, because now we’ve all sort of experienced a disaster, which we hadn’t all done before.

Bailey Farren: Yeah, absolutely.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Bailey, can you tell us something personal, though, about how you are? And I’m going to go back to your mom for some business speak. But can you tell us something about what it’s like having a mom who’s an entrepreneur in the way that she is, but also you are solving a different problem. And what it’s like to be a young female entrepreneur was also a really badass mom.

Bailey Farren: Absolutely. So I have told my mom so many times, and probably everyone else who’s willing to listen, how grateful I am to have a mom who’s going through a somewhat similar journey as me these days. She started First Responders Resiliency before I started Perimeter. And I think our relationship has changed in some ways over the past few years as we’ve been leading our organizations, because we’ve really become like best friends who feel like we’re kind of fighting from the trenches in a way. That we both are showing up, starting companies in areas that so many people have, time and time again told us, we’re just not possible. They’ve told us that these problems are too hard to solve. 

And in my case, sometimes people see me and they wonder if, and why I’m the founder to do something like this. And I have been so grateful not only to be able to kind of walk side by side with my mom during this time in my life, but I’m also so grateful that we’re in a similar space. We are both doing work for first responders. And I think that, well, my mom has actually been a first responder for quite some time, and I haven’t. And yet I feel like this really is the space that I grew up in. I was homeschooled. So I really did spend a lot of time in and out of fire stations and ambulance headquarters. I feel like I was raised by both my parents to really put others and the community first. And I think that type of mentality, something that I was raised with, has played a huge role in Perimeter as an organization. And of course, plays a huge role in First Responders Resiliency as well.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I love that. Thank you. Susan, can you talk to us a little bit about the unsexy thing, which is funding. And then I want you to talk a little bit about Bailey, and what it’s like to be working in a similar space with your daughter.

Susan Farren: Yeah, okay. Let me answer the first question without crying. On the unsexy thing about funding, this is an interesting question during COVID. Especially since, as a new nonprofit, you would know this. As a new nonprofit, people don’t know who you are. What they really want to do is they want to see if you’ve got staying power. And as you know, I sold my home for the seed money to start this company. So I’ve got skin in the game. And I have staying power because this is not just about me, these are about the people that I love and have worked beside my whole life. So there’s a passion in me that will not be, a fire that will not be quenched until I have done what I intended to do, which is world domination. And really, just changing the culture of the first responder world and then eventually getting these resiliency centers built which is what my real big dream is. But in relation to funding, I think the real number one issue is people aware. Aware that first responders actually do need to have this kind of care to keep them alive. I use this example sometimes when speaking where, think about what it would be if we dial those three numbers we’re so used to and no one came. Or worse yet, not even worship, but also there was a delay. We’re so, in some ways entitled, that we dial those three numbers and people are there to put out the fires and save our family members. 

And when people recognize the enormous toll this industry has on them, they have to think, really, they really have to think about whether or not this is something they want to put themselves and their families through. So I want to get ahead of that and getting people aware of the need to fund this kind of work is always a bit of a challenge during COVID. I think there’s been a lot of financial insecurity and people are less likely to give to an organization they’re not super familiar with. We are definitely getting some credibility. We’ve had some good donors come in, folks like you who are aware of our work and helping get the word out about what we’re doing. We are actually pursuing right now a corporate partnership with an organization that buys equipment for, or makes equipment for first responders. And I pitched the idea that they could have a tagline that said something like, we protect the outside, First Responder Resiliency protects the inside. So collaborating to get that kind of thing out there.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Susan, can I interrupt you for just a second? Because that made me think of something. I’ve been really concerned watching the news about our health care workers, and how it is that they are handling the stress that is not only physical and emotional, it’s also political stress. We’re not going to go into politics at all. But I wonder, have you considered, if there was a way to adopt your program to help some of these health care workers that are going to come out of this pandemic, we’ll be lucky if we get the same level all the way through for the next year before we’re all vaccinated. Have you considered that? Because I’m very worried.

