The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) First Responders Group (FRG) relies on experienced emergency response and preparedness professionals to guide its research and development efforts. The First Responder Resource Group (FRRG) fills that role. An all-volunteer working group, the FRRG helps S&T maintain focus on the top-priority needs of responders across the nation. This series highlights several FRRG members, offering a glimpse into their daily responsibilities, as well as their ongoing support of S&T technology development.
Meet Jill Benson Ramaker, executive director of the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy (NIPSTA). Ramaker often reflects on her career choice and the life decisions she made to arrive at her position today. She started her long and multi-disciplined career in public safety as a fire service paramedic and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) lieutenant.
Following 24 years in various positions within healthcare, ranging from emergency department nurse and EMS coordinator/educator to manager of emergency preparedness, she decided to pursue further education.
In 2014, Ramaker completed the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Executive Leadership Program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. She also has a master’s degree in threat and response management from the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing another master’s degree in legal studies at the University of Illinois.
It was ultimately a career in training, leadership, and education for first responders that brought her to her ideal job. “I was inspired to return to public safety and really get back to my true professional passion. I have been honored to serve as the executive director of NIPSTA since March 2015 and have never regretted my decision to provide leadership for this wonderful organization,” Ramaker said. NIPSTA is a multidisciplinary training facility located in northern Illinois. It was founded in 2001 as training site for local first responders.
Her proudest moment as executive director at NIPSTA was the development of the NIPSTA Center for Disaster and Emergency Medicine (CDEM). With her background in emergency medicine as both a practitioner and an educator, she works to identify the training gaps that have long plagued paramedics, nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers along the entire range of disaster medicine.
Ramaker was introduced to the FRRG at the invitation of current FRRG chair District Chief Josh Dennis of the Chicago Fire Department. The Chicago Fire Department is an associate member of NIPSTA and over the past few years, the two have developed a solid and collaborative partnership.
“Director Ramaker and I have had the opportunity to join forces on a number of progressive and innovative training initiatives. I believe she would be a fantastic candidate to integrate the work of the FRRG into first responder training efforts in the Midwest and beyond,” said Chief Dennis.
Within FRRG, now serving as a member of the First Responder Health and Safety Sub-Committee, Ramaker takes part in determining first responder capability gaps and prioritizing future technology requirements for homeland security efforts across the country.
“FRRG has inspired me to constantly think about new ways to include technology into our training efforts. While technology is not the only answer to educational challenges, its use can be maximized to improve the way in which our public safety providers are preparing for the challenges they face every day,” said Ramaker.
She is also actively involved in a collaborative effort between S&T and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to determine the legal, ethical and policy implications of video analytics and surveillance within the realm of public safety.
Each day Ramaker works closely with the deputy director and her team members to develop plans for new training initiatives and managing the business side of the organization, such as developing policies, expanding operations, and executing financial forecasting processes.
She explained the challenge of managing the organization, “This can become overwhelming as we are trying to move at an accelerated speed with a limited number of resources. Our instructors, core leadership and Board of Directors are committed to remaining progressive and forward-leaning with our approach to education. The energy generated by this collaboration helps us to maintain our rapid trajectory.”
“I am so proud to be a member of FRRG and look forward to integrating the knowledge gained through my participation in this committee into the vision for NIPSTA and public safety training in Illinois.”
Check back soon for additional FRRG member spotlights. For more information on how to become a member of the FRRG, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.