Our program of the day was the story of one of the City of Santa Monica’s First Responders, Paramedic and Firefighter, Aurora Paaluhi. She started by giving us her Rotary Connection, her aunt is a former District Governor. Aurora’s journey to firefighting started with her tech career at Yahoo where she got into playing volleyball on a sand court.
She found Beach Volleyball and her passion for the sport led her to firefighting because the work schedule allowed her to work in Sunnyvale for three days and off for three in which she flew to Los Angeles to play beach volleyball.
When Aurora tested for the Santa Monica Fire Department; she took a leap of faith because she knew that she would be only the third woman hired as a firefighter in Santa Monica in 80 plus years. She described the stress she felt to prove herself as equipped to do the job. She was recently selected as Firefighter of the Year in Santa Monica.
Aurora was also a founding member of the City’s Community Response Unit (CRU). Being a firefighter is about making a positive impact. When the City of Santa Monica wanted to implement an outreach program for people experiencing homelessness, Aurora volunteered to be a part of it. She was the first paramedic assigned to the CRU and has worked to develop new ways to help the City’s most vulnerable population. This pilot program continues to evolve, and Aurora has played a key role in the programs continued development. She is always willing to volunteer her time and skills to improve her department.
Additionally, her background in technology has proven to be a tremendous asset to the Santa Monica Fire Department. When the Santa Monica Fire Department had a catastrophic failure in staffing software, they needed someone with special skills to help overcome the problem. This staffing outage lasted more than a month, and without Aurora’s help, it would have been a detrimental hit to daily operations. Aurora willfully and enthusiastically jumped in using her skills to assist in getting staffing accountability and work code tracking back up with the creation of excel spreadsheets. In addition, she spent countless hours working on the recovery and reconciliation of payroll once Telestaff came back online. She summed up her talk by sharing how impressed she is with other agencies in our city. Mental health issues in the Fire Department exists because of the multiple traumas Firefighters are exposed to. PTSD is a common mental stressor. Now the department addresses the burn out rate and offers counseling to the staff. Her personal journey was inspiring to all of us and gives hope to all in the workplace.
We can feel safer in our city because of Paramedic and Firefighter, Aurora Paaluhi.