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IPSA's 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.

  • 20 Jul 2017 7:28 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Tom Joyce, NYPD Retired Lieutenant Commander of Detectives, Vigilant Solutions VP of Business Development

    Recently, I met three registrants at the International Homicide Investigators Association National Symposium in Orlando who didn’t know what LPR was. What is LPR? Or is it ALPR? Or is it ANPR? If you work investigations you should know this – LPR stands for license plate readers (and the industry accepted acronym is LPR).

    Granted one of these individuals I met was retired and his last patrol vehicle was a gelding, but the other two were active. They have the responsibility of conducting death investigations, ultimately, homicide. With that responsibility, they may levy the charge of murder on someone someday, a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

    Oath of best practices

    In 2000, I attended the NYPD homicide course and had the privilege of meeting and listening to Vernon Geberth of Practical Homicide Investigation. Commander Geberth requires that all class attendees take an oath, part of which reads, “Practitioners must be prepared to use tactics, procedures and forensic techniques in their pursuit of the truth: and then follow the course of events and the facts as they are developed to their ultimate conclusion.” All of his attendees should adhere to that oath.

    What does this oath have to do with LPR? There are detectives, investigators and analysts that are not up on the latest and greatest best practices and tools to assist their criminal investigative process.

    LPR is one of many technologies and tools that all investigators must know about. For example, how many detectives know what DNA stands for? And what is a loci? I fear how many may respond to these questions, knowing that too many won’t know what these terms mean. And that’s disappointing to the profession.

    Professional responsibility

    Who is responsible for ensuring that detectives have the best tools and technologies available in their toolbelts? The detective? Yes. The Squad Commander? Yes. The agency they work for? Yes. Everyone who oversees investigators (including the investigator) is responsible for knowing current leading practices and applying those practices in their jurisdiction.

    As an active member of the IHIA Advisory Board, I met with incoming President Paul Belli and first Vice President Greg Esteban. They are committed to providing their membership with the best training possible at their national symposiums and regional training sessions. However, only a small percentage of investigators are taking advantage of this training.

    Leveraging LPR analytics

    As I advocate for you to expand your knowledge about the tools that are available to advance your investigations, I’ll explain why every homicide investigator needs LPR in their investigative arsenal.

    LPR’s true power comes when it is coupled with analytics for investigations. Think about this: a high amount of crimes involves a vehicle in some capacity – either the vehicle was used in committing the crime, was driven to and from the crime scene or perhaps a witness was in a nearby vehicle. 

    Here’s what that means for you: If you can locate a vehicle of interest, you are likely on your way to developing leads and solving crimes. LPR and analytics help you locate that vehicle and complete the investigative triangle of person, location and vehicle. Find the vehicle and you can use your resources to connect that vehicle to a person or even a location, such as crime scene.

    So, detectives, please ask the boss to nurture your growth as an investigator, push your agency to get you trained and scream as loud as you can for the technology you need. Provide use cases and examples about how the technology is being applied in other agencies. If you need some examples, contact me and I’ll give you a ton. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to do your job – in fact, it’s your obligation to the communities you serve to make sure you have what you need to effectively do your job.

    About the Author

    Tom Joyce, NYPD Retired Lieutenant Commander of Detectives, Vigilant Solutions VP of Business Development. Tom is a retired member of the NYPD in the rank of Lieutenant Commander of Detectives. He commanded the NYPD Cold Case Squad upon his retirement and additionally held many other roles within the detective and organized crime bureaus. Tom often lectures on various subject matters relating to Homicide Investigations and has published numerous articles on criminal investigations. Tom is currently a member of the International Homicide Investigators Association’s Advisory Board.

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  • 19 Jul 2017 6:51 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Lieutenant Tim Murphy, Paso Robles (CA) Police Department, IPSA Memorial Committee

    Everyone in public safety recalls the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015.  The suspects in this attack were responsible for killing fourteen innocents and wounding another twenty-two. After they fled the scene, these suspects were ultimately located by law enforcement and engaged in a dramatic shootout, which resulted in their deaths. Fortunately, only two police officers were wounded in this culminating event. 

    The public safety professionals who responded to the initial attack, and the final apprehension of the suspects, all performed in the finest traditions of our profession. They faced a daunting task:

    • Responding to the 9-1-1 calls of an active shooter at a public building.
    • Managing victim care.
    • Securing a large office building to make it safe for EMS and crime scene investigators.
    • Dealing with the massive response of public safety personnel from throughout the region.
    • Keeping the public informed and interacting with the media.
    • Managing all the uninjured victims and witnesses.
    • Locating the suspects.

