shopify analytics


Together we are stronger

  • Home
  • IPSA Public Safety Column

IPSA's Public Safety Column

The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership, op-ed 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.

  • 05 Jun 2017 10:06 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Heather R. Cotter, IPSA Executive Director

    The global public safety community has witnessed, directly and through news reports, a tremendous amount of violence. It is just absolutely devastating to see these events unfold before us.

    Today there was a mass casualty shooting at a workplace in Orlando, Florida. Investigators believe this atrocity is from a disgruntled employee.

    Over the weekend, we learned about the London Bridge terrorist attack – in which a vehicle was used as a weapon. Several innocents lost their lives and many were injured. Then there was a second incident at the Borough Market in which the attackers were using knives as weapons.

    In May, there was a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester – another mass casualty incident in which 22 perished.

    An unpredictable environment

    When the unpredictable happens, our first responders must be fully prepared to respond – whether it’s a single incident or a complex, coordinated attack.

    Law enforcement, firefighters, EMS, telecommunicators, transportation, hospitals, emergency management and allied emergency responders are relying on their training, standard operating procedures and an effective incident command to get through the chaos while protecting the lives of citizens and keeping themselves safe from harm.

    While on scene, it is often unknown whether all the suspects have been identified and captured. It is unknown how many victims are injured. It is unknown whether another incident is going to occur in a nearby location. The work our first responders perform during these high-risk operations, and in an unpredictable environment, is admirable. It takes exceptional human beings to work at ground zero.

    First responders – whether they are in the United States or the United Kingdom – are operating under tremendous amount of stress while any attack unfolds. This stress continues even during the aftermath.

    What we can learn from these recent mass casualty attacks is that weaponry, type of incident, locations, geography, attackers’ demographics and time of day all varies.

    Given this, we must continue to provide education, tools, resources and share our after-action debriefings and lessons learned with one another. Globally, agencies, trainers and organizations must apply those lessons learned in training because the reality we face is these attacks can happen anywhere at any time.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families, friends and colleagues of the innocents whose lives were devastated by these recent attacks.

  • 02 Jun 2017 9:25 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Sean W. Stumbaugh, Battalion Chief (Retired)

    As firefighters, we are exposed to risks and hazards daily. We do what we can, as individuals and organizations, to reduce our exposure to these risks. When one of us is injured (or worse), we can typically point to a proximate cause: the event that triggered the injury. To get ahead of these injuries, however, we need to prevent the root causes.

    During my 32 years of firefighting, I was fortunate as far as injuries are concerned. Oh sure, I had the typical bumps and bruises, but I only sustained one injury I would consider major, the result of a fall one dark night on a steep mountainside in Trinity County, Calif.

    My engine company was part of a strike team conducting initial attack on a new—and growing—wildfire. Our strike team had just put in about 5,000 feet of 1½" fire hose up a steep mountainside along the left flank of the fire. We had tied in the line and were holding it with the help of hand crews. I made one misstep downhill and went tumbling over. Everyone heard my right knee pop as my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) gave way. Down I went.

    I spent the next four or five years healing, having surgery, and healing again. This injury changed my career, moving me temporarily to a desk job and out of the firehouse. But in the end, it doesn’t hold me back much; I can still swim, ride my bike, ski and run (I sometimes wish my knee prevented that last one!). The short-term pain and down time was no fun at all, but fortunately I suffered no long-term effects.

    I cannot say the same about my hearing.

    Hearing loss

    Because of long-term occupational noise exposure, I suffer from permanent hearing loss in my left ear. The proximate cause of this disability is not a single event, like my knee, but chronic exposure to noise. I first started to notice the problem when I heard a noise in my head that sounded like a C-130 Hercules aircraft.

    This noise was noticeable when things around me were very quiet. I initially thought it was congestion due to allergies, but it got progressively louder over time. The first real indication of a big problem was when I could not hear my wife’s voice very well at all (that can be trouble!).

    Long story short, I was diagnosed with significant hearing loss in my left ear due to industrial noise exposure. The hearing loss is bad enough, as I have difficulty hearing conversations, especially in loud places. But the worst part is the tinnitus (noises or ringing in the ear).

    This constant noise in my head is loud and it drowns out other sounds. There is no place that I can go where it is quiet; I hear this noise all the time.

    Noise levels in the fire service

    The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety sets the noise exposure limit (REL) at 85 decibels (dBA) over a time weighted average (TWA) of eight hours.

    Noise level measurements taken in the typical environment where a firefighter works often exceed this threshold. Consider the following three scenarios:

    1. When riding in or operating fire apparatus, the dBA levels range from 75 to 88 dBA. Spikes in noise levels have been measured between 105 and 109 dBA. These numbers indicate that firefighters need to wear hearing protection when they are working in and around their fire apparatus.

