Jailbreak Recognizes First Responders

by Norm Duesterhoeft


You heard me say, “It’s all about the Bling” and you know we have completely redesigned the medal; this year’s medal is the first in a collection series of First Responder medals.  The race is titled Jailbreak so we will start with the escaping runner.  Going forward each year’s medal will be dedicated to First Responders, Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS and I’m adding in Emergency Government.   These medals will be much more than standard race bling, they will be a representation of the men and women who work to protect and serve our communities.  In the following paragraphs you will find a bit of the history of the symbols that represent your community first responders.

Original Jailbreak: With the Marathon being referred to as the Jailbreak Marathon we decided to have a bit of fun with the design of the original medal.  With the iconic black and white striped convict uniform on the character running in the front of the handcuffs (which will be present in all of the first responder medals).  Over the next four years the medal designs will be done with our first responders in mind.

Law Enforcement: Some of the earliest known Amer-ican law enforcement badges were found in the larger East Coast cities. These followed the example of their English predecessors and were rayed stars as can be found in the first issue Boston and Baltimore badges. They were totally custom die-struck pieces, based on the Star Medallions of Chivalric Orders with raised lettering and the armorial bearings or seal of their City. These were well suited to the larger and financially well off Municipal Departments. As smaller Cities and Towns began to institute their own agencies to supplement the County Sheriff’s Offices, a more cost-effective solution was sought.

The plain five point, six point and seven point star badges made their appearance. These could be lettered with the City, Town, County and Department’s name much more economically. The chivalric rayed star within a wreath badge became the five or six point star within a circle or crescent. At approximately the same time another type of badge was developing, this was the shield. Again, its origins were based on the armor carried by the Knights and Men at Arms that were modern law enforcements predecessors.

The first “police badges” were the coat of arms worn by knights. These coats of arms identified the knight and his allegiance to justice, chivalry and his royal leaders through being displayed on his shield. Much like the police of today who swear to protect and serve, knights from the medieval era were often sworn in and asked to “Protect the weak, defenseless, helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all.”  Much like the public servants on your streets today.

Fire: The Maltese cross is known around the world as a symbol of the fire service. It is often seen painted on fire trucks, on the clothing of firefighters, depicted on firefighter’s badges, and is quite often the chosen design of firefighter tattoos. So where did the Maltese cross come from, and how did it get to be known as a symbol of the fire service?

The Maltese cross is named after the island of Malta, which came to be the home of the Knights of St. John. The Knights of St. John existed during the 11th and 12 centuries. The armor worn by the Knights covered their entire bodies as well as their faces. Because of this it was often difficult for the knights to recognize one another during battle. They realized they would need some type of symbol that could be used to quickly and easily identify themselves. They chose the Cross of Calvary, which would later be known as the Maltese cross. During the Crusades, the enemies of the nights commonly used fire as a weapon. It was quite common for a Knight to have to risk his own life to save another Knight or extinguish a fire.

The Knights of St. John were also known for their care of the sick and injured. Combined with their abilities to fight fires, and the pride and honor they took in their work, the Maltese cross seems a fitting symbol of the modern fire service. Firefighting is a proud profession, and only a symbol of pride would exemplify the work of a firefighter.

EMS: Emergency Medical Services (EMS) first used a red cross with four bars, which is a trademark of the American Red Cross (ARC) and the International Red Cross (ICRC).  EMS organizations in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s used it or an orange version called Omaha Orange.

The ARC did not like EMS using the cross and the ARC stated it was a violation of an international treaty, backed up by federal law.  The treaty and law states that the Red Cross in any form cannot be used by anyone not connected with the ICRC.  Johnson & Johnson is the only corporation that can do this because it was grand fathered under the federal law.

Because the Red Cross symbol could not be used, Leo R. Schwartz, then Chief of the EMS Branch, NHTSA, took the red Medical Identification Symbol (Medic Alert) of the American Medical Association, changed it to blue, and placed it on a white square.  This new Star of Life had six bars with a serpent entwined around a staff in the middle.  It was registered as a certification mark on February 1, 1977 with the Commissioner of Patents and Trade Marks.  There has been a lot of controversy over the years about whether anyone could use the Star of Life without DOT permission.  However, with or without that protection, this star with the serpent and staff in the middle has become the symbol of emergency medical services.

Emergency Manage-ment: with its roots starting during World War I the first civil defense program was established on August 29, 1916 named the Council of National Defense. Years later, in 1941, President Roosevelt responded to the increasing concern about defending the homeland during World War II by creating the Office of Civilian Defense.

In 1974 the Disaster Relief Act, more popularly known as The Stafford Act, was signed into law. This Act constitutes the statutory authority for most Federal disaster response activities especially as they pertain to FEMA and FEMA programs.

Partially in response to the near nuclear Disaster Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 20, 1979 the Carter Administration issued Executive Order 12148, which established the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the lead agency for coordinating Federal disaster relief efforts.

On Nov. 25, 2002 the Bush Administration signed into law The Homeland Security Act of 2002 establishing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The stylized letters “EM” are used by state and local emergency managers as an icon to help make people more aware of what emergency management does to protect lives and property.


Come out to the Jailbreak 5K, 10K, Half and Full Marathon on Saturday, Sept. 28 at The Waushara County Fairgrounds, Wautoma and show your support to your communities first responders and over the next five years, collect all five medals.