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Public Safety Column
The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership articles about all topics facing public safety.
The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor.
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By Dr. Michael Pittaro, IPSA Fitness/Wellness Committee Member
After nearly 30 years of serving in a variety of public safety positions, one common theme always emerged, the importance of mental and physical health/fitness. Even today, mental and physical health/fitness is still under-addressed in 911 telecommunications, law enforcement, corrections, fire/EMS, emergency management, public works, public health and all related public safety professions. In 2011, I transitioned from the field to the classroom as a criminal justice professor. I’m presently teaching the next generation of public safety professionals about strategies to prevent and reduce stress.
Consistently, medical research illustrates that stress contributes to a host of mental and physical ailments stemming from the public safety profession. This is not surprising given that the public safety profession represents some of the most dangerous, demanding and physically/mentally exhausting occupations. Here are some examples.
A profession that has been mostly neglected, as far as stress-related research, is that of correctional officers. Correctional officers have a suicide rate that is twice that of the general population and some studies suggest that the suicide rate is even higher than that of other law enforcement officers. Even more disturbing is that, on average, correctional officers will not live to see their 59th birthday.
There is a need to provide information, education and awareness to public safety professionals. There is also a need to develop prevention and intervention strategies designed to address the physical and emotional wellbeing of all public safety professionals.
Below are some methods for coping with stress. This is not a complete list, and it is not a simple solution to a complex problem, but it is a good place to start.
Minimize unnecessary stress in your life: Stress is a part of life. There is truly no way to escape it, but everyone can minimize unnecessary stress. Unnecessary stress is often the stress that is created in our minds, whether real or perceived. For example, I would become so frustrated when I came home from work and my kids left the kitchen a mess. While I still get angry and frustrated, I have learned that teenagers are simply lazy and rebellious at times, so I do not allow it to upset me as much as it did in the past.
Change the way you react, respond to stress: This is along the same line of thinking as the above. How we react and respond to stress can be controlled with some time, patience, effort and practice. Everyone needs to learn how to recognize the physical and emotional signs and triggers. Know and identify when you are becoming stressed and learn how to self-calm.
Accept the things that you cannot change and are beyond your control: As a former Executive Director of an outpatient substance abuse facility, this is a phrase that became part of our daily mantra. It is also a common saying in both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. It holds true here as well.
Adopt a healthier, happier lifestyle: Public safety professionals work with the public. This includes toxic individuals in toxic environments, which often leads to cynical and jaded thoughts. Given the reality and scope of the work environment, surround yourself (at least outside of work) with positive, supportive individuals. Engage in a hobby or do something that makes you happy. Make the time to exercise. Exercise helps reduce stress, depression and anxiety. It will help push negative thoughts aside.
Learn to say “No”: Several strong type-A personalities struggle with this one. Think before you commit to a new task. Take a day or two before giving an answer. Saying no helps keep your life in balance.
Take away something positive from a negative situation or event
Many individuals look at the glass as being half-empty as opposed to being half-full. However, if you sit down and evaluate your life, you will determine that the positive things in your life outweigh the negative. Redirect your negative thoughts to the positive.
Accept that there is both good and bad in the world
Despair, hate, bias and crime are world-wide problems. That’s a reality that will likely not change in the near-term. However, given that this won’t change, it is incumbent on us to focus on the positive achievements we perform every single day. Public safety professionals help people, save people and we protect people. That is what we do, we need to be proud and we need to focus on that.
Laugh more, criticize less: Humor and laughter helps to ward off stress. Avoid getting together with friends just to commiserate about your day. That is not healthy. Instead, hang out with friends and family members who enjoy a good laugh. Distance yourself from toxic friends and family.
Compartmentalize: One of the most helpful strategies that has worked well for me is to compartmentalize. Compartmentalizing is a psychological concept that can be used as a coping, defense strategy when dealing with conflicting internal events simultaneously. In other words, leave work at work and home at home. When the two carry over from one aspect of your life to the other, problems become compounded.
Change must be embraced: To change our thinking, behaving and acting, we must embrace change. Thinking about changing is not sufficient. Everyone must take daily action steps toward change. These steps often take us outside of our comfort zones. As the late Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, previously stated, "Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change."
About the Author
Dr. Michael Pittaro is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the School of Security and Global Studies (SSGC) with American Military University and an Adjunct Criminal Justice Professor at East Stroudsburg University. Dr. Pittaro is a criminal justice veteran, highly experienced in working with criminal offenders in a variety of institutional and non-institutional settings. Before pursuing a career in higher education, Dr. Pittaro worked in corrections administration; has served as the Executive Director of an outpatient drug and alcohol facility and as Executive Director of a drug and alcohol prevention agency. Dr. Pittaro has been teaching at the university level (online and on-campus) for the past 15 years while also serving internationally as an author, editor, presenter, and subject matter expert. Dr. Pittaro holds a BS in Criminal Justice; an MPA in Public Administration; and a PhD in criminal justice.
How 911 communications center supervisors can prevent employee burnout and improve morale
How to build a strong team for crisis readiness
Shifting the officer safety paradigm beyond tactics to include health, wellness
By Julie Downey and Charles Kean, IPSA RTF Committee Members
By design, active shooter hostile events or mass casualty incidents are used to cause wounding and death on a large scale. As public safety agencies work toward appropriate responses to ASHE/MCIs, whether in the form of a shooters, bombers or any other hostile means, the MCI aspect of the response plan is often lacking. Law enforcement must continue working with their public safety partners to gain rapid access to an unstable and dynamic situation, and the medical community also needs to be included in the response model.