    2. During the performance of our duties we use a lot of power saws and other power equipment. We use chainsaws to vent roofs, rotary saws to cut metal and force entry, power fans to remove smoke from buildings, and hydraulic powerplants to run hydraulic tools for vehicle rescue. These and numerous other noises on the emergency scene often exceed recognized safety levels.

    3. Working around the firehouse is also a noisy activity. Fire apparatus, bells and whistles, air compressors and exhaust fans can all raise the noise level above the allowable limit.

    These situations are the proximate causes of hearing loss, and they require us to take steps to protect ourselves and our personnel, including training personnel to recognize unsafe noise levels and take appropriate steps to protect themselves, initiating engineering and administrative controls and providing appropriate personal protective equipment. The PPE needs to be adequate for the noise level involved and fit-tested to the individual firefighter.

    We usually have adequate hearing protection devices available to us in situations where noise exposure is common. Supervisors are tasked with ensuring firefighters use hearing protection as required by the department’s policies and procedures. We have this weird situation in our industry, however, during which protecting our hearing becomes more challenging.

    Hearing protection during emergency response

    If we have hearing safeguards in place, why do so many firefighters retire with hearing loss?

    Well, one reason is emergency response. We can go from performing station duties, sitting in our recliners, or even sleeping in our beds, to arriving on the scene of an emergency within a matter of minutes. We go from a resting state to potentially performing work at our highest level of physical ability. This emergent environment requires us to take quick and decisive action. We don our PPE and go to work. We have turnouts to protect our bodies from thermal insult and SCBA to protect our airways from smoke and heat, but do we have anything to protect our hearing when we are wearing all this other gear?

    If we donned hearing protection (ear plugs) before we threw on our mask that might help, but is it practical? We need to hear our radios over the rest of the loud noises. Orders or safety messages are too important to miss—and radio communications are often difficult to hear under the best fireground conditions. Further, PPE is an ensemble. We cannot just add components without proper testing to ensure the additions don’t interfere with the fit or function of other parts.

    Let’s face it, there are no bulletproof solutions to hearing protection on the fireground.

    However, that doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands and reconcile ourselves to hearing loss. Much of the work we do at fires and emergencies is done after the initial fast-paced, rescue and/or extinguishment activity. Once the fire is under control or the vehicle is stabilized, things slow down a little. That’s when we should consider whether hearing protection is appropriate.

    While each situation will differ, firefighters and supervisors should remember that it is long-term exposure that usually damages our hearing. We won’t be able to eliminate our exposure, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to reduce it.

    Policy considerations for fire departments

    As I noted at the beginning, injuries have proximate causes and root causes. If proximate causes of hearing loss are all the loud noises we’re exposed to, the root cause is lack of effective steps to reduce exposure.

    All fire departments should have policies that outline hearing conservation programs and training, including:

    • A schedule and process for evaluating and monitoring noise levels in the workplace
    • Administrative and engineering controls to reduce noise exposure
    • The requirement that firefighters will wear PPE when noise levels cannot be adequately reduced
    • Annual audiometric testing and tracking for all exposed personnel
    • Initial and ongoing training for all members
    • Documentation of all the above

    When a member experiences a shift in hearing (discovered by comparison to past audiometric tests), your organization should perform a re-evaluation of the noise levels in the work environment and the adequacy of engineering controls and PPE. If you discover one or more processes are not being adequately addressed, further evaluation and training may be in order.

    Take it seriously

    Hearing is a precious sensory function for humans; living without it is not impossible, but it is difficult. We tend to take our hearing for granted when we have it, but go without it for a day and you’ll see how precious it becomes.

    Take your hearing conservation program seriously. You may save your brothers and sisters the heartache that comes from missing key parts of conversations, or not being able to experience music the same way.

    Or, in the case of those of us with tinnitus, knowing true silence is something we left on the fireground.

    About the Author

    Sean Stumbaugh is a management services representative for Lexipol - an IPSA Supporter. 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 New River, AZ.

  • 01 Jun 2017 3:02 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Heather R. Cotter, IPSA Executive Director

    Law enforcement K9s are a fundamental extension to any law enforcement agency. They are highly trained and often have very specialized backgrounds including: narcotics detection, explosives detection, cadaverine detection, patrol and sentry/attack, search and rescue and arson detection.

    Just like human officers, the job of a K9 is high risk. Since January 2017, and according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, U.S. law enforcement has lost eight K9 heroes due to gunfire (one accidental), heat exhaustion and a heart attack.

    1. K9 Freckles served 11 years with the Florida Department of Corrections. He tragically lost his life due to heat exhaustion after a manhunt that lasted several days. 
    2. K9 Rico served six months with the Alaska State Troopers. He was shot and killed while attempting an apprehension of a suspect following a pursuit.
    3. K9 Kyro served three years with the Houston County (GA) Sheriff's Office. He was accidently shot when he wrongly attacked his handler – thinking the officer was a suspect. 
    4. K9 Rosco served six months with the Crowley (LA) Police Department. He was shot and killed after officers responded to a shooting call.
    5. K9 Rooster served five years with the Wichita (KS) Police Department. K9 Rooster was shot and killed while attempting an apprehension of a subject the scene of a domestic disturbance.
    6. K9 Diesel served with the Sebastian (FL) Police Department. He died from heat exhaustion.
    7. K9 Doki served one year with the Jasper County (SC) Sheriff's Office. He died from heat exhaustion.
    8. K9 Ranger served seven years with the Forest Lake (MN) Police Department. He died from a heart attack.

