TEDx Talk: The importance of second responders

After a disaster, first responders are always on the job, but it’s the second responders who can transform tragedy into triumph


By Garrett TeSlaa, P1 Contributor 

I recently performed a 12-minute TEDx talk titled The Importance of Second Responders. It retells my experience during the February 2018 mudslides in Santa Barbara County in which 23 people were killed by the Montecito debris flow, which wiped out entire neighborhoods.

One couple affected by the incident happened to be the executive producers of TEDx Santa Barbara. We had known each other for a few years, first meeting at the same CrossFit gym in town and through mutual friends. In the aftermath of that disaster, they asked me to share something about my experience in law enforcement that I felt the "regular" public should know.

I struggled for some time to find a topic I felt I could relate to the general public. I'm a positive person and I remain optimistic about the power we in law enforcement have to change people's lives for the better. During the response to the debris flow, I watched complete strangers come to the aid of those in need and it was inspiring. I wanted to show people they don't need to wait for us to step in and be the hero, they can do it too.

Once I locked onto that idea, I wrote my talk in about three hours. What ended up in the final draft changed very little from that first draft. From there, it was probably 100 hours of rehearsal. TED talks are rehearsed, scripted and timed. It's considered a major faux pas to go over your given time, so getting the timing right, while still trying to get your point across, is a challenge.

For anyone looking to try something like this, my first response is to go for it. It was a wonderful experience that has made me a much better speaker. I do recommend you get a coach, either a speaking coach or acting coach. Finally, record yourself as you practice. It will feel awkward, but you'll catch a lot of your quirks. 


About the author

Sergeant Garrett TeSlaa is a 13-year veteran of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. He is the founder and host of The Squad Room podcast, which develops positive leaders in law enforcement. The podcast is downloaded in over 100 countries and has a wide range of guests that help cops be successful in all areas of their lives. Learn more at thesquadroom.net.

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