The rescue task force concept of providing immediate medical care to the injured during an ASHE/MCI is gaining traction. As the incidence of ASHE/MCIs rise in U.S., the evidence of RTFs saving lives is also growing. While many jurisdictions are implementing RTFs, as we saw in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, several agencies have not adopted the concept.
This article examines two jurisdictions in the United States and highlight the common goals, problems and some unique situations present in various ASHE/MCI response models.
Springfield is the capital of Illinois and is in Sangamon County. In a city of 118,000 people and a county of 245,000, there are two different level-one trauma centers. With over 20 fire departments and EMS providers along with 25 law enforcement agencies, getting all of them on the same page is difficult. Complicating the ability to synchronize various agencies is the composition of the departments. Three private ALS EMS agencies provide the bulk of the transport in Sangamon County, and law enforcement agencies range from a two-member department to a 245-member agency.
In Springfield, as the planning and training for implementation of the RTF concept has evolved, casualty triage has taken a more prominent position in the overall concept of operations.
In the Springfield program, the contact team is tasked with neutralizing the threat. This is common in most RTF plans. The contact team is directed to notify incident command about the location of victims, and if possible, the number and condition of the injured.
The first RTF to enter the crisis site and begin the treatment and evacuation of the casualties has a rather simple triage method, dead or not dead. As the RTF moves through the area, patients are treated and marked for evacuation, or if capable of movement, directed to exit the site through the same path the RTF and contact team entered. While some may argue it is dismissive to triage with the categories being dead or not dead, the purpose for the initial RTF is to quickly assess patients with easily correctable life threats and then move on to the next patient.
After this is completed, then additional RTFs are tasked to evacuate casualties and re-evaluate patients using the more traditional START methodology. This includes reassessing patients marked as dead, unless there are obvious non-survivable injuries. In the revised MCI plans, the four-category START system is fully implemented at the warm-zone and cold-zone interface.
Working with hospitals
MCI plans need to include first responders (law enforcement, fire/EMS and 911 telecommunicators) and local hospitals. Many hospitals are unprepared, and if a MCI comes to their facility or if there is a potential for violence at the medical facility, they will simply call law enforcement to secure the facility.
Often the reality is that during an ASHE/MCI, law enforcement will be deployed to the crisis site. The agencies that are adjacent to the stricken jurisdiction will be involved in assisting their sister agency with response on site. In short, law enforcement resources will be scarce when it comes to the physical security of medical facilities.
Several recent ASHE/MCIs have occurred when key hospital administrators and management personnel were not on shift. Therefore, hospital administrators and managers need to have policies in place that allow the movement of less critical patients from critical care beds to waiting rooms or treatment by physician extenders such as nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. Along with written and legally reviewed policies, charge nurses and unit managers need to be trained and empowered to make those treatment decisions, in consultation with the emergency department, attending physicians and where applicable, trauma surgeons.
Each of the level-one trauma centers in Springfield operates its own EMS system. To the benefit of the community, the EMS protocols are nearly identical which aids in reducing confusion in providing pre-hospital care. The MCI protocols for both systems are the same. They use the START triage system. However, there are some limitations with solely relying on the START system. For example, while it is designed for MCI situations, it does not address active threat environments. In the high stress and dynamic environment of an active threat, MCI is often the most overlooked aspect is the triaging and evaluating casualties.
Hospitals and patient transport
MCI planning must consider patient transport. During crisis, patients are arriving at medical treatment facilities by conventional EMS transport, law enforcement transport and/or self-evacuation. This model, while difficult to control during chaos, may create an unintended reverse triage. Patients that are capable of self-evacuation often are not severely injured, and they will likely arrive ahead of the patients who are in dire need of medical interventions, especially resuscitation and surgical intervention.
During an MCI and patients are being transported, there is a misconception that law enforcement will be available to secure medical facilities. There may also be a perception that the hospital’s internal security will be able and capable of controlling access to the hospitals, especially the emergency department. This is not typically the reality.
Training immediate responders
Another area for improvement is community resilience. In central Illinois, the HSHS St. John’s Hospital Trauma Team is using outreach education to teach Stop the Bleed to local fire and law enforcement agencies. The next goal is to implement a program like Davie, Florida and get bleeding control kits in the community with AEDs.
Davie is a highly populated town located in Broward County, Florida. Most agencies agree the public needs to get involved in rendering immediate care for someone that is severely bleeding. In October 2015, the Davie Fire Rescue was recognized at the White House/Department of Homeland Security for their innovation in developing Severe Bleeding Kits and distributing the kits to all their AEDs. In addition, they incorporated the severe bleeding training into all their CPR/AED classes. They have renamed the program to coincide with the DHS program – Stop the Bleed.
Early MCI management issues
Since the early 2000’s, several issues were identified regarding MCI management in Broward County. The biggest issue was that each of the 20 fire-rescue agencies in Broward County had adopted their own MCI plan. When mutual aid was provided from neighboring departments, as is frequently seen during MCIs, this led to multiple levels of confusion. The region identified the need to correct this problem with all agencies in Broward County agreeing to a single MCI protocol that consisted of common terminology, triage and tagging methods. This has greatly improved MCI management, which expanded state-wide.