    Every K9 LODD is a tragedy that causes deep mourning in any department. It is important to remember, recognize and learn from our fallen K9s.

    There are several things we can do to keep our K9 safe from providing them bullet proof vests, making sure they’re hydrated, protecting them from overdosing during a drug raid, exercising them regularly and double or triple checking to make sure they’re not left alone in vehicles.

    Vests: K9s, like human officers, must have protective vests. This life-saving piece of equipment can save a K9 life from stabbings, bullets and even thermal overheating.  

    Hydration: K9s need water. Whether you’re a handler for patrol, search and rescue or other K9 it’s critical to keep them hydrated while they are on duty and off duty. K9s exert an exorbitant amount of energy. Keep them hydrated.

    Drug overdoses: K9s that work narcotics detection often encounter serious (and sometimes lethal) types of drugs. Recently, there has been news about using naloxone on K9s in case of an accidental overdose. This is worth further exploration for all K9 handlers and departments.

    Exercise: While K9s do get quite a bit of exercise, it’s important to keep them active even while they’re off-duty. Make sure they get regular physical examinations.

    Vehicles: There is no getting around having a K9 in a vehicle. Therefore, it is incumbent and a responsibility of the handler to always double or triple check that the K9 is not left alone in the vehicle. The K9 is depending on the handler to ensure its safety.

    K9s will always be a part of law enforcement. They have a long history of service and there is no end in sight. We must be vigilant to their environment and any stress they encounter – whether it’s environmental, during a call for service or physical. Our K9s protect us and we must protect them. Learn from the fallen heroes and apply those lessons in your department. 

  • 31 May 2017 2:54 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By James W. Dundas, Jr., Chair of the IPSA Memorial Committee 

    While monitoring public safety line of duty deaths in 2017, an alarming trend began to emerge regarding the number of vehicle accidents suffered by our first responders. As of today, and according to the U.S. Fire Administration and Officer Down Memorial Page, approximately 98 firefighters and law enforcement officers have lost their lives in 2017, and a large percentage of these fatalities were due to vehicle accidents.

    Currently, wearing a seatbelt is not only standard practice, it is law in 49 of the 50 states. Only New Hampshire does not have a statute requiring adult passengers to wear seatbelts. 

    Some first responders do not buckle up

    The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, previously conducted research about why public safety personnel sometimes do not buckle-up. 

    For firefighters, the research claims they are unable to buckle-up in a fast-moving fire truck or  don their protective clothing while strapped into a seat. Similarly, additional research revealed that some law enforcement officers perceive that seat restraints interfere with their weapon or another belt mounted tool. Further, the avoidance of seatbelts may also be attributed to the risk-taking culture of public safety personnel.     

    Seatbelt restraints explained

    Seatbelts are a proven and reliable defense. Sudden road hazards or drivers that are aggressive, distracted or impaired always seem to appear out of nowhere. Because of this unknown, vehicle occupants cannot possible anticipate when they are in danger. Unfortunate events on the highways occur suddenly and usually without warning. 

    Seatbelt restraints protect vehicle occupants in several ways. Buckling up protects the driver and front seat passenger from striking the windshield, steering wheel or even a vehicle mounted mobile computer. Seatbelts also prevent back seat passengers from colliding with window glass or each other.

    Further, seatbelts enhance the effectiveness of air bags. Seatbelts and airbags provide a combination defense increasing the safety of occupants and the survivability of a crash. Seatbelt use enhances the deployment effectiveness of airbags. But perhaps the greatest benefit of seatbelts is that they protect occupants from ejection. Once an occupant is ejected from a vehicle, the chances of serious injury or fatality substantially increase.

    All LODDs are tragedies, and all non-restrained injuries in a vehicle accident are tragedies that could possibly be prevented.

    Remember to buckle up - on duty and off duty. Your family, friends and colleagues are depending on you to be there for the next shift. 

  • 31 May 2017 8:02 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    The International Public Safety Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Arizona, is recruiting for the position of Secretary.

    This is a volunteer-based, Officer position with the IPSA. The position of Secretary requires the understanding and knowledge of the IPSA’s Mission and purpose. The Secretary must have excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, and the ability to interact with Board officials, directors, and the organization's membership, all of whom come from multiple public safety professional backgrounds.