    Their courage and selfless acts in the face of life threatening danger and chaos are commendable. In public safety, practitioners often focus on the response.  

    • How did we respond?
    • Did we follow accepted tactics, techniques and procedures?
    • Did our weapons and ammunition perform as expected?
    • Did our communications systems function under maximum load?

    Sometimes in the overwhelming rush of work that needs to be accomplished during and in the day following an incident, however, we forget about the most important component of our response – safeguarding our own people.

    • How are they doing?
    • How are they processing these traumatizing events?
    • How is our organization responding to their needs?

    While the public safety profession has made significant improvements in this concept over the last twenty-five years, improvements can be made. We must always seek new opportunities to improve our response to employee trauma support.

    There is no doubt that many of the first responders were traumatized by the San Bernardino attack. The multiple agencies involved completed after action reports and followed their debriefing protocols to assist their employees in dealing with this trauma and stress. Individual agencies are commended for their efforts.

    The 2016 DOJ COPS Office publication Bringing Calm to Chaos is an excellent review of the public safety response to this terrorist attack, from the incoming 9-1-1 calls to the after-action reports and debriefings.

    This report is a valuable resource and I encourage all public safety professionals to make the time to read it. The report examines every facet of the public safety response to these events, including lessons learned about ‘Post-event responder and victim welfare’.  There are five key takeaways from this part of the report:

    1. Post-event victim and responder welfare should be an integral part of inter-agency planning, training and exercises (page 108).
    2. Ensure your department has a policy regarding mental health support after critical incidents and clearly communicated to the entire department (page 108).
    3. Assign a mental health or officer wellness incident commander to oversee officer mental health and coordinate services among participating agencies (page 108).
    4. Compel participation in critical incident debriefings or post-incident counseling both for victims and civilians and commissioned staff (page 108).
    5. Consider follow-up counseling as it is not unusual for post-traumatic stress to manifest itself several weeks or months after an event (page 108).

    In addition to mental health assistance, consider unit, team, or department level debriefings to bring closure to the event (page 108)

    We are all aware that events like the terrorist attack in San Bernardino traumatize our first responders.  It is important to remember that everyday events that we routinely deal with can have the same impact on our personnel. 

    A horrific car crash, an officer involved shooting, a structure fire with casualties and natural disasters are all examples of incidents that could traumatize one of our own. This trauma can create significant issues personally and professionally for our people. It is our responsibility as leaders to take proactive steps to provide our first responders with appropriate mental health trauma support.

    For further reading on these topics, I encourage you to read 2016 report titled Preparing for the Unimaginable: How Chiefs Can Safeguard Officer Mental Health Before and After Mass Casualty Event – another DOJ COPS Office publication.

    About the Author

    Tim Murphy currently serves as the Support Services Commander at the Paso Robles (CA) Police Department. He is commander of the San Luis Obispo Regional SWAT Team and holds a B.S. Degree in criminal justice from California State University (Sacramento) and a Master’s Degree in Justice Administration from Norwich University. During his 27-year career, he has served as a field training officer, motor officer, detective, and SWAT operator.

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  • 15 Jul 2017 7:37 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Joseph “Paul” Manley, Lieutenant, Nahant Police Department

    Whether you work in law enforcement, security, the fire service, EMS, healthcare, human services, business, or any field, you have likely come across angry, hostile or non-compliant behavior. Your response to defensive behavior is often the key to avoiding a physical confrontation with someone who has lost control of their behavior.

    A person during a crisis – and in the heat of the moment – cannot always communicate their thoughts, feelings or emotions clearly. They may find it difficult to understand what others are saying. Therefore, it is important to empathize with the person’s feelings, stay calm and try to de-escalate the situation.

    1. Situational assessment: An individual’s behavior during crisis is unpredictable and can change dramatically without warning. Therefore, it is important to quickly scan the immediate area, look for exits, bystanders and dangerous objects – even a pencil can be lethal – to assess immediate risks and help you decide on the most suitable approach. Ask yourself these questions.

      --Are there any objects nearby that can harm me or cause self-inflicted harm?
      --Do I need emergency assistance? Or do I have time to start with a phone call for guidance and support?
      --Do I need additional resources to handle the problem?
      --Is the person in danger of hurting themselves, others or property?

      When encountering an individual in crisis the most important thing is safety. And when in doubt, get out.