In early 2004, Florida’s EMS Advisory Council approved and recommended a MCI procedure and a state-wide MCI triage tag. Funding was secured through DHS grants for the state to supply all ALS agencies with MCI equipment. This included a common field operation guide, field unit bags with personal triage fanny packs, MCI tags, colored tarps, identification vests and MCI trailers.
MCI management achieved, but RTF issues surface
To ensure all first responders were using the same guidelines for MCI management, the procedure was placed in the Florida Fire Field Operations Guidebook. This FFOG, funded by the State Fire Marshall’s Office, was provided to every first responder vehicle (law enforcement, fire and EMS) within the state.
State-wide strides were made to prepare all first responders for MCI management, but equipment and procedures are not enough. There remains an on-going need to continually train, utilize and refine the procedures to ensure a constant position of readiness. Unfortunately, what was encountered 20 years ago with MCI management in Florida, is now occurring with the fire-rescue response to an ASHE/MCI. Law enforcement and fire-rescue agencies across the county and state are now developing their own sets of procedures and terminology.
The RTF concept is gaining in acceptance, but it is still not widely adopted. Some agencies fear that their personnel may get injured. Other agencies debate whether RTF personnel need to have full ballistic protection. Davie Fire Rescue has trained all personnel in RTF with classroom training followed by walk-through exercises and several full-scale exercises. The biggest obstacle we face is creating a true unified command. As we train more with law enforcement, we will see improvements.
Most fire-rescue agencies see the need to change our response to an ASHE/MCI. They see the need to get-in quicker to stop the dying, but there is no consensus on what this model looks like. Fortunately, there are several excellent resources now available through the International Public Safety Association, and even the National Fire Protection Association has a committee working on Active Shooter response (NFPA 3000).
As active threats continue to evolve, first responders, medical treatment facilities, community leaders and civilians must evolve their training and response.
International Public Safety Association’s Rescue Task Force Best Practices Guide
International Public Safety Association’s InfoBrief: Stop the Bleed
International Public Safety Association’s Position Statement supporting Stop the Bleed
The beginnings of one emergency number in the United States can be traced back to the driving force of the coordinated efforts of members of public safety moved to service. Professional firefighter and law enforcement associations went to Congress on behalf of the citizens they serve requesting one nationwide emergency number, spanning the course of decades.
Download the Interational Public Safety Association's InfoBrief 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Celebrates Golden 50 Year Anniversary in the United States on February 16, 2018.
By Michael Yatsko, IPSA Health and Fitness Committee Chair
If you are struggling with your New Year’s resolution of enhancing your health, wellness or fitness levels you are not alone. It is estimated that 80 percent of people struggle with, or even quit, pursuing their New Year’s resolutions before the end of the year. Most individuals give up by the third week of January. Behavioral change is not easy, without a plan you are playing the odds.
The goal of this article is to help you develop a plan, so you can create healthy habits which are sustainable. This article will give you some tips that will empower you by taking small, incremental and purposeful steps toward achieving your goals. To form a habit, it generally takes up to two weeks, and in some cases up to 90 days.
Start by using a three-day commitment plan. By using a three-day plan, it will enable you to take small bites out of your overall goal instead of trying to everything at once. This article provides you three items to consider for all three-days of your plan. Program design is not the scope of this article as you likely have been on one since the beginning of the New Year.
Strategy one: Healthy intake
The first step for healthy intake is to prepare your food intake for three full days. This takes some preparation; however, it is manageable by having a list prepared prior to visiting your local grocery store. Give your grocery list some thought and identify what foods should you eat throughout the day to stay healthy and create a three-day menu around them, and steer clear of all unnatural sugar goods.
This leads into the second step toward your three-day healthy intake, and that is to prepare with portion control in mind. While I am not licensed to give in depth nutritional advice, stick to the basics and drink plenty of water, eat clean fruits, eat vegetables at every meal and include protein. If you need help with what your caloric intake should be, do some ancillary research on basal metabolic rate.
The third step is to not deviate from your three-day menu. Sticking to your plan creates a positive sense of accomplishment thereby enhancing your chances of creating long-term healthy habits.
Strategy two: Physical readiness
Similar to nutrition, physical readiness must also be planned out. Use the three-day plan approach to create a behavioral change that will be lasting. The first step of creating a physical readiness plan is to consider your own personal goal. This is a very individualized approach, and should be treated as such. Your focus must be on obtaining your goal, not the goal of others.
Once your goal is determined, the second step is to take the time to write out a three-day plan that you can use as a reference when you get to the gym, or wherever you chose to complete your workout. Not only will it be used as a reference, but it creates a sense of accountability.
The third step toward physical readiness is to have a set time to workout and do it. Be sure to reference strategy one when planning your post-workout snack or meal prepared. A post-workout snack helps restore glycogen levels, which is critical for first responders.
Strategy three: Sleep patterns
There is enough empirical evidence that should convince anyone that sleep is a critical component to health, wellness and performance. I know every first responder reading this article is shaking their heads and thinking good luck with that. Shift work, court and stress will always exist in first responders’ lives, so we must have a plan in place to preserve health.