    The Secretary's duties include managing all the IPSA’s internal communications and preparing or keeping track of Board meeting dates, meeting agendas and minutes from the meeting. The Secretary will be required to attend all Board meetings to keep a detailed record of the Board's actions. The Board's actions during the meeting are later typed up and disseminated to the Board as a recap of the events and the votes or decisions that transpired during the meeting.

    In addition, given that this is a leadership position, there is an expectation that the Secretary will assist with membership referrals, fundraising efforts and be a champion for the IPSA.

    Other duties performed by the secretary include the following:

    • Attend all IPSA Board Meetings (most Board meetings are remote and the Board meets approximately once per month).
    • Keep at the principal office of the IPSA all records and ensure their accuracy and safety (e.g. Membership books, minutes and bylaws).
    • Capture, review and distribute Board minutes within 5 business days following each Board meeting.
    • Provide notice of meetings of the Board and/or of a Committee when such notice is required.
    • See that all notices are duly given in accordance with the provisions of the IPSA’s Bylaws or as required by law.

    Eligibility and other details:

    • You must be a current Active Level member of the IPSA. If you are currently an Active Member, you must upgrade your membership prior to submitting your letter of interest and resume.
    • This is a one year appointment with the option for reappointment by the Board.
    • Appointment will begin in September 2018. 
    • You do not need to reside in Arizona. 

    Please submit your letter of interest describing why you are the best candidate for this position, two professional references and resume in a combined .PDF file to Executive Director Heather R. Cotter at

    The first review of resumes will occur in August. This leadership position will be filled in September. 

  • 30 May 2017 10:49 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Roger Rodriguez, NYPD-Retired, Vigilant Solutions, Director of Business Development

    Television has created a very unrealistic perception of facial recognition technology that many interpret as reality. Big Brother is watching you with a camera, all crimes are solved in an hour and a satellite camera positioned in the far reaches of outer space can produce an instantaneous facial recognition match. Throw in some special effects and we immediately have someone’s birth certificate, high school graduation photos and know he likes to eat pizza on Thursday nights.

    It’s simply a misrepresentation of a powerful technology that is proven very effective when used properly. Understanding this technology through research, education and communication often sways the misguided perceptions of many. Unfortunately, misperceptions persist, even among those holding leadership positions at the state and national levels of government.

    A report from the Government Accountability Office criticized the FBI’s “facial recognition database” for violating civil liberties and privacy. The GAO fears are really based on misinformation and a misunderstanding of what happens when law enforcement agencies use this technology every day. The report states facial recognition technology raises potential concerns as an effective tool for aiding law enforcement investigations, the protection of privacy, and individual civil liberties.

    As a detective assigned to the New York Police Department’s (NYPD’s) Real Time Crime Center, I considered technology and data two critical components to any investigation. And that experience taught me that facial recognition was simply a technology tool, not an absolute science like DNA, but a biometric technology which could be used to identify unknown suspects and generate leads. Facial recognition technology, in particular is not a smoking gun. It’s only one component in the investigative process that detectives can use to help close cases faster, solve crimes effectively, and ensure public safety.

    Facial recognition explained

    As I go across the country, or travel to various parts of the world discussing facial recognition technology, I have found it mission critical to first ensure that there is a full understanding of what facial recognition is and clearly define what it is not.

    Because of the misguided Hollywood perception that dominates this space, I always remind everyone this is nothing like the movie Minority Report or the TV show CSI. It’s a hands-on process requiring more than just a computer application to find a Possible Match. It still requires a fair amount of good, old fashioned police work.

    It is really about matching photos or sketches of unknown suspects to galleries of known faces in photos, in our case mug shots, to try and find an investigative lead that will enable us to identify a perpetrator in a timely manner. The photos or sketches of suspects are often blurry or grainy, requiring a significant amount of enhancement work to make them usable. It’s not so definitive and greatly lacks the mystic Hollywood makes it out to be.

    Understanding facial recognition versus facial identification

    There are two distinct processes when it comes to using faces for investigations: facial recognition (an automated process) and facial identification.

    Facial recognition is the automated process that enables investigators to compare a probe photo against an entire photo database, and helps reduce thousands of possibilities to dozens, and dozens, to one. Yes, I said one. As a matter of fact, it should always be one single candidate match. Upon search, many candidates are usually returned depending on the parameters set by the user.

    But how does an analyst sift through millions of images and find a face? Apply search filters.

    Most facial recognition applications have filtering capabilities and allow an analyst to constrict searches down to levels of specificity. Once the large mugshot gallery or “haystack of images” is reduced to a few hundred “bundles” of possibilities, analysts must undertake the critical aspect of this process known as facial identification.

    Here, the analyst physically inspects each face in the gallery and looks for physical similarities and differences between the probe and each of the returned candidates. This process allows for higher probabilities of success in locating a possible candidate match that resides in the returned list because the reliance is not left solely on the software. Hoping to find that single “needle,” that one face in the gallery, requires an effort from the analyst to carefully review each face.

    Tedious and time consuming to say the least, but essential to the investigation. This is the differentiator for higher accuracy rates and makes for a credible and successful facial recognition program.

