In the movie Heartbreak Ridge, Clint Eastwood as Gunny Highway says, “You’re Marines now. You adapt. You overcome. You improvise.” (The Marines use this slogan today, as well.)

When the COVID-19 pandemic began last February, E-18 Media worked with several IAFF divisions and departments quickly to inform and educate IAFF members and the public. Social media videos promoted the role of IAFF members in responding to the COVID-19 virus. E-18 staff adapted to remote work and scheduling, while producing virtual episodes of Kitchen Table and helping the IAFF Communications group launch a new podcast. Staff shot a series of training videos on infectious disease SOPs and overcame challenges to produce media within the constraints of new content delivery networks, such as ZOOM, and using non-traditional broadcast connectivity to get the IAFF message out. E-18 Media continues to improvise preparing virtual events, such as the IAFF 2020 Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Remembrance and the IAFF Emergency 2021 Convention.

It may be useful to remember what production looked like before the novel coronavirus pandemic. In August 2018, E-18 production staff created the 286-foot image environment for the IAFF Centennial Convention in Seattle. E-18 produced and directed every aspect of the event, from looks back to 1918, to a focus on the future with technology. The body of work included 18 individual program pieces and the design of 4K graphics to fill the hall from gavel to gavel. As the 2018 IAFF Convention demonstrated, every production offers an opportunity to adopt new techniques and communicate effectively with the IAFF audience.

When IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger and the IAFF Financial Corporation (IAFF-FC) Board launched E-18 Media, the promise was to create a resource that could not only produce for IAFF events and conferences, but also respond quickly to changes within the emerging media marketplace. The new venture would employ both offensive and defensive strategies and produce content for internal and external communications needs.

Quickly, E-18 would expand its production mission to serve both the IAFF as an organization and serve as a media source for locals and affiliates. Specifically, affiliates and IAFF locals could access E-18 Media services at no cost and without the use of IAFF membership dues because of the commitment of the IAFF-FC. E-18 began providing expanded production as social media demanded increased coverage at events, member communications, branded public service messaging and local political campaigns.

Today, E-18 produces IAFF affiliate-branded content in Canada and the United States, producing English, French and Spanish promotional materials. These projects span new and updated public service announcements, internal communications and educational vignettes. The materials help IAFF affiliates gain approval and standing within the community and build relationships with local leaders. Topics include burn awareness, smoke detector/time change, Christmas safety, New Years’ safety, carbon monoxide safety, vehicle safety, space heater safety and a household poison prevention PSA, especially topical with hand sanitizers because of the recent pandemic and children at home.

There are three parts to this new production nexus: acquisition, creation and delivery. While E-18 has created a library of content, a new partnership with IAFF members has emerged, championed by the IAFF Communications and Media Department, and the Communications Training Academy (CTA.) More and more, E-18 is creating finished content from footage acquired in the field by IAFF members on smartphones and uploaded to an E-18 provided video link. The E-18 staff creates the story, adding music, graphics and, if needed, professional narration. E-18 also prepares the finished piece to the technical specifications of the content delivery network, usually social media.

The convergence that created this new production model was made possible because IAFF Communications and Media Department and E-18 provided a production resource and a path for content. Better smartphones and trained IAFF members shoot video. New video compression codecs make transmitting video information quicker and easier. And similar to cable TV and VCRs in the 1980s, social media has become the de facto delivery system. While demand for traditional media continues to grow, several advances will open up the next frontier, through 5G networks.

E-18’s creative staff continues to do what it does best – work collaboratively to connect visual evidence with graphic and aural messaging that strengthens the clout of the IAFF. This power can be demonstrated most readily in the political arena.

In 2019 and 2020, E-18 livestreamed portions of Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference. The meeting included a landmark speech by Vice President Joe Biden. E-18 produced a video lead-in, as well as gold and black branded graphics reading, Run Joe Run. The event was picked up by the major broadcast networks and media organizations and continued to highlight the union for many weeks leading up to Biden’s announcement and the subsequent IAFF endorsement.

E-18 traveled to Pittsburgh where Biden announced his candidacy before a gold and black backdrop of IAFF members. In responding to media inquiries, E-18 connected President Schaitberger with CNN and ABC News for live and look-live interviews and took to the air for both local and national media in Pennsylvania, Iowa and New Hampshire during the primary season, including live broadcasts on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. E-18 Media applied for credentials for the re-scheduled Democratic Convention in Milwaukee, but the final virtual convention meant the E-18 studio would become the origination point for broadcast messages to the labor caucus and convention meetings.

In 2020, the IAFF Legislative Conference concluded with a livestreamed COVID-19 briefing, bringing the most recent pandemic information to IAFF members. For many members and members of the media this was the first inside look at the effects of the coronavirus and plan to respond to the pandemic.