The first step is to create that plan and stick to it. Have a definitive bed time and stick to it. Equally important, have a regular wake-up time and stick to it. Everyone should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
The second step is to design your nutritional intake around your bed time. Do not have caffeine, do not take stimulants or other disruptive elements at least five to six hours prior to going to sleep. Do your best to make sure you are finished eating for the day at least three to four hours before bed time to enhance your body’s ability to focus on sleeping, not digesting.
The final step to sleep is to shut everything down. Make sure you turn off (or silence) all disturbances. This includes anything remitting blue light, computers, TV’s and any major appliances.
Documenting your goals into a three-day plan will help ensure you stay on track. Having realistic and achievable timelines will lead to positive behavioral changes. Finally, take the fourth day to get prepared for the next three-days. This does not mean you go off your plan, it just gives you a day for light activity, refresh the meals for the next three-days and make any corrections to you sleeping environment.
Michael Yatsko served 25 years with the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department, and honorably served 13 years in the military. Mike holds a Master’s degree in Human Movement (Kinesiology), and a post-grad as a Performance Enhancement Specialist. He also holds the prestigious certification of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He served as the Physical Fitness Coordinator at the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy for the last 8 years of his career where he assessed, designed, developed, implemented, and evaluated the Recruit Physical Readiness Training (PRT) program that is still in use today. He also designed thousands of programs throughout the years, specializing in first responder PRT, as well as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Strength and Conditioning. He is currently on Hiatus from his Doctorate degree in Applied Sports Psychology as he fishes, works out, and golfs at his local club enjoying his retirement!
By Sean W. Stumbaugh, Battalion Chief (Retired)
When I was a supervisor in the fire department, my crews had a nickname for me: The Red Man. I embraced the moniker to some degree and I would joke with them, “Don’t make me take out the Red Man.” This was a term of endearment (at least that’s what I liked to believe) in many cases, but I knew it was born from numerous times that I led with anger. In hindsight this is not a great way to lead.
So, what was really going on here? I hadn’t been brought up in some military academy where I learned to be a drill sergeant when things didn’t go my way. Was there something else at work? Something I couldn’t really put my finger on? After retirement, I realized some of this behavior was born out of stress I was feeling, at work and at home.
I was confident retirement would fix this issue and my life would be a breeze. I soon found out that retirement was something I wasn’t fully prepared for. I went through a two-year transition that was more difficult than being at work. Fortunately, I had some support mechanisms that helped see me through.
This experience made me want to know more about the stress we face as firefighters. So I reached out to an expert in the field, Jeff Dill, founder and CEO of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA). In this article, I’ll share some insights Jeff opened my eyes to, with the hopes that they might be eye-opening for you, too. And in a future article, I’ll share three steps all fire service professionals can take to combat the negative effects of work-related stress.
1,100 and counting
One of my goals when I was a training chief was to design training programs that reduced the risk of line-of-duty deaths by targeting the root causes of LODDs. We commonly use the number 100 to explain how many of us die on the job each year. This number is an average, and the actual figure fluctuates, but unfortunately the deviation is small.
Jeff Dill stresses an entirely different number: 1,102—the number of confirmed firefighter and EMS suicides he has validated since he began studying the issue. “These are not merely numbers, they are the names and faces of brothers and sisters who have left us behind,” Jeff says. “That’s always been our message at the FBHA. We never want to forget them.” Jeff now dedicates his professional life to helping reduce this growing number.
Call it by name
So, what is it we are struggling with? We can—and should—call it Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We’re hardly alone in being at risk for PTS; military personnel, police officers and other first responders face it too—not to mention anyone who experiences a traumatic experience, such as being assaulted or witnessing death or abuse.
Although the general public is familiar with post-traumatic stress, firefighter PTSD is different. “I’ve studied it for 20 years, and PTS is different in firefighters than in, say, a girl who is molested by a relative,” Jeff says. The differences extend to military and police as well. They generally face more violence, death and threats to their own lives.
While firefighters see their share of suffering, they may go months, or even years, before they are really scared or see a seriously traumatic event. Generally, the first few calls, or even the first few years do not affect them. I know I saw some horrific things early in my career, but they didn’t seem to bother me. Because PTS is often gradual in firefighters, we’re less primed to be on the lookout for it. In some people, symptoms don’t start until retirement—after the exposure to the trauma has ended.
PTS affects our behavior and our emotional state. There are different terms we can use to describe it, but some come with negative connotations. No one wants to be labeled “mentally ill” when something less than that (but still real and serious) is going on. Firefighters have concerns over these labels, particularly when it comes to job stability and promotion.
The struggle with PTS is real, however, and we need to move beyond the days where we just buried the problem or masked its symptoms. When we as individuals are struggling, we need the freedom to seek help. Our colleagues, and our departments, need to understand and provide support. We need to pay attention to the warning signs of behavioral health issues and their causes. If we don’t, we face the real risk of adding to the growing number of firefighter suicides.
One call or many
Time for change
One of the biggest problems facing the fire service in the realm of behavioral health is what Jeff calls “cultural brainwashing.” We as a profession tend to instill in our members that feeling pain over stressful calls and events is weakness. We need to “suck it up” and stuff our emotions. This has been our tradition for a long time.
Some traditions are ridiculous. We need to move the culture to one of awareness and assistance when a member is struggling. They need a confidential place to seek help for PTS and other behavioral health issues.