    2. Actively listen: Clarifying, paraphrasing and open-ended questions all help to ensure that the person is aware you understand their frustrations. This helps to lower frustration levels as they feel they have gotten their concerns off their chest.

    3. Remain empathetic: When someone says or does something you perceive as weird, unusual or irrational, do not judge or discount their feelings. Whether you think those feelings are justified, they’re real to the individual in crisis. Pay attention to what they are doing and saying. Keep in mind that whatever the person is going through, it is likely the most important thing in their life at that particular moment.

    4. Physical distance: Maintain a safe distance. Personal space varies among individuals during crisis, but if possible stand one to three feet away from a person who is escalating. Allowing personal space may help decrease the individual’s anxiety and may prevent unpredictable behavior. If you must enter someone’s personal space to provide care, explain your actions first so the individual feels less confused and frightened.

    5. Non-verbal communication: It is possible that the individual in crisis will downward spiral and begin to lose control. At this stage, they are more likely to react to your non-verbal communication and cannot hear your words or commands. Be mindful of your gestures, facial expressions, movements and tone of voice. Keeping your tone and body language neutral will go a long way toward defusing a situation.

    6. Clearly establish limits: If the individual’s behavior is belligerent, defensive or disruptive, give them clear, simple and enforceable limits. Offer concise and respectful choices and consequences. An individual who is upset may not be able to focus on everything you say. Be clear, speak confidently and slowly and offer the positive choice first.

    7. Do not rush: When an individual during crisis is upset, they may not be able to think clearly. Give them a few moments to think through what you’ve said. Stress rises when they feel rushed. Allowing time brings calm.

    8. Post-incident debriefing: Immediately following an incident, the physical, emotional and psychological needs of all involved participants should be attended to in a supportive safe environment, particularly if any were victims of aggression or violence. There must be a dedicated and timely review to examine the responses to the incident. The review process must be undertaken in the spirit of open inquiry with the aim of improving future responses rather than an attempt to assign blame.

    Following the review, the action plan should be updated accordingly, and all staff should be made aware of any alterations to the planned response to challenging situations.

    Advocating and caring for someone experiencing a crisis can be extremely stressful. Have a plan in place, know the best techniques to de-escalate the situation and know where to turn when you need help.

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    About the Author

    Lt. Manley is a 30+ year law enforcement professional and adjunct faculty member at North Shore Community College in Danvers, MA. Paul is the Founder of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC and currently serves as the Executive Officer for the Nahant Massachusetts Police Department. Paul has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Anna Maria College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from American International College. Paul is proud and honored to serve the IPSA Multi-Discipline Mentoring Program and Memorial Committee.

  • 15 Jul 2017 7:03 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Group Mobile – an IPSA Supporter

    The public safety sector is on the forefront of real-time data use. The value of real-time data is almost immeasurable as having access to true, real-time data can save lives. Given this, the law enforcement workflow of the future is a real-time crime center with reliable and continual communication, instant access to critical records, GPS guidance, e-citations, fingerprint authentication readers, smartcard and magnetic card readers, body-worn cameras, in-vehicle printing, on-scene incident reporting, barcode and RFID readers, LPRs and law enforcement apps and software.

    The ideal best practice for every organization is to pilot a technology before procurement, but this is not always feasible and many budgets don’t allow for trial and error testing. 

    Talk to other agencies

    How do you know what to shop for when selecting a new mobile technology solution? Group Mobile suggests choosing a mobile device that has the right feature set for your needs or will be able to fulfill all of your agency’s operational requirements in a single device. There is no reason to procure a device that falls short of your agency’s needs.

    When it comes to mobile technology deployments, Group Mobile knows the road. Many mid-size cities, towns and counties have similar workflows and, therefore, similar mobile device requirements.

    Before buying, do your research and talk with other agencies that mirror yours. Set up a call with them or meet with them in person to understand the lessons they’ve learned in their mobile journey. You’ll find that agencies are always willing to help another agency and give you an honest assessment.