Susan Farren: Are you talking about the nurses and the doctors?

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah.

Susan Farren: We offer our training in those organizations as well. We have been contracted to come into a couple of the hospitals and work with their personnel. As you can well imagine, though, the staff are working so many hours that there’s so much overtime. That getting us to do some of the training becomes a time issue. Really, just getting us into training. What we’re trying to do is make this part of the career, as you go into the career, you get this training. And it’s a maintenance program. So you get it throughout your entire career, so you don’t have to worry about trying to squeeze it in in the middle of a crisis. But do I think this is going to have a massive impact? Yeah. Not just next year, three years from now. When you see people retiring early, I’ve spoken to law enforcement and fire personnel who have five or 10 years left in their careers, they’re pulling the pin, they’re gonna pick different work because it’s too much of an impact on themselves and their family members. And the crazy thing, and I know you know this, this all began at the beginning of COVID. What we were seeing is that healthcare workers were sometimes having to stay in hotels versus going home, because their families were worried about exposure as well. So the consequences of this kind of an impact is, specifically COVID, is going to have long term and long reaching consequences. We’re not going to see, I don’t think we’re going to see the real significant results of this whole pandemic until about three years afterwards.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Which is actually for me also a call to action, one of the things is that we talked about funding during COVID. And of course, we need to attend to things like food and security. And a lot of resources have had gone to, I think for us, one of the fascinating things about the pandemic is that, all of a sudden, a lot of people who weren’t sure of what we did or what the value was clung on to us, to try to figure out how to even approach their response to this global disaster, which was, I believe mismanaged into a catastrophe. We were very happy, it was exhausting work. But it was great work to step up into that space to help people actually find their lanes and figure out where to go. I’m concerned, I’m hoping that one of the things that happens for you at First Responders is that people actually join you in your effort to get ahead of it. Because that gives you 1 to 3 years to actually — up your capacity enough to be able to deliver those life saving services.

Susan Farren: Yeah. You see a lot for me, personally, you see a lot of things thanking the First Responders all over the city. Thank you, First Responders. And then you’ll see things like, donate to a coffee card, to buy them free coffee and food. And I, of course, appreciate that, especially after being a first responder. But then there’s this little piece of me that just kind of goes, oh, my gosh, they need more than coffee, we’ve got to give them the tools they need to stay alive so they can do this again next year. And what we want is we want people with experience on the line. One department has, they’re losing a dozen officers, and they’re talking about having to bring all these young people on who don’t have any experience. And that actually can be super detrimental in our industry, because we need the senior folks to be able to lead the younger ones down the trenches so they know how to keep themselves safe. There’s a lot of work ahead of us. I’m excited for the work. I’m excited for the expansion that we’re having. A lot of requests across the nation for our assistance. But like you said, it’s going to take funding. And hopefully, people will become aware that we’re out here and start to give in a way that allows us to be sustainable and get that work out.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I have to thank you for, well, many things because I’ve really enjoyed working with you over the past, almost three years. I just wanted to say that I was really happy to be working with Bailey too. So it’s like two for me. But one of the things that you taught me, like in the first year was, you said: “Don’t isolate First Responders by making them into heroes.” And that really struck me because even now when I talk about it, it makes me tear up a little bit because I absolutely know that I feel that way. I’m that grateful, but there’s got to be a way to express our gratitude to real human beings. Because we make them heroes, we make it so they don’t need, and they do need, and they deserve. And they are fragile, they’re human.

Susan Farren: Yeah, of course. And the greatest thing that anyone can do is just say, thank you for your service. And don’t ask the two questions that everyone asks us, which is, the worst thing you’ve ever seen? And have you ever shot anybody? And followed by the question, how do you do that for a living? Just don’t ask those questions and say thank you for your service. And that’s just the greatest gift you can give anybody.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I love that. Thank you. So now, talk to me about what it’s like to have such a kick ass daughter.