With this new and growing knowledge, what should we do? We need to employ strategies that can help us not just cope, but overcome.
Sean Stumbaugh is a professional services representative for Lexipol. He retired in 2015 after 32 years in the American fire service, serving as battalion chief for the Cosumnes Fire Department in Elk Grove, Calif., as well as the El Dorado Hills (Calif.) Fire Department and the Freedom (Calif.) Fire District. Sean has a master’s degree in Leadership and Disaster Preparedness from Grand Canyon University, a bachelor’s degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University, and an associate degree from Cabrillo College in Fire Protection Technology. In addition to his formal education, he is a Certified Fire Officer, Chief Officer, and Instructor III in the California State Fire Training certification program. Sean has taught numerous state fire training courses and has been an adjunct professor with Cosumnes River College in Sacramento. Sean is now continuing his career by serving as the volunteer Para-Chaplain for the Daisy Mountain Fire District in Anthem, AZ.
By the International Public Safety Association
You may be aware of the National Fire Protection Association's project to create NFPA 3000: Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events. The proposed NFPA standard is now open for public comment, and the International Public Safety Association and the NFPA is strongly advising you to provide input.
Members of the IPSA leadership and Rescue Task Force Committee have been active participants in the NFPA 3000 standard development process. Given the vast amount of knowledge and diverse experience in the IPSA's membership, we want all of our members to access the NFPA 3000 web portal to provide and input.
Your input will help ensure the final version of the NFPA 3000 standard represents the best practices by law enforcement, fire, EMS and telecommunications as published in the IPSA's Rescue Task Force Best Practices Guide.
There is a limited window of opportunity to provide your input. The deadline is February 23, 2018. Take some time today and provide your input.
By Amery Bernhardt, IPSA Member & Sergeant, Westchester County (NY) Department of Public Safety
The concept of first responders working together and working with community members is gaining momentum in our society. The desire to expand perspectives and response capabilities is quenched by the whole community approach. “A whole community approach attempts to engage the full capacity of the private and nonprofit sectors, including businesses, faith-based and disability organizations, and the general public, in conjunction with the participation of local, tribal, state, territorial and federal governmental partners.” The whole community approach is also one of the underlying concepts of the International Public Safety Association.
Active shooter/hostile events
Active shooter/hostile event incidents require a whole community approach to have an effective response and recovery. Unfortunately, several municipalities still face challenges that set them back from achieving a whole community approach. These challenges may appear to be an overwhelming feat. This article provides some recommendations to begin the process based upon experience and recent national guidance.
According to Gerencser et al., the approach can be summarized by the formation of a megacommunity. “A megacommuity is a public sphere in which organizations from three sectors – business, government, and civil society – deliberately join together around compelling issues of mutual importance, following a set of practices and principles that make it easier for them to achieve results without sacrificing their individual goals.”
Start with schools
The first challenge that many first responders face is taking that first step. I recommend starting with a school in your jurisdiction. Schools filled with children provide an added incentive to the first responder community. I have observed firsthand the increase in motivation when the task involves saving children. There is an instinctive desire to protect children that can provide inspiration throughout the whole community approach.
The basic outline I recommend begins with an initiator. Next, progress to a stakeholder analysis. After the key participants have been identified they will need to come together to develop the vision, goals, and objectives. This process will involve potential challenges that can be identified early but must ultimately be overcome. Starting with a school and following this method may provide the needed momentum to inspire multi-discipline integration.
Identifying a leader, initiator
In order to ignite this type of megacommunity, Gerencser et al., identified that there needs to be a catalyst that provides visible leadership during the early phases. Two of the most important traits of the initiator are being passionate and steadfast. This person needs to take the lead on beginning the process and working through the different phases of the endeavor. Consistency is critical to keeping the momentum moving forward. This is not an exhaustive list, but the initiator can be a member of the local police department, fire department, medical services agency, 911 telecommunicator or the emergency manager.
School pilot program
The first step the initiator should take is to invite the key players to the table. Gerencser et al., recommends that a thorough stakeholder analysis be completed to identify the members needed in this megacommunity. To simplify the process, I recommend starting with a school within the jurisdiction. This may help to provide a pilot program that can be emulated throughout the community as the concept gains widespread buy-in and adoption.
Progress at this stage can be used as momentum to continue the collaboration effort throughout other areas of the municipality. This group would include representation from the school district, the school building, the community and each discipline of the first responder community. For example, the group may consist of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, EMT, 911 telecommunicator, parent, superintendent and a principal.
Creating a vision statement
During the initial meeting, the key stakeholders identified must develop a vision statement for the megacommunity. Kim & Mauborgne identified that engaging the stakeholders in this way will help to bring commitment, cooperation and trust. Gerencser et al., provides guidance to develop a statement that is clear and envelopes all the vital interests and values inherent in facing this challenge.
For illustrative purposes, here is an example of a vision statement.
“To develop our municipality into a resilient community that is adequately prepared to successfully respond to threats of active deadly behavior within our schools. This response will be realized through a comprehensive program that will engage the whole community approach in preparing and responding to such attacks.”
“To develop our municipality into a resilient community that is adequately prepared to successfully respond to threats of active deadly behavior within our schools. This response will be realized through a comprehensive program that will engage the whole community approach in preparing and responding to such attacks.”