    What to look for

    This portfolio list of options will help you focus your requirements and conduct a SWOT analysis of your own current technology portfolio to make early decisions regarding:

    • Operating system preference: The applications you choose will drive your OS decision. Most public safety agencies choose to run Windows for compatibility and security. Though there are new applications arriving on the Android platform today that may benefit some organizations. Fortunately, fully rugged Android tablets are now available.
    • Mobile data and mobile device security: This may include VPN access, multi-factor authentication, fingerprint readers, Common Access Card (CAC) readers, TPM, Kensington physical locks and other internal and external measures.
    • Data entry tools: Do you need the flexibility of keyboard and touch for data entry? Do you need a digitizer pen (which is much more accurate than a stylus)?
    • Size and weight: Do you prefer a larger 10-12” screen for easy, full-page viewing of documents and apps? Or can you make do with a 5” screen? Can your techs juggle a 5+ pound notebook and patient care in the field? Or do they need a more lightweight 2-4-pound solution?
    • Wired and wireless connectivity: How many I/O ports do you need? Which I/O ports do you need? Will your teams have access to Wi-Fi hotspots all the time, or do they need multiple wireless network and ancillary device connectivity options such as 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IP, Gobi 3000
    • Rugged requirements: Which MIl-STD-810G and Ingress Protection (IP) rating levels are enough – and how much is too much? It depends on how often your mobile device will be exposed to water, dust, humidity, or corrosive elements, for example, and how prevalent shock or vibration will be in the vehicle. Will the device be used in potentially explosive environments? Make sure it’s also ATEX or C1D2/C1Z2 compliant for Hazardous Locations.

    Impediments to true public safety mobility – inappropriate form-factors, fragile devices, heavy notebooks, weak data radios, limited mobile workflow software – are a thing of the past. The decision to go mobile today is just that – a decision to go mobile. Real-time information, streamlined reporting and constant communication make your service to the community faster, better and safer.

    Make smart, near-term buys to lay a foundation for a full mobility solution with long-term return on investment. That may be just a handful of rugged tablets to power a new dispatch system. But it gives you time to fine tune your solution, define next best steps, and measure ROI.

    Then, as budgets allow, you can expeditiously deploy more tablets and workflows into the field with confidence. Don’t worry if you’re not able to leverage all of a rugged tablet’s bells and whistles in the first 12 months. You will have all the necessary processing power, storage capacity, wireless network compatibility, accessories and expansion modules available to support each incremental step you take toward full workforce mobility over the next three to five years. 

    If you aren’t certain whether you need a desktop, laptop, and rugged tablet to excel at the tasks you complete in the office, in-vehicle, and in the field – consider the Xplore XSLATE R12 rugged tablet. This rugged tablet is highly mobile, extremely flexible and very resilient. You’ll have the right connectivity and ergonomics for a quick transition from the field to a full desktop computing experience when back at the office – and a conveniently stored rugged companion keyboard. It's fast to deploy when you want a notebook, and even easier to store when you don't.

    Group Mobile’s team of industry experts can assist you in selecting, designing and implementing a multi-network environment for mission-critical fleets, request a free personalized quote.

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  • 07 Jul 2017 9:53 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Charles L. Werner, Chair -  IPSA Unmanned Aircraft System Committee

    Almost every week there are news stories about how public safety is using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, also called drones). There are documented public safety uses such as structural firefighting, wild land firefighting, hazmat incidents, search and rescue, radiological incidents, lifeguard operations, shark shoreline patrols, technical rescue operations, critical infrastructure inspections, pre-incident planning, damage assessment, flood rescues, delivery of medicine/AEDs and more. After a three-year journey into the world of drones, I continually learn new aspects about the ever-changing world of drone technology, payloads and the associated rules and regulations. 

    Know the National Airspace System

    Flying a UAS or drone comes with a great deal of responsibility as every aspect of flight involves the National Airspace System. Flying in the NAS requires knowledge of the different classifications of air space which dictate where a remote pilot can and cannot fly. There are some areas like the National Capitol Region near DC that have very strict flight restrictions.   

    Additionally, there are restricted air spaces where UAS either cannot fly or require special permission. As a remote pilot of a drone, you must have knowledge of both manned and unmanned flight operation in order to safely fly as both are operating in the NAS. This requires the knowledge to read aeronautical sectional charts, understand weather and UAS limitations.

    Additionally, daily activities on the ground (emergency incidents, wildfires, large public events, VIP movements, etc.) can generate Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) which limit UAS operations for a specified period of time.

    Know your Missions

    Before jumping into purchasing a UAS, know how your organization can and will operate a UAS program. Knowing your mission(s) will be the single most important information to make the correct selection of a drone. It is also important to identify how the UAS will be used as it has a direct bearing on the required remote pilot certifications.