Susan Farren: Okay, so this is crazy. I am really committed not to cry when I answer that. Bailey answered it very beautifully when she said, we’ve become like friends, and never in my wildest imagination thought I would be calling my CEO daughter for advice. And sometimes, when I’m struggling and I’m not really clear, maybe I’m just tired, maybe stress has gotten to me. I’ll call Bailey up and we’ll talk a little bit about what it’s like trying to run organizations. We’re both women in a male dominated industries trying to make inroads. I know the cultural credibility, the chronological credibility of being on the street that gets some doors open for me. But Bailey will often speak to me about being the coach that I don’t have to worry about. Mom, don’t worry too much about being the quarterback or the defensive lineman. Remember, you’re the coach, you’re supposed to keep all those people in line, and ultimately, it all rests on your shoulders. And that sounds sort of negative. But the truth is, she reminds me that I have to pace myself. And I said, I don’t know that there’s anything more humbling, and also beautiful than having your own child speak into your life about something like this. And what I have in chronological credibility, Bailey has an academia, sort of a double major out of Berkeley, she’s a brilliant young woman, she has a great attitude. And it is an absolute honor and privilege to be able to work with women like her who have such integrity and passion about their work. I feel very blessed that I just happened to give birth to her.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I don’t know how I can improve upon that. I really, I’m especially happy to amplify two very strong women in the startup space. I know it’s tough to be in the startup space. I was remarking to a friend of mine the other day, I was like, here we go again, into version 17 of ReBuild. Especially when you do the work that we do, and there’s disaster involved, the disasters are changing before your eyes, you also need to change in part what your service delivery, which your outreach is, your funding is. So I have a lot of respect and admiration for both of you.

Susan Farren: Thank you. And I just need to add this one little thing, whether they cut it or not, I have to say, Jen, you didn’t know me when this organization first launched. You were one of the first people that I wrote to as a total stranger and said: “I have just started a nonprofit, and this is my mission.” And the first funding I got was directly related to your belief in me, and you had never even met me. Honestly, and I’ll say this for Bailey as well. Women like you who are a little bit farther down the path of this kind of awareness, sort of championing Bailey and myself, you’re saving lives. I mean, it may be that you’re in charge at ReBuild North Bay, but for every firefighter, every police officer, every paramedic, every doctor, every nursery dispatcher that we change their lives is directly related to what you’ve done for us. So you’re changing lives through us. Thank you.

Bailey Farren: Oh, well said, Well said, mom.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: I’ll take it. I mean, thank you, you know what I love? I love smart people with great ideas, I can hear it, I can see it. And I think that a lot of people who do this sort of startup culture think that we look for the gaps in the matrix. We’re like, okay, how come no one built that and it’s possible. I knew right away when you told me what you were doing that it was important and necessary. And it was an honor. I love a good idea. And then when I got to meet Bailey about a year later, I was like, both of you have a knack for looking for what is exactly needed. I know it’s going to keep our communities safer and our first responders, and it will honor their risk and their sacrifice. So thank you, and a little love fest. You can keep this in, do not edit this out. We love this love. So what I would love to do is, I think we’ll pretty much, but I just want to know if either of you have any closing remarks about your organization, or anything that I left out we can put in, or a question I didn’t ask you’d like me to ask. Bailey, I can start with you. You can think about it,you can both  think about it.

Bailey Farren: Let me think.

Susan Farren: I feel pretty comfortable, Jen, with how you went about asking the questions and getting the information out of us. I know you’re going to provide links to our website. And I think we covered the fact that the families are involved, and all the frontline workers. I felt like that was a pretty complete interview, quite frankly.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay. Yeah, at least, or anything I left out because it is a little different from the private sector.