    Implementing this into a facial recognition workflow, makes it easier to obtain one possible candidate match from thousands, or even millions of faces in a gallery.

    Most importantly, it is critical to remember that facial recognition technology can only be used to aid in the investigation. Arrests cannot be made solely based on a facial recognition possible match. The onus still falls on the agency to establish probable cause for an arrest.

    What about the false positives?

    Often, you will hear about the fear of false positives routinely being generated in facial searches. While it may sound interesting and plausible, it is not. If the facial recognition application returns faces that are similar, the agency should implement a process to physically inspect each face in the returned gallery.

    The GAO report states the FBI allows law enforcement agencies to request between two and 50 photos be returned from any NGI-IPS face recognition search. The report further states this is a completely automated process with no human analysis.

    Is the criticism by the GAO justified? Yes. The reason for higher rates of false positives is because there is no physical inspection performed by an analyst. Another reason for high rates of false positives is because the list of candidates set by the FBI is far too low at 50.

    When searching against galleries that are in the millions, many factors prevent algorithms from reading images effectively. More faces mean more similarities to cull through. 

    Image quality 

    If a submitted image is high quality and meets all the necessary requirements of a good probe in pose, lighting, and expression, then a return in a top 50 is likely. But what happens when images are less than ideal by facial recognition standards?

    Lower quality images will never return a top 50 ranking. In order for this to work correctly, the gallery must be smaller and the returned list of candidates should be set higher. I always set my returns between 250 to 500 candidates. 

    When images are less than ideal regarding pose, lighting or another reason the possible candidate most often resides deeper in the returned list. So setting a return at 50 is counter-productive because in a gallery of hundreds, the probe-to-candidate match may be found at rank 51, 150 or 500.

    Every image is different and algorithms read each face uniquely and will interpret results based on the number of faces it is searching against. Because of this, there is a definite need for the analyst to individually examine each face.

    Possible match and next steps

    Once a subject has been identified as a possible match through physical attributes, an immediate background investigation should be performed to validate the candidate as a viable suspect in the investigation.

    After the physical characteristics and background checks match up, a possible match report is provided by the agency to verify the single facial recognition match. A properly constructed possible match report document will clearly state in sum and substance, that probable cause must be established by other means for an arrest.

    No arrest can be made solely because of the facial recognition possible match report.

    Facial recognition simply automates a manual task

    As is the case with most forms of newer technology, facial recognition is not necessarily helping us do something different. It’s simply enabling us to do something better. 

    What was once a manual drawn out process of viewing mugshot images to determine someone’s identity, or conducting neighborhood canvasses by knocking on doors to determine someone’s true identity from a photo, has been streamlined by facial recognition by returning investigative results quicker and more efficiently. 

    We are not re-writing the rules of law enforcement or privacy rights, just generating valuable leads which lead to identifications critical for criminal investigations.

    Don’t view facial recognition as an absolute scientific breakthrough, or a tool infringing on our constitutional right to privacy. Rather, view it as a valuable resource in our lives, as we continue to live within the parameters set forth by our forefathers when they wrote the U.S. Constitution. 

    We now simply have better tools to capture the criminals who are preventing all of us from pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    About the Author

    Roger Rodriguez joined Vigilant Solutions after serving over twenty years with the NYPD where he spearheaded the NYPD’s first dedicated facial recognition unit and helped start up the Real Time Crime Center. Both are recognized as world models in law enforcement data analytics and facial recognition used in criminal investigations. Today, Roger drives the Facial Recognition, License Plate Reader, and Mobile Companion product lines for Vigilant Solutions as Director of Business Development. As subject matter expert and author, he shares his experiences through thought leadership presentations, media interviews, publications, and hundreds of law enforcement agencies around the world have benefitted from them.

    Related Content

    3 ways data driven investigations helps law enforcement predict, respond to and solve crime

    You play like you practice: Making the case for continual training for law enforcement

  • 26 May 2017 8:45 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    As public safety practitioners, we face danger, injury and potentially fatal consequences every day. We pilot our police cars, fire apparatus and ambulances toward chaos and mayhem. 

    In the back of our minds, we offer a little prayer that we will complete our assignment and return safely. Our friends and family know what we do for a living and they offer the same wishes and prayers.

    There is National Police Week, Fallen Firefighters Weekend, National Fallen EMS Responders week and we all pause to remember the fallen in our ranks. But there is another time, when we are obligated to reflect. The unofficial start of Summer - and that is Memorial Day. 

    To many, Memorial Day and the weekend prior, means the beach, the mountains or getting in the RV to anywhere USA. However, Memorial Day remembers and honors the sacrifices our military made, continues to make and potentially will make in the future.

    Whenever someone willingly ventures into harm’s way to sacrifice and protect others, they are worthy of honor and respect. 

    Since the founding of this nation, our military has stood guard, battled tyranny and insured justice for people around the globe, people not of their own country.  