    Know your UAS operations options

    There are a number of options to obtain UAS capabilities. If you are unsure about developing a department drone program, you might consider a contractual service from a private UAS company. This can be established in advance, and you would only pay as agreed and when needed.

    Another option is to explore if neighboring public safety organizations have a UAS program and see if it is possible to utilize their UAS capability through a mutual aid agreement. Another option would be to join with several public safety organizations to create a regional public safety UAS program. This allows sharing the financial costs and human resources needed to sustain a UAS program. Last, but not least, is to develop an in-house UAS program.

    Know certification requirements

    Before deploying your department's UAS, you must know certification requirements established by the FAA. This is very important to understand as there are two very distinguishable paths for UAS flight operations.

    1. Public flight operations (Certificate of Authorization or COA)
    2. Civil flight operations (14 CFR Part 107 Rules)

    Each set of rules have unique nuances that you must be aware as it relates to flight operations. 

    Option 1: Public flight operations

    Public flight operations are defined as those flights that are performed as a tribal, local, state or federal government entity.

    Under a COA, public entities can self-certify its pilots and various program elements. The problem is that there is no reference or basis for the self-certification which leaves each agency to develop/define their own self certification process which creates some significant liability concerns for risk managers.

    Option 2: Civil flight operations (14 CFR Part 107 Rules)

    Civil flight operations are inclusive of the general private sector. Civil flight operations require remote pilots to pass an FAA Knowledge Test to meet the requirements of 14 CFR Part 107 Rules.  This test is designed to ensure that remote pilots understand the NAS and the general FAA Rules and Regulations related to UAS operations and safety. This test must be taken at an official FAA Test Site, has a $150 fee and must be renewed every two years. Unfortunately, there is no practical training or skills testing.

    NOTE: There is a general consensus that public entities should require their remote pilots to take the FAA Knowledge Test (Part 107). This is done to ensure that remote pilots have the necessary knowledge of the NAS, FAA Rules and Regulations, general UAS operations and safety.

    Know FAA rules and regulations

    It is necessary to know and abide by FAA Rules and Regulations to ensure that all UAS flights are done in a safe, legal and effective manner. These rules outline the NAS requirements, flying parameters and UAS specific requirements such as weight, speed and flight altitude.

    Know the scope and effort

    Starting a UAS program in your department is a huge undertaking. A UAS program must address training requirements, UAS and payload care & maintenance, flight documentation, data requirements, remote pilot proficiency, insurance/liability, public outreach and thorough documentation on all program elements.

    Know where to look for information

    Fortunately, there is an organization that has been established to advance Public Safety Unmanned Aircraft Systems. This organization is the National Council on Public Safety UAS and its website URL is The IPSA is actively involved with the National Council and participates on its Governing Board.

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  • 06 Jul 2017 5:10 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    The cold-blooded murder and ambush of Officer Miosotis Familia in New York City Wednesday morning is a grim reminder that just one short year ago on July 7, 2016, members of our nation’s law enforcement community were the targets and victims of a deadly ambush attack in Dallas. Five officers lost their lives – one of the deadliest events in recent law enforcement history.

    1. Sergeant Michael Smith, Dallas Police Department, End of Watch: Thursday, July 7, 2016

    2. Senior Corporal Lorne Ahrens, Dallas Police Department, End of Watch: Thursday, July 7, 2016

    3. Police Officer Michael Krol, Dallas Police Department, End of Watch: Thursday, July 7, 2016

    4. Police Officer Patrick Zamarripa, Dallas Police Department, End of Watch: Thursday, July 7, 2016

    5. Police Officer Brent Thompson, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Department, End of Watch: Thursday, July 7, 2016

    These five officers were selflessly protecting citizens who were exercising their First Amendment right to assemble peaceably. The International Public Safety Association will never forget this night of terror on our nation’s law enforcement community.

    Assaults against our first responders continue. Since the tragedy in Dallas last year, there have been several ambush attacks and attempted assaults. A fatal ambush attack against an NYPD Officer occurred earlier this week. While we can all agree these assaults must stop immediately, the unfortunate reality is that these attacks are continuing.

    First responders must work in unity with leadership in their agencies, their partner agencies, elected officials and community organizations to objectively assess and develop a path forward to try to prevent these serious attacks we continue to witness.

    They must continue to reach out to the communities they serve for assistance in preventing these attacks and support when recovering from these tragedies. Stay strong, lean on each other for support and trust the members of your community. They feel your frustration and pain.