Bailey Farren: Yeah. The only thing that I could think of that might be relevant, totally your call is some kind of call to action for communities. Specifically, we’re talking a lot about first responders and it’s really, I think, as citizens, we tend to hope for and expect public safety to come in to kind of save us. But during these instances where our public safety is stretched so thin between COVID and all these fires, etc, citizens really do have to take their own safety or their safety into their hands in as many ways as we can being, not only decisive about the actions that we take during an incident, but also taking preventative measures to make sure that we are prepared for a situation whether it’s a wildfire or a flood, and that we know what to do. I think something like that would be, maybe relevant. But otherwise, I think this was pretty comprehensive.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: So Bailey, one of the things that we believe at ReBuild North Bay Foundation, I know that we share this value with your mother, that citizens in our public sector and our private nonprofit sectors, all of us have a role to play in how we respond to disaster. And all of us have a role to play in how we can actually do a better job, and how we can partner and support those actions as we move into a time where it is apparent that our disasters are going to be far more frequent and more devastating. And instead of being afraid and hiding from that, then what is your best advice on how a community can or should participate in the solutions moving forward?

Bailey Farren: Yeah, absolutely. Jennifer, something that I think we’ve all seen over the past few years is with our public safety officials being just stretched thin across all these different disasters from COVID, to wildfires, etc. And what we’ve seen is that citizens or ourselves, we have to take our own safety measures into our hands as much as possible, both during an actual incident. And also beforehand, I think there’s a lot to be said for preparing in advance for one of these incidents, whether it’s a fire or flood. There’s definitely so much that you can do to make sure that your home, the homes of your neighbors, and even different areas of your communities are prepared, retrofitted and have the defensible space that we have seen making such a huge difference in communities across the West Coast. I think spending a little bit of time in advance of fire season to really understand what are some of the risks in your communities. And if there’s something that you or any of the organizations that you’re involved with can do to mitigate some of those risks, I think we’ll have safer communities across the nation. And I think that we owe it to our first responders to do whatever we can to help make their jobs easier.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Thank you. Do you want to add anything, Susan?

Susan Farren: I thought of a question.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay, go ahead.

Susan Farren: Would you be willing to ask about the Resiliency Center that we want to build? Because [inaudible] PG&E money to try to get some property to build that center.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yes, I would love to. Yes, that actually crossed my brain earlier. So Susan, you mentioned Resiliency Centers, can you actually elaborate on what those are, and what your goal is?

Susan Farren: Yeah. So right now, what we’re doing is we’re on a campaign to try to raise money to build a Resiliency Center. And what we’re hoping to have is a location that is specifically for first responders, all of those who are on the frontline. And this is a center where they can go anytime that they need to. So it’s going to be available seven days a week. And this is a place that has trauma therapists that are specifically related to the kind of care that first responders need. We’d also have access to how to navigate the workers comp process. If they’re injured, and maybe some financial assistance, we would have an abuse and abuse program there for substances, we would be hosting meetings there as well. But we’d also be doing educational classes, continuing education for them, updates in mental and physical wellness. And then we’d be providing the modalities that we train them in. 

So whether that’s mindfulness, whether that’s physical resiliency, movements that we teach them, but all of these things around being able to maintain their physical, psychological and emotional wellness. And these are places, like I said, seven days a week they can go to. It’s just a place where they can rest, recover and refresh to go back home to be with their families and have the tools that they need, right there. It’s like a one stop shop for first responders. And if anyone deserves to have access to that kind of immediate care, education and training, it would be the first responder. So we’re really looking for a piece of property and a building that we can get where we can host these trainings. Maybe even have some dormitory style housing for them. But also, we wanted a property where we can do equine therapy. We’ve done a lot of research into equine therapy and how that helps the first responders, and we really want to be able to offer as many things as possible to keep our personnel healthy and well, and able to do the job that we’re calling them and asking them to do on a regular basis.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, I love that. Imagine that if there’s a space for first responders to go to sort of detox after, I love that to get ready for their next round. Stop treating them like heroes and allow them to be human. So I applaud that effort. We are going to drop the links for both Bailey Farren and Susan Farren there in the second slides. If you want to find out more about their organizations, please look on our website and also at the end of this podcast. I want to thank you both for spending this time with me. I just think the world of both of you, and I love your energy, and your care, and your innovation in the face of really difficult and important problems. So thank you.

Susan Farren: Thank you, Jen.

Jennifer Gray Thompson: All right, you take care. Thanks.

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