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StarBulletin.com

Bryan T. Cheplic


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POSTED: Friday, May 29, 2009

Bryan T. Cheplic has grown accustomed to conveying bad news, but his primary focus remains trying to keep those negative events from happening in the first place.

As the public information officer for the City and County of Honolulu's Emergency Services Department, Cheplic, 37, is the spokesman for both the Emergency Medical Services division and the Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services division. As such, he's a familiar face at the scene of major traffic accidents, beach mishaps, or any other newsworthy 911 call that has the media contacting him for details.

Cheplic, once a competitive bodyboarder who remains associated with the Toobs professional team and hits the surf whenever he can, was born and raised in Hilo, where his parents still live. His brother is a Honolulu firefighter and his sister a former KGMB reporter who now lives in Wisconsin.

He's been in the PIO job for nearly four years, and relies not only on his communications education (he has bachelor's and master's degrees from UH), but also his knowledge as a nationally certified emergency medical technician. The training, which took about a year, is not as intense as that required to become a Mobile Intensive Care Technician (MICT, commonly referred to as a paramedic), but does provide a useful grounding.

“;Our lifeguards and paramedics work so hard. It's a 365-day, 24-7 operation,”; Cheplic said. “;They deserve the recognition. I'm just here to help them.”;

Question: You are the “;face”; of paramedics and lifeguards in Hawaii, conveying information to the public, but what are the other aspects of your job?

Answer: Dealing with the media is actually a very small part of what I do ... Everything written that comes out of our office, newsletters, press releases, PSAs, I do. Plus there are community events ... Our Web site (http://www.honolulu.gov/esd) has all sorts of information about preventing injuries and accidents, and that's what I'm doing, trying to help keep people safe.

Q: Do you respond to emergency calls yourself?

A: No. I do not work on the road on a daily basis. This job doesn't require me to be an EMT but I chose to get the training so I could do my job better. ... I do go out on emergency calls when there's a large-scale newsworthy incident, not as an EMT, but as a PIO.

Q: What are the most common emergency calls?

A: Every day is different. We get everything from an allergic reaction, to a shortness of breath, to a death pronouncement, to delivering babies ... the whole spectrum of life. ... A good day for us is a slow day, that means things are going OK, but we don't get many of those.

Q: How many calls do you get?

A: Last year, in 2008, we received over 80,000 calls to our EMS dispatch center and out of those 80,000 we actually sent out an ambulance about 70,000 times and out of those 70,000 we transported nearly 50,000 patients to hospitals. And that's with 20 ambulance units for the entire island of Oahu. We're constantly busy.

Q: Do the types of calls change with the seasons or school being out?

A: Not really, it's year-round. However, with summer coming up, it is a good time to remind people that ... if they are going down to the beach ... try to always swim at a beach with a lifeguard, consult a lifeguard before going into the water, heed all warning signs. It sounds silly but the warning signs are there for a reason.

We also encourage people if possible to never swim alone and then basically to know your own limitations. If in doubt, don't go out ... And this year, we've had quite a few deaths on our roadways; we're way ahead in fatalities (from this time last year). With graduation coming up, please encourage people not to drink and drive. Follow the rules of the road. Don't speed. Use your seat belt. Make way for emergency vehicles.

We understand that accidents are going to happen, but it's the ones that are preventable that we really need the public to help out on.

Q: Any other advice?

A: There's no reason to take unnecessary risks, whether you are at the beach, at the park, at home or what have you. And we ask parents to take responsibility for supervising their children. A lot of times when we see children getting hurt it's because they weren't being supervised.

Q: Has anything you've seen on the job changed your own personal behavior?

A: I think it's my attitude that has changed the most ... In my job, typically I deal with a a lot of death. Most of the time when you see me on the television, it's because something really bad has happened. So this might seem really cliche, but what this job has taught me most is to never take your life and loved ones for granted. Life really is too short. So take a minute and be thankful ... for what you have.