    Press Contact
    Heather R. Cotter
    Executive Director

  • 05 Jul 2017 2:23 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Columbia Southern University

    Paramedics, emergency medical technicians and others who rush to help those in life threatening situations are truly unsung heroes. And, they are incredibly busy professionals with high demanding jobs. A 2014 report from the National Fire Incident Reporting System indicated that approximately 64 percent of the more than 23 million calls to fire departments involve EMS.

    Further, these highly trained professionals care for patients often at their most vulnerable moments as they work diligently to aid each patient.

    Yet, whom do these valiant first responders count on to make sure they are able to save a life? To get the correct equipment and tools they need? To secure their proper training and information? To provide a strong operational system to allow them to interact with other emergency agencies?

    Perhaps a “hero” to paramedics, EMTs and others in emergency services is the behind-the-scenes director, manager or supervisor who excels in emergency medical services administration (EMSA).

    What is EMSA?

    EMSA involves the key management of responsibilities related to planning, organizing, improving and maintaining a system of emergency medical services or administering an emergency medical services program. EMSA also employs leadership skills to help direct and assign emergency services, both in urgent and routine situations.

    Administration of EMS can benefit from a robust experience in the field as a first-responder. In some positions, this may not be crucial, but it can be hard to lead if you have never followed, as some say. Connecting with others with whom you have worked shoulder-to-shoulder or those whose jobs you have done before gives management authenticity and may foster respect. These can be valuable tools in communication, interpreting behaviors and analyzing and evaluating personnel’s skill sets in emergency medical services.

    Those who pursue careers in EMSA have a bevy of choices throughout the various first-response departments such as fire and rescue, emergency management and EMS—not to mention careers at the federal, state and local government levels and within the private sector. Some administrative jobs include:

    • EMS Coordinator
    • EMS Supervisor
    • Federal Emergency Management Agency Employee
    • State Office of EMS Employee

    Voice of experience

    Someone who knows what it’s like to work in an administrative capacity in the EMS field is manager Lt. Daniel Tyk of the North Shore Fire Department in Brown Deer, Wisconsin. He has worked at the department since 2005 and now wears many hats as EMS manager, public information and community relations officer.

    As the department’s EMS manager, he supervises 94 personnel who are paramedics and EMTs. Tyk oversees their training, quality assurance and continuing education, which he strongly endorses and recommends they get.

    “I don’t think a person should ever stop trying to learn more. It’s very important to always find a way to better yourself,” said Tyk, who did just that by recently earning an online bachelor’s degree in EMSA from Columbia Southern University. He pursued the degree to expand and fortify his education and skills and create additional career opportunities. He’s glad he did, too.

    “CSU courses have prepared me to look beyond the everyday managerial responsibilities and refocus on how to take a 30,000-foot view of decisions that are made to align with strategic goals, increasing efficiencies and creating innovation within the organization,” he explained.

    For those seeking a position in EMSA, continued education is strongly recommended, as most positions require a formal degree. Whether it be a degree in emergency medical services administration, public administration or emergency services management, a degree can help a future manager become a “hero” for his or her team of first-responders.

    About Columbia Southern University

    One of the nation’s pioneer online universities, Columbia Southern University was established in 1993 to provide an alternative to the traditional university experience. CSU offers online associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees such as business administration, criminal justice, fire administration and occupational safety and health. Visit or call (877) 347-6050 to learn more.

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  • 03 Jul 2017 1:21 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Sean W. Stumbaugh, Battalion Chief (Retired)

    The use of mind-altering substances is nothing new. Since the first person left a bowl of grain out in the rain, and then the sun and wild yeast did their thing, humans have had access to beer. Additional intoxicating substances followed through different methods of discovery. How people figured out that the milky substance contained in the un-ripened seed pod of the poppy flower is a powerful drug is beyond me. This drug is opium.

    History of opium

    Opium use in America is also nothing new. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a substance called laudanum was very popular. This product was a mixture of 10 percent opium and alcohol. Laudanum was available as an over-the-counter drug. It was basically the aspirin of its time and was recommended for pain relief for many common ailments and for serious diseases such as tuberculosis.

    The problem with laudanum is that it is highly addictive due to the opium content. As more people began to develop addictions, doctors began to discourage its use; government regulations restricting access to opioids soon followed.

    Today, opium comes in many natural and synthetic forms. Modern pharmaceutical companies have created synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl, Dilaudid, Norco), which are much more powerful than their natural cousin. These medications were created to reduce pain and suffering for patients after injury or surgery and for those living with chronic pain.