    On this day, the International Public Safety Association recognizes their sense of duty, their courage and their honor.   

    Thank you for your service and stay safe. 

  • 24 May 2017 2:22 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Chief Rob Wylie (ret), BS, EMT-T, EFO

    What is a resilient community? According to the Community & Regional Resilience Institute, resilience is “the ability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.”

    As a 30-year veteran of the fire and emergency services, the holy grail has always been for me to assist the communities I served to become resilient. This means to prepare for natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods and fire; to have individuals and groups (neighbors) can stand on their own for a period until the fire department can get to them, especially during a disaster.

    To that end, we have spent countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars training people in CPR and basic first aid. However, the underlying premise had always been, “We (the fire department) are coming, and when we get there, get out of our way.”

    Response time reality

    The issue with this concept that if someone just calls 911, then a police officer, firefighter or medic will magically appear and solve my problem, is that it really doesn’t work that way.

    During a recent class I taught, attendees were asked, “What do you do in an emergency?” The answer was unanimous – call 911.

    When the same group was asked, “How long do you think it will take a responder to get to you after you call 911?” The most popular answer was five to seven minutes.

    The issue that we overlook is that it takes as little as three minutes to bleed to death from a traumatic injury. It takes time for responders to be notified and to make their way to the scene of the emergency. When someone is dying, time is a matter of life and death.

    While five to seven minutes is certainly an acceptable response time for emergency responders in many communities, in other communities – like Barrow, Alaska, where my colleagues and I recently taught a First CARE Provider class – the response time could be hours or days depending on such variables as weather and distance. The North Slope Fire District is responsible for over 90,000 square miles.

    And while Barrow, Alaska represents an extreme example of prolonged response times for emergency responders, in fact, even in a metro or suburban area response times can vary greatly depending on the scope of a disaster, the number of emergency calls resulting from that disaster and the number of responders available at any given time.

    Statistics revealed

    The International City Managers Association set the acceptable rate of emergency responders at about one responder for every 1000 residents. That translates to very few responders when a major incident like a tornado or a hurricane occurs.

    Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars are spent training people in CPR, how to use and automatic external defibrillator and basic first aid.

    An American Heart Association report suggests the incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is 326,200 annually. The average survival rate is 10.6 percent and survival with good neurologic function is 8.3 percent.  

    Compare those statistics with those that list trauma as the number one cause of death in people between the ages of 1-45 years of age, with an economic impact annually of 400 billion dollars, of which 20 percent are survivable with proper intervention and you are looking at 30,000 lives saved annually.

    Stop the bleed

    Uncontrolled post-traumatic bleeding is the leading cause of potentially preventable death among trauma patients.

    In fact, if proper interventions are done within the first three to five minutes for such injures as critical bleeding, there is a 90 percent chance that the injured person will survive. With that in mind, we get a much bigger bang for the buck teaching civilians to use tourniquets than we do teaching CPR.

    Before you vehemently disagree with this notion, I fully support teaching CPR. It saves lives. But a broader, more comprehensive approach is needed.

    To build truly resilient communities though, we must first dispel the myth that emergency responders will solve all our problems. We must acknowledge that for the first five to seven minutes in an emergency the true first responders are the people who are present at the time of the incident.

    Teaching those First Care Providers to deal with traumatic injuries such as critical bleeding will save lives and empower those who receive the training to make a difference rather than just calling 911 and hoping help arrives in time. Hope is not a plan.

    I am not advocating that people sitting at home see or hear a story about a bus accident and leap from their chairs to go render aid. I am advocative for teaching the people who may be on that bus sitting next to their child or spouse or friend to act and to save that loved one’s life.

    We, as emergency responders, must get past the idea that we are the only ones who can help in these situations. Civilians with a modest amount of training can make a difference when it comes to traumatic injuries such as critical bleeding (tourniquets and wound packing), airway obstructions (recovery position) and breathing problems resulting from trauma (chest seals).

    Through a series of exercises held during First Care Provider training sessions we have found that average people with as little as a half day of training are almost as effective as trained responders in recognizing critical issues like bleeding, and intervening. See below figure.

    • (Trained) = Civilians who have completed First Care Training
    • (Untrained) = Civilians before any training
    • EMS = Trained EMT’s, Paramedics and RN’s

    Shifting the paradigm

    To be a truly resilient community, we much teach people how to rely on themselves in the first five to seven minutes. Every minute that passes makes a difference between life and death.

    First responders must teach and educate their residents to be force multipliers instead of unlucky bystanders that need to be moved out of the way during an emergency.

    As emergency responders, we must pop the illusion that we will always be there in time to make a difference. We must acknowledge and prepare of citizens for the reality that in a time of a wide spread crisis like an earthquake, a tornado, severe weather or agencies with large areas to cover and not enough resources to cover them all in that five to seven minute window.

    Let’s educate our communities that with a modest amount of training, individuals who are present during a time of crisis can provide meaningful and effective care.