Only after the group has successfully identified their mission can they truly make headway on collaboration.
Setting goals and objectives
The development of goals will flow from the vision statement. Gerencser et al., found that when organizations establish goals and milestones, it is a strong sign that they have a clear understanding of the community’s expectations.
Here is an example of one potential goal based upon the previously formed vision statement. “Train the school faculty to successfully respond to violence within the school.”
Given that objectives are the steps taken to reach a goal, each objective must be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). An example might be, “conduct active shooter response training with all members of the faculty of the high school within one year.” The development of the goals and objectives will require active participation and follow-up to sustain the efforts and complete the mission.
Prepare for challenges
The activity of collaborating is filled with potential challenges that must be overcome. Some of these may include cultural differences, lack of quality relationships, inadequate communication and understanding, lack of participation or commitment and disagreements. There may be a major challenge of getting true participation and commitment from the stakeholders.
One of the best ways to move people toward a common goal is to focus on why you are doing what you are doing. According to Simon Sinek “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and what you do serves as the tangible proof of why you do it.”
The key is to tap into what inspires people to act. For example, the goal is to save the children in the school. All the decisions of the group should serve this purpose. Often, challenges are closely related to each other and their solutions are intertwined. If the group maintains focus on why they are doing what they are doing, they will be more driven to work through each of the challenges.
For example, cultural differences between schools and first responders, and between fire and law enforcement services will need to be overcome through a consorted effort in understanding. The more the group works to understand each other, the more likely they are to build relationships. These relationships will help them prevail over communication barriers which in turn helps them better understand cultural differences. This becomes an endless cycle that builds collaborative strength throughout the sequence.
There are bound to be disagreements. Throughout the process of creating a megacommunity, there will be opposing points of view; however, differing opinions are a necessary part of the process. The danger lies when one person or a single perspective drives the outcomes.
It is important to understand the importance of conflict and understand an important point made by Lencioni that relationships need conflict to grow. A win/win environment will need to help shape the relationship. Stephen Covey provides this insight when he wrote, “It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.” This can pull people away from the view that their engagement is one of a competition and place them into a realm of collaboration to produce something better. A realm where forward-thinking really does prevail. It is not my idea wins and yours loses, it involves progressive ideas that help everyone to win.
The challenge of beginning a multi-discipline approach to active shooter and hostile event response will appear daunting. But, regardless of appearances, this is a task that must be embraced by the first responder community. A true whole community approach can be realized by someone refusing to give up and courageously taking the role of the initiator. This individual can lead a stakeholder analysis and progress through the development of the vision, goals, and objectives of the newly formed megacommunity.
Focusing on the why and anticipating the challenges that will arise will prove to be invaluable. Start with a school and tap into the incalculable drive that seems to flow from first responders when they are rescuing children.
About the author
Amery Bernhardt, M.A. Homeland Security, is a Sergeant with the Westchester County Department of Public Safety in New York. He has 17 years law enforcement experience and is certified as an instructor for law enforcement and civilian active shooter response through the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program. He has conducted training and numerous exercises with schools and first responder agencies throughout Westchester County.
By Shirl Tyner, Lexipol is an Official IPSA Corporate Supporter
Some people think about it from time to time. Some people dream about it. Some people can’t even imagine it. Some people already did it. What, you ask? Retirement. Are you ready?
After a career in public safety, you probably have an idea of the legacy you’ve built and the effect your departure will have on the agency. But have you thought about the impact leaving will have on you? Public safety agencies prepare for retirements though succession plans, but most agencies do a very poor job preparing the actual retirees, which is an is an issue because retirement is not easy.Dying for the job
One theory is that public safety retirement is not easy because working in public safety itself is not easy. We lack good statistics about suicide among public safety personnel, but what we do know is alarming.
Law enforcement officers and firefighters rank sixth on the Center for Disease Control’s list of occupations by suicide. One study showed firefighters are three times more likely to die from suicide than a line-of-duty death, and the number of firefighters lost to suicide has increased each year for the last five years. The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance has documented 175 firefighter retiree suicides—36 of whom took their lives in the first week of retirement.
It’s even worse for law enforcement. The occupational fatality rate of law enforcement officers is three to five times greater than the national average. As John Violanti documented in his 2014 book, Dying for the Job, male officers commit suicide at a rate 8.3 times greater than those who are murdered on the job, 3.1 times greater than those killed in work accidents, and 4 times greater than firefighters.
Contributing factors to suicide by public safety employees include:
These contributing factors don’t disappear with retirement. In fact, they may get worse. In a way, retiring from public safety is much like a grieving process. We have made differences in people’s lives and when we retire it’s easy to lose that sense of purpose and believe our lives no longer have the same value. We feel like something has been taken from us and we lose our identity.
Note: Among all these statistics about firefighters and law enforcement officers, what is missing? If you said civilian employees, volunteers, support staff, EMTs, nurses, etc., you’re right! The number of people affected goes way up when you include—as we should—all members of public safety.
The next big change
When we think about retirement, we think about the things we look forward to doing—travel, reading, sports, time with friends, church, volunteering and maybe even a part-time job. These are all wonderful ideas, but for public safety employees, retirement can be extremely difficult. Many public safety employees cannot even picture themselves outside the job. This isn’t what we do but who we are.