    Opioid abuse and toxicity

    The problem is that individuals have a proclivity to abuse these medications and become addicted; take away the prescribed medications and some addicts turn to street drugs out of desperation. Four in five new heroin users start out misusing prescription painkillers. Opioid abuse in the U.S. has become epidemic and many people are dying.

    We have seen numerous reports in the past several weeks of law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and K9s being exposed to highly toxic opioids.

    These exposures come through casual contact such as searching a car for drugs, brushing off a small amount of white powder (following a search in which the officer had used gloves and mask), touching a patient with a synthetic opioid on their person, or inhaling a drug after it was aerosolized from a flash/bang device.

    Adverse effects when administering treatment

    A patient overdosing on opioids presents inherent risks to first responders. These drugs cause respiratory depression, and first responders often find patients who aren’t breathing. The initial treatment options are to provide ventilation for the patient and administer Narcan (naloxone), if it is available. Naloxone is designed to reverse the effects of the drug.

    However, first responders need to know that sometimes when the patient becomes conscious, they are very agitated and can become violent. Also, they may have residue or greater amounts of the drug on their person. First responders need to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate precautions.

    Hazardous materials refresher

    First responders need to start approaching these incidents with a hazardous materials (hazmat) response mindset. I know it’s not practical for all responders to show up in Level A suits; that’s not what I’m talking about.  

    But, we are taught from the beginning of our careers that hazmat calls are uniquely dangerous. Our first responsibility in these situations is to isolate the area and deny further entry of responders or civilians.

    Recently, there have been reports about law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS and K9s being exposed and becoming ill from fentanyl and other opiates through patient contact or contact with the drug by touching a contaminated object.

    If this type of exposure occurred at a hazmat call, we would all say a policy or procedure had been violated. This is not about blaming the victim who was exposed, but it is about rethinking first responders’ approach to these lethal substances.

    First responders need to re-evaluate their mindset about responding to calls involving illicit drugs. We might need to start viewing them as hazmat calls. In fact, hazmat is defined as “a material or substance that poses a danger to life, property, or the environment if improperly stored, shipped or handled.”

    Based on the evidence I believe opioids fit this definition.

    Hazmat routes of exposure

    There are four routes of exposure for a hazmat:

    1. Absorption (through your skin)
    2. Inhalation (through your lungs)
    3. Ingestion (though your mouth)
    4. Injection (by an object like a needle or through force such as liquid under pressure)

    All four of these exposure routes are in play when it comes to illicit drugs. It is easy to understand that if you touched a drug with your finger, and then stuck your finger in your mouth, you would suffer an exposure to the drug. Or, if you were stuck by a hypodermic needle that was contaminated, you could be exposed to the drug.  But, what about inhalation? Well, users often snort these materials through a straw, so exposure from breathing in the powder makes sense.

    The most surprising exposure route, as noted by recent exposures to fentanyl, is absorption.

    The fact that just touching the material, or accidentally getting it on your skin, can cause you to become ill or intoxicated, and even overdose, is what is shocking to me. We need to take this issue seriously and protect ourselves from all routes of exposure.

    How can we protect ourselves in a practical way when we encounter overdose calls daily? We need to have a “me first” attitude and use good decision-making, proper procedures and personal protective equipment.

    Universal precautions

    I joined the fire service in the early 1980s—a time of discovery for bloodborne pathogens. As we encountered new communicable diseases, we realized we were potentially exposed when treating patients. We began training on and using the concepts of Universal Precautions.

    Universal Precautions basically means “treat all blood and body fluids as if they were infectious.” We protected our hands with medical exam gloves, our eyes with protective eyewear, and our mouths and noses with medical masks. We didn’t wear masks for every call but we did use them when performing invasive procedures (e.g., intubating a patient’s airway). Many paramedics learned to wear a mask the hard way: by experiencing exposure to blood and other bodily fluids when performing these tasks.

    We need to consider approaching drug overdoses, and drug investigations, with these principles in mind. What does this look like?

    • If you suspect opioid use, ask safety-related questions about what substances may be present.
    • Use hand protection (minimum and mandatory) at all potential overdose/drug investigation calls. To be sure you’re getting the maximum protection, use nitrile gloves rather than latex. One coroner’s office has indicated that latex gloves may allow absorption of synthetic opioids into the wearer’s skin.
    • When encountering unknown substances, consider the use of N-95 masks, eye protection and paper covers for clothes and shoes.
    • Handle patients and objects as if they were contaminated.
    • Avoid (better yet, prohibit) cross-contamination. Only touch items with protected hands. Following the call, don’t touch anything until you have followed proper decontamination procedures
    • If applicable under your EMS protocols, carry and be prepared to administer naloxone to patients and first responders who may become exposed.