    About the Author

    Robert B. Wylie

    Chief Wylie has been in the fire service for 30 years serving first as a volunteer firefighter and then as a career firefighter, rising through the ranks to become the Fire Chief of the Cottleville FPD in St. Charles County, MO in 2005. He is a graduate of Lindenwood University (84’) The University of Maryland Staff and Command School (96’) and the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program (2000).

    During his tenure, Chief Wylie has served as director of the St. Charles/Warren County Haz Mat Team, and President of the Greater St. Louis Fire Chief’s Assoc. He currently serves as the President of the Professional Fire & Fraud Investigator’s Assoc. Additionally he has been an appointed member of the Governor’s homeland security advisory council, and is a current board member of the State of Missouri’s Fire Education and Safety Commission as well as immediate past Chairman of the St. Louis Area Regional Response System (STARRS). Rob has served as a Tactical Medic/ TEMS Team Leader with the St. Charles Regional SWAT Team for the last 20 years and serves on the Committee for Tactical Casualty Care’s Guidelines

    Chief Wylie will be presenting at our 2018 Conference. 

  • 22 May 2017 1:22 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Donald R. Weaver, Esq.

    Send me another unit
    Requesting backup
    Signal 00
    Roll cover
    Officer needs assistance
    Officer needs help

    Chances are, you have uttered at least one of these phrases before, and you have responded to countless similar requests from others. While the exact terminology or urgency of the requests may vary, at their core, each request communicates the same basic concept: Additional resources are needed (or, I need help).

    Calling for backup is appropriate in many different circumstances. Sometimes we need specially trained personnel or specialized equipment. Sometimes we just need another officer or two and sometimes we might need advice or guidance from someone who is more knowledgeable or experienced. Perhaps we need help this instant (or sooner) or maybe we help nearby just in case. Calling for help is a simple, yet elusive, way to help improve safety and minimize risk in all kinds of situations.

    There are situations where we don’t have time to wait, we don’t have the opportunity to ask for help, or help is simply unavailable. But often we avoid calling for backup even when we can. The idea that we should ask for help when help is available applies well beyond the on-duty uniformed patrol officer. It applies broadly to almost everything we encounter in law enforcement, including when we are acting as supervisors, managers and commanders.

    Most of us want to help. We are eager to lend a hand. We will quite literally drop whatever we are doing and run as fast as we can to get there. Yet many of us remain uncomfortable asking for help or guidance; and some of us flat out refuse to ask, except in the most dire situations.

    Does it really matter? Does our profession actually discourage asking for help? And if so, what can we do improve the situation?

    Does it really matter if we don't ask for help?

    Our failure or refusal to ask for help when help is reasonably available can contribute to us getting hurt or killed. Depending on the situation, not asking for help can also costs us in other ways, including the loss of coveted assignments, court cases, careers, reputations, money and relationships.

    We know that our actions and decisions will be thoroughly examined and evaluated after a tragedy. We try to make well-reasoned decisions that we can effectively explain and defend later—even if things go terribly wrong. One of those decisions is whether to ask for help. 

    As the following scenarios illustrate, whether we ask for help can and does matter very much.

    • Shift changes. When you wake up in the hospital with debilitating injuries to see your spouse and kids sitting nearby, would you be able to convince them that your decision to disregard backup and respond in alone was reasonable because there were several non-emergency calls pending and your backup officer was due off soon? 
    • Deadly force. After you reasonably use deadly force, are you certain that you could effectively explain and defend your decision to stop that felony suspect (who was known to be armed) by yourself instead of waiting for another officer?
    • Personnel concerns. Will your boss be understanding when you are in front of a jury explaining the hasty personnel decision you made on your own about your subordinate’s medical leave, off-duty social media use, pregnancy or disability?
    • Not calling for fire. How forgiving would the public be if, because we “did not want to bother them,” we decided not to call the fire department to the crash scene and it turned out that it was not just steam escaping from that trailer after all? 
    • Not calling the bomb squad. How will the media portray our decision not to call the bomb squad for help with that brown package that we had reason to think was suspicious when it blows up and injures someone?
    • Not engaging SWAT. Could you look a mourning spouse in the eyes and defend your decision not to use the tactical team to serve that warrant at the violent drug dealer’s house because, as you put it to your team of investigators, “We have guns and badges too”?
    • Not calling investigators. How well will you sleep when you realize that the young girl’s only chance at justice is all but gone partly because you thought that you could conduct the sexual abuse investigation just as well as the detective who normally works those cases?
    • Not calling forensics. How forgiving do you expect the victim’s family to be when they realize that the most powerful evidence of the predator’s guilt disappeared because you thought you would check it out yourself before calling the forensic examiner because, after all, you know a thing or two about computers?
    • Not supplementing your reports. How will you feel when you realize the thing that most people will remember about your stellar 25 years of service will be the multi-million-dollar verdict that was returned against the department all because you weren’t sure whether that tidbit of information was important enough to justify a supplemental report and you didn’t think it was necessary to ask anyone?
    • Not recognizing signs of suicide. As you sit at the funeral of your dear friend, will you be certain that you did the right thing by not calling for help when you were concerned she was suicidal?