Sometimes, E-18 Media takes on political work with an even greater national significance. E-18 worked with the Citizen’s for Zadroga Act to increase and make permanent congressional appropriations for the Victim Compensation Fund. Coverage included press conferences in New York and Washington, DC, and producing a video that explained the shortfalls and cuts facing those members sick or dying from World Trade Center-related illness. The IAFF legislative staff worked to bring the bills to a successful vote in both the House and Senate. The historic bi-partisan victory means health security for IAFF members, and all victims will have compensation until 2092.

E-18 Media has also been active in local races. Chicago Local 2 member Jim Gardiner won a seat as Chicago alderman. Grand Junction, CO Local 2808 won passage of a resolution that led to hiring new fire fighters and building three new stations in the community. One attack story on the use of public safety officers (PSOs) in Cedar Falls, Iowa, gained more than 35,000 views on the local’s Facebook page.  -18 produced specific videos for Oshawa, Ontario, Pittsburgh, CAL FIRE, Des Moines, Boise, Montreal, Seattle, Austin and many other IAFF affiliates and local unions.

One tool for creating an environment where decision makers get up-close exposure to the fire fighter environment and IAFF member issues is the successful FIRE OPS 101 program. At the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM,) the IAFF and E-18 covered FIRE OPS events in Honolulu with the help of Hawaii Local 1463 and the city of Honolulu. In preparation for the USCM, E-18 took to the road working with local crews to capture testimonials from both Republican and Democratic mayors in Grand Rapids, Oklahoma City, San Francisco, Brockton and Miami. The final video played at the conference and included additional testimonials from mayors who went through the evolutions, scenarios and events.

At the IAFF Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS), E-18 covered pre-summit meetings for new leadership in Los Angeles and Orlando, with Kitchen Table discussions moderated by General President Schaitberger. Speaking to their peers, local officers described the services and support each local had encountered while engaging with the IAFF. Plenary sessions and key workshops were livestreamed, including: Suicide Prevention, Fire Behavior, Toxic Substances and Fire Fighter Nutrition. The event also gave E-18 the opportunity to arrange video interviews for FIREPAC the IAF-FC the Firefighter Cancer Registry and to produce live shots for remote broadcasts.

In 2020, the first combined ALTS and Elected Human Relations Committee (EHRC) met. Earlier in 2019, E-18 created a town hall discussion lead by General President Schaitberger. The format gave the committee and multiple members a chance to speak to specific fire fighter issues. Members discussed where the ERHC originated and where future opportunities for growth are waiting for professional union fire fighters.

The combined John P. Redmond Symposium/Dominick F. Barbera EMS Conference took E-18 to Nashville, where its pre-produced videos for an opening, the IAFF Center of Excellence, Responding to Wildland Fires in California, Paramedic Assault, the active shooter events in Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas, (Clark Co.), the York, Pennsylvania, line-of-duty deaths, and a memorial tribute to District Vice President Emeritus Dominick F. Barbera. A video was also produced on the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand.

At the Redmond/Barbera event, E-18 livestreamed several presentations, including: Active Shooter – Are You Prepared? Women Fire Fighters and Occupational Health, Suicide Prevention, and FirstNet ATT. Crews also covered a Functional Nutrition workshop and Resilience Training for IAFF peer supporters. Resilience Training was the culmination of a long-term educational grant project. Others include: Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Training, Disaster Relief Training for Peer Support, Fire Fighter Clinician’s Training for the Warriors Research Institute’s (WRI,) Opioid Training for Fire Fighters, Project Access Energy Storage System and Tall Wood Buildings for UL (Underwriters’ Laboratories,) and Suicide Prevention Safety Planning project for Duke University.

The IAFF Financial Corporation is creating a series on financial literacy for IAFF members – a critical component in these uncertain social and economic times. E-18 Media is helping to illustrate topics with graphics and video. The team has also produced promotional IAFF-FC material for U.S. and Canadian members, including French subtitles and recorded interviews for future projects.

While much of E-18 Media’s work focuses on the IAFF and its affiliates, the production resources produce revenue from outside client engagements primarily associated with labor or like causes. E-18 helped create “Made in America,” a weekly podcast for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM). Location video shoots were staged in United Steel Workers’ union halls in Granite City, Illinois; Fairfield, Alabama; and Gary, Indiana, for both the podcast and a separate video release. Other productions included work for the Flight Attendants (AFA,) American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME,) Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU,) Bricklayers (BAC,) International Masonry Institute (IMI,) Ironworkers (IMPACT,) the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS,) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART.)

For the sixth year in a row, E-18 has been retained to produce media for the National Potato Council. E-18 Media has also been engaged to create a series educational COVID videos for healthcare workers as sub-contractor for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a donning and doffing video for non-hospital healthcare workers through the Federal Resources Corporation.

The body of work since the 2018 Convention speaks for itself. In the current virtual production environment, E-18 Media is well-equipped to answer as Gunny Highway does, Adapt to new technology, Overcome delivery challenges and Improvise with the tools and creative vision to get the job done.