On March 1, 2019 Berwick Fire Capt. Joel Barnes, 32, became the first Maine firefighter in decades to die in a fire after he shielded a young colleague from the same fate. JGPR, which did not work with any fire departments in Maine at the time, volunteered its services managing the initial breaking news response as well as media relations and accommodations for the public portion of the funeral.
The funeral, held at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, was attended by the governor, thousands of firefighters and members of the public as well as dozens of reporters from multiple outlets in Maine and New Hampshire.
JGPR directed media outreach during the week leading up to the funeral, helping to coordinate coverage both prior to and on the day of the ceremony that was both comprehensive and respectful of Capt. Barnes and his family.
A few days before the ceremony, JGPR worked with the Berwick Fire Department to coordinate a well-attended press conference. Doing so gave those who knew Capt. Barnes best an opportunity to speak to his legacy and their memories of him as a person.
JGPR also coordinated daily media updates that included everything from details about accommodations for out-of-town attendees to updates on media staging.
The funeral was ultimately carried live on Sunday morning by all of Maine’s television stations, with print and radio outlets also assembling in-depth coverage. By assuming a leading role in handling media coverage, JGPR took the burden off the Incident Management Team tasked with preparing the ceremony itself.
JGPR also served as a professional contact for media that was equipped to respond to their specific concerns and challenges, leading to better and more complete coverage ahead of, as well as on the day of the ceremony.
Because of JGPR’s public safety driven mission, all of this work was completed free of charge for the Berwick Fire Department and the Incident Management Team that oversaw the planning of the services.