So when you retire, what will you miss? For starters, the people. This is a family, your family, one you’ve never been without and never want to be without. You’ll miss your partners, those you have worked beside and counted on, vented to, protected and leaned on, the ones who always had your back. There’s also the activity—the sights, smells, touches and tastes. Let’s not forget that adrenaline rush, hearing the dispatcher over the radio and the rush of getting to the call. And being part of something so great, something you never imagined being without.
Retirement is the next great adventure after all this. But it’s a mistake to look at your life and see a clear dividing line between your life in public safety and your life after public safety. In fact, retirement is another in a series of changes you’ve been experiencing your entire life.
Believe it or not, you have changed during your career. And I’m not just talking about your physique! You have changed physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Maybe you’ve put on a few pounds. Have you grown more sluggish or more alert over the years? Has your faith become deeper and more personal, or has it waned? How do you deal with emotional turmoil now compared to 20 or 30 years ago?
Remember when you promoted? You probably asked your friends and family to not ever let you forget where you came from. You wanted to promote and be the best supervisor you could be, but you never wanted to be “one of them.” Now is a good time to remind yourself of that.
When you look at retirement as another in a series of changes, it’s possible to be as excited about retiring as you were about entering public safety when you were younger. Knowing that you have changed, believe that you can and will change again—mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You are no longer part of your job even though the job is a huge part of who you have become. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Retirement requires preparation. The more you plan, the smoother this transition will go. Here are just a few considerations:
Make sure you are ready to retire and don’t give in to outside influences. Go when you know the time is right for you! Don’t make a rushed, emotional decision. You’ve always controlled your career, now you must control your retirement—and your preparation for it.
Make it count
It is easy to forget how much we love being needed until we no longer are. Watching the lights and hearing the sirens go somewhere without you is a bittersweet experience. Curiosity about the call, memories of past calls, and the desire to help all flood in.
Now, those of you who can’t wait to retire and don’t have to worry about any of this, I say hallelujah and lucky you! For the rest of us, attitude is everything. It is the key to understanding you are not who you were, that you earned this retirement and that you deserve to enjoy it. So, make it count! You love what you do or you would not be doing it. You were born with a servant’s heart. How can you put that to work in your retirement? After all, it’s retirement, not death!
As Charles Swindoll said, life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it. We may not be able to stop retirement from coming, but we can choose how we react to it.
So here’s to a happy, healthy retirement—and on to the greatest adventure of all!
Shirl Tyner is a Management Services Representative for Lexipol and has 25 years of law enforcement experience as a civilian (non-sworn) employee, serving with the Oceanside (CA) Police Department and the Tustin (CA) Police Department. Her tenure included positions as front desk officer, field officer, report writer, field evidence technician, crime scene investigator and fraud investigator. In many of these areas she held supervisory positions, and she served as a field training officer for 20 years. Shirl has experience as a Trauma Intervention Volunteer and has been heavily involved in peer support, with a special focus on PTSD. A graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Deputy Leadership Institute, she has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Forensics and Crime Scene Investigations and is currently working on a master’s degree in Forensic Science. Shirl teaches Criminal Justice and Forensic courses at both the high school and college levels.
Lexipol provides essential policies and training that support operations in law enforcement agencies, fire departments and corrections facilities. Contact us today to find out more.
By Gregory L. Walterhouse, Bowling Green State University
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that in 2011 the Commission received 11,364 sexual harassment complaints down from a high of 15,889 in 1997. However, the recent proliferation of sexual harassment claims surfacing in the entertainment industry, media and Congress on the heels of the numerous claims of sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is suggestive that many instances of sexual harassment are still not being reported and there is still work to be done.
Considering these statistics and allegations, do public safety agencies have their houses in order with regards to sexual harassment? A quick internet search indicates they do not. There is no benefit to singling out and identifying individual agencies in this article, but an internet search revealed many articles detailing claims of sexual harassment against police, fire and EMS agencies in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. This suggests that it may be timely for agencies to review their sexual harassment policies and procedures.
Defining sexual harassment
The EEOC defines sexual harassment as “unlawful harassment of a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex.” “Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”
Two types of sexual harassment have been identified.
According to the EEOC, although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision such as the victim being disciplined, transferred, demoted or terminated.
Hostile work environment claims may be accompanied by claims of constructive discharge. Constructive discharge occurs when the employee’s working conditions are so intolerable that he/she feels compelled to resign. If the claim of constructive discharge is proven as a result of a hostile work environment, then the claim also becomes one of quid pro quo harassment.
Harasser’s may be a supervisor, co-worker or someone who is not an employee of the agency, for example a contractor or visitor. The charging party and harasser may be of the same or different gender. In Oncale v Sundowner Offshore Services the Supreme Court held that same-sex sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII. The Supreme Court in Faragher v. City of Boca Raton also held that employers are generally vicariously liable for the actionable harassment caused by supervisors
An affirmative defense is an assertion of facts and arguments that if true serve to defeat a plaintiff’s claim even if the facts in the complaint are true. Employers may have an affirmative defense against sexual harassment claims if they have taken reasonable steps to prevent and correct sexual harassment in the workplace. However, no affirmative defense is available when a supervisor’s harassment results in a tangible adverse employment action such as discharge (including constructive discharge), demotion, or undesirable work assignment.
The Court’s holding in Faragher provides guidance on establishing an affirmative defense.
