Updated: Jul 19
By Ryan Dedmon, MA 911 Training Institute
Jim Marshall woke up and looked in the mirror one day. That’s when his epiphany occurred and the Survive & Thrive Fit Challenge was born.
Marshall, the Co-Founder and Director of the 911 Training Institute, is an accomplished licensed mental health professional, specializing in trauma exposure. In the late 1980’s, he brought his professional mental health expertise to the 911 industry after doing a sit-along with his sister, who served as a police dispatcher for an agency in Michigan. Since then, he’s trained thousands of public-safety dispatchers from police and fire agencies throughout the United States.
Marshall integrates principles of psychology with the field of emergency communications to help protect dispatchers from the unique stressors they face, as well as call-mastery courses that train them to better handle calls from people experiencing a mental health crisis. Survive & Thrive is one of Marshall’s more popular training courses.
The 911 Training Institute launched Survive & Thrive in 2005 as its flagship training course. It is comprehensive stress resilience training built on science taught in an interactive way specifically for dispatchers. “We’ve seen generations of dispatchers who’ve struggled to survive in this industry”, said Marshall. “We have to recognize that dispatchers perform elite work that is psychologically and emotionally demanding; they have to have elite skills and a healthy mindset so they’re not victims of the work they do”. Survive & Thrive challenges the traditional “suck-it-up” culture in public-safety and trains dispatchers to face the trauma and pain they experience in their job.
While looking in that mirror, Marshall wondered… “If my wife asked me right now if I was doing everything to take care of myself, what would my answer be?” Marshall faces great demands as a professional serving the 911 industry. Training classes, work projects, conferences, travelling, eating on the road… it all takes a toll on personal health. He realized he has to do a better job of caring for himself. But he needs accountability, so he called his friend, Ricardo Martinez, and offered a challenge.
Martinez, the Creator of Within the Trenches Podcast and Founder of the #IAM911 Movement, is no stranger to stress. He is a retired police dispatcher and currently works as the Director of Communications at INdigital, a leader in Next-Gen Core services that operates the 911 wireless network in the State of Indiana. For the last year, Martinez has experienced terrible back pain that shot up into his shoulders and neck. Marshall’s phone call came as a blessing at the right time.
“When Jim (Marshall) called me and offered this challenge, I was all about it. I was all in,” said Martinez. And so, they’ve decided to take back control of their health with the support and encouragement from one another. “We’re trying to get ourselves healthier, and in doing so, be an inspiration to the 911 industry and encourage others to do the same”.
The Survive & Thrive Fit Challenge is a collaborative partnership between the 911 Training Institute and Within the Trenches Podcast. Marshall and Martinez will begin a fitness journey together, sharing their stories to encourage dispatchers, and all other first-responders, to join them to improve overall health, wellness, and the quality of life at home and work.
“I’ve stopped drinking (alcohol) and have been doing yoga regularly”, said Martinez, who has already begun seeing the benefits of the improved self-care. “Not only do I feel better, but the creativity has come back”, which helps him in his role of hosting a popular podcast followed by thousands of people.
Marshall went on to say he would love to be challenged by dispatchers who have taken his training course. “Let others challenge us! If we inspire others along the way, then that’s a two-fer, and we hope for the two-fer.”
Marshall and Martinez recently announced the Survive & Thrive Fit Challenge on Episode #163 of Within the Trenches Podcast. They invite everyone to join this online challenge by posting pictures and stories of their own fitness journey using #SurviveThriveFC and tagging them on social media.