    Does the law enforcement profession discourage asking for help?

    There are many factors that contribute to this phenomenon. But it appears that the culture of our profession generally discourages officers, managers and commanders from asking for help. 

    On one hand, we want and need officers who are generally self-sufficient. We need people who are willing and able to jump right in the middle of chaos and try to take some degree of control. We require officers to solve problems and to make well-reasoned decisions—sometimes with very little information and time to think. 

    But what about those situations when we have more facts, time to think, time to gather additional information, and the opportunity to call upon additional resources before we act?

    In many departments, police officer job descriptions don’t mention that officers are required to use discernment and to summon additional specialized resources when appropriate. 

    Further, many training evaluations list “trainee relies on others to make decisions” as an example of unacceptable performance. From the very first interactions with our agency and continuing throughout their careers, we seem to be telling officers that calling for backup is not a good thing.

    How to change the culture

    It is not enough to merely tolerate asking for help. We must strive for a culture that actively encourages people to ask for help, whether in the form of backup, specialized resources, advice or sometimes even professional counseling. 

    We must convince each member of our department that we recognize them as imperfect humans, incapable of knowing all or being all, and as we do this we should remember that our actions in dealing with those who make honest mistakes will speak louder than our words.

    As leaders, we will not be able to eliminate the deep-rooted pride that keeps certain officers from asking for help or the deeply held belief that asking for help is a sign of unacceptable weakness. But we can and should do something. 

    We can start by adopting policies that provide guidance on when asking for help is appropriate and even required. We can reinforce these policies by ensuring that our job descriptions, field training reports and performance evaluations reflect this core function. 

    Finally, we should never let a day pass without taking the opportunity to teach our personnel what our policy says, what it means and how to apply it.

    Author bio
    Donald R. Weaver is the Training Director for Lexipol and an attorney who specializes in law enforcement matters, including officer representation, police training and risk management. He spent 13 years as a police officer in Missouri and California and has worked various assignments including patrol, SWAT, overt and covert drug investigations, street crimes, forensic evidence and policy coordinator. 

    Lexipol’s Law Enforcement Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies that support officer safety, including guidance on situations that may require additional resources or the presence of a supervisor. Contact us today for more information or to request a free demo.

    Lexipol is an IPSA Supporter

  • 22 May 2017 7:59 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Heather R. Cotter, Executive Director

    The International Public Safety Association brings together the entire public safety community – law enforcement, fire, EMS, telecommunications, emergency management and allied emergency responders.

    Given this, we recognize the importance of creating awareness between the different disciplines about events going on that support each service whether it’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, National Police Week or EMS Week.

    IPSA and EMS

    The IPSA is a proud sponsor of EMS Week, and we support the EMS profession in many ways. And it starts with our leadership.

    Several of our Board Members are highly trained and respected EMS professionals. We also have several committees that include EMS professionals (and other first responders given our multidiscipline approach to developing policy, research and training), including our Rescue Task Force Committee, Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee, Communications Committee and our Mentoring Committee to name a few. In fact, we have current EMS professionals who serve as Chair our TEMS Committee and our Mentoring Committee.

    Finally, we also support EMS through training and education. Whether this is accomplished via a webinar, an article or at our upcoming conference – we are continually striving to bring relevant and timely information to the EMS profession.

    EMS Week and EMS Strong

    This year, EMS Week is celebrated from May 21 – May 2017. It’s a time to honor these first responders who take care of us when we are often at our worst and unable to do so. Without their care – whether it’s in our home, at our workplace or even care under fire – many of us (or our loved ones) would not be here.

    EMS Strong is a philosophy for EMS professionals to channel to keep them going when times get tough because you know they do and will. The IPSA praises everyone who serves in the EMS profession and truly thanks them for their dedication to the service they provide. Be EMS Strong.

    Getting involved

    Did you know one of our core value’s is to be inclusive of the entire public safety community? We want everyone to join the IPSA – whether you’re in EMS or law enforcement or the private sector.

    We want EMS professionals to write articles for us about leading practices so we can share them with the global public safety community. We want EMS professionals to join a committee to help develop policy that can be used at the local, state, national and international levels. We want EMS professionals to be a future webinar instructor and present lessons learned.

    The IPSA’s mission is to break down cultural barriers and foster relationship between the disciplines because ultimately our vision is for a stronger, more integrated public safety community capable of an effective joint response to all public safety incidents. Get involved. Join today.

    Related Content

    IPSA Membership

    Webinar: Is this scene safe?

    Fentanyl: What first responders need to know about this potentially lethal drug

Copyright 2015.  International Public Safety Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit.  Contact us.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software