First, there must be an established written policy with a strong statement prohibiting sexual harassment.
Second, the policy must provide a multiple avenue complaint procedure. There must be a provision in the complaint procedure that by-passes the immediate supervisor and the chain-of-command when necessary. The best approach is a provision for complaints to be made directly to the human resources department.
Third, the policy must be disseminated among all supervisors and employees. Simply disseminating the policy however is not sufficient. Periodic training on the policy needs to be conducted for all employees with preferably more advanced training provided to supervisors.
Fourth, complaints must be promptly and thoroughly investigated, and every attempt must be made to maintain as much confidentiality as possible under the given circumstances.
Fifth, the victim must be made whole with regard to any lost benefits or opportunities and prevent the conduct from recurring.
Finally, appropriate disciplinary action ranging from reprimand to termination must be administered against offenders. As with all discipline, the corrective action must reflect the severity of the conduct.
Once an employer has taken reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct sexual harassing behavior, the Court has held in Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth that an employer may raise an affirmative defense where a victim unreasonably fails to take advantage of preventative and corrective opportunities. However, absent a complaint, if an employer knows or should have known that either quid pro quo or hostile work environment harassment is occurring, it is incumbent upon the employer to immediately correct the behavior.
General policy guidelines
A policy must clearly and explicitly state that sexual harassment is strictly prohibited.
The policy must also make clear that there will be no retaliation against those who report harassment. It is important to note that any employee may report harassment not only those who are alleged victims. As stated previously there must be multiple avenues of reporting complaints. The policy must encourage an open culture where employees feel comfortable in approaching supervisors or human resources to report when such conduct is occurring in the workplace. The policy must be posted and distributed to all employees. Finally training on the policy should be conducted at least annually.
A hostile work environment is created by severe and persuasive conduct. While an isolated or single incident generally does not create a hostile work environment, it could if the single incident is unusually severe. What rises to the level of severe and persuasive is viewed by the courts from the objective standpoint of the “reasonable person.”
Employers should use the same approach in evaluating whether an incident is isolated or repetitive constituting severe and persuasive conduct. Employers must also understand it is not the intent of the conduct but how it was received. The guidance for this is whether the conduct is “unwelcome”.
Participation by the charging party can substantially complicate claims of sexual harassment.
Participation may range from participating in off-color jokes, using sexual terms in conversation or voluntary participation in sexual activity. Due to space limitations this cannot be discussed in-depth here, but employers should consider fraternization polices or use fraternization contracts for intimate employee relationships that my later turn bad and result in claims of sexual harassment.
Finally, employers must refrain from retaliating against charging parties, victims or witnesses. Neither the EEOC nor the courts look favorably upon claims of retaliation, and if proven awards against employers can be substantial.
Greg Walterhouse is a full-time faculty member in the Fire Administration and Master of Public Administration programs at Bowling Green State University. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from Oakland University, a Master’s degree in Legal Studies from the University of Illinois and a Master’s degree in Management from Central Michigan University. Before joining BGSU he had over 35 years of experience in fire/rescue and emergency management with 18 years in upper management, including Manager of Emergency Services and Chief of the Rochester Hills (MI) Fire Department and Chief of the Mt. Pleasant (MI) Fire Department. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
By Group Mobile, an Official IPSA Supporter
Time is one of the most valuable assets for first responders. Reaching critical situations quickly, having access to the right information in crucial moments, and the ability to communicate real-time, accurate data all impact first response teams' capacities for making pivotal decisions when it matters most. Well-informed decisions, even when made in a split second, bolster the safety of victims, civilians, and personnel.
In-vehicle connectivity enables educated, on-the-spot decisions and improved response efforts by providing first responders the resources to move as quickly as possible. Leveraging reliable hardware and software, like mobile gateway routers and rugged computers, is key.
Rugged mobile technology explained
Rugged mobile technology encompasses a variety of hardware and software including, but not limited to, smartphones, tablets, laptops, gateways, scanners, printers, and more. Designed to 1) provide seamless connectivity and 2) withstand harsh environments, rugged tech is the go-to for a variety of industries. First responders, especially, reap benefits when utilizing rugged mobile tech, because it allows them to further improve upon what they already do best: tactfully respond to critical situations.
Rugged mobile technology's improves response time
Rugged gateways create emergency vehicle mobile hotspots
Dramatically increased download links and seamless communication provide first responders with mission-critical data as they're responding to a situation. Fast access to real-time data, like federal criminal records and important incident location data, improves a response team’s ability to make the best decision based on the information available.
Briefly mentioned above, in-vehicle rugged gateways provide consolidated connectivity with dispatchers, IT teams, and other first responders. Most consumer routers use a 3G network, which causes delays and other time-consuming issues with in-vehicle applications, which first responders rely on to receive and communicate important information in real time. Rugged gateways, however, utilize secure and reliable networks to increase productivity and, ultimately, improve response time.
Group Mobile works closely with Sierra Wireless and Getac to offer the world a comprehensive offering of hardware, software and services for connected devices and machine-to-machine communications. Together, Group Mobile and Sierra Wireless provide innovative, reliable and high performing solutions. Group Mobile’s team of industry experts can assist you in selecting, designing and implementing a multi-network environment for mission-critical fleets, as well as request a free personalized quote. Group Mobile is an official IPSA Supporter.
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