    If these steps sound burdensome, consider that they are common practices in settings such as dental offices. For more guidance, access “Fentanyl: A Briefing Guide for First Responders,” recently released by the DEA.

    Review your illicit drug response protocols

    When we encounter new hazards in the workplace we need to evaluate the risk and develop new engineering and work practice controls to protect ourselves and our employees.

    The new threat of very powerful synthetic opioids, and the severe harm they cause, must be addressed in this manner. It’s difficult and maybe even impractical to avoid these hazards altogether; however, we need to try.

    If we can approach opioid overdose calls with a hazardous materials mindset, practice Universal Precautions, and slow down when there is discretionary time, we can reduce the risks and hopefully avoid any further injury. It's about doing our jobs well, serving those we swore to protect—but still going home healthy at the end of the shift. Take care of yourselves and each other out there!

    Author Bio

    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.

    Lexipol is  an IPSA Supporter. Lexipol’s policies and training solutions provide essential policies to enhance the safety of first responders in all areas of operations. Contact Lexipol today to find out more.

    All IPSA Members and IPSA Supporters are eligible to submit an article for publication consideration. Contact usfor more information at

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  • 03 Jul 2017 12:03 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Captain J. Scott Quirarte, Ventura County Fire Department, IPSA RTF Vice-Chair, IPSA TEMS Committee Member, IPSA Treasurer

    A recent NAEMT study reported that 52 percent of the EMS workers polled have been assaulted by a patient. Further, the FBI reported there were 50,212 officers who were assaulted while performing their duties in 2015.

    These results are astonishing. However, what’s even more shocking is that assaults against first responders are likely never reported because of a false belief that it’s part of the job. Ask your crews and officers you work with how many of them have been assaulted, and you will likely find the true number is well above 90 percent. 

    First responders and leadership must stop ignoring the issue. First responder assaults are inevitably going to continue occurring, and we must be prepared to protect ourselves. This preparation starts before an incident occurs. First responders need to adopt a when/then thinking philosophy. “When this happens, then I’ll do this.” The key to this thought process is not “if” it will happen, it’s “when” it happens.

    Example: If I enter a house and there is a combative patient, then I’ll just leave and call law enforcement.  

    Let’s pick apart this example. First, you’re not mentally prepared to respond if you think this is a hypothetical or rare possibility (nothing bad ever happens to me, right?).

    Second, your situational awareness will be poor or lacking when you enter the room, and you won’t be assessing your environment.

    Third, when something bad does happen, you will not be mentally prepared to act quickly and decisively. You will freeze. Maybe you only freeze a second, but a second is enough time for the assaulter to hit you in the head with a pan or stab in the face with a pencil.

    Your frame of mind by using “if’s” is that you’re not mentally preparing yourself when you arrive on scene.

    Every call is unknown

    Typically, when arriving on scene, first responders park their vehicles directly in front of a house. While this is the general practice, it doesn’t mean it’s always the smartest approach. 

    Parking up the street gives time for evaluating the scene. When you arrive take a few seconds to evaluate the environment. Look, listen, hear and smell it.

    • Do you see broken windows, drug paraphernalia, blood or any indicators of violence?
    • Do you hear a fight or yelling? 
    • Do you smell alcohol, drugs or vomit?

    Identifying weapons

    Guns and knives are generally what comes to mind as conventional weapons, and when you don’t see them in the room, does that mean you’re safe? The answer is no.

    Whether you are stabbed in the head with a knife or a pencil, the results will be the same. Most, if not all, household items can be used to inflict harm on us.

    Patient care should be conducted in an area free and clear of any hazards, including those brought by us. If your patient can reach it, then your patient can use it as a weapon.

    The worst place for patient care are bedrooms, kitchens and garages. Often, people keep conventional weapons in their bedrooms. Kitchen and garages also have several items that can be used as weapons.

    Very few objects stop bullets

    It’s important to do some research on this. Fire and EMS must meet with their law enforcement department to discuss what truly stops bullets.

    • Does a water tank stop bullets?
    • Does an engine block stop bullets?
    • Does the door stop bullets?

    These are all questions you must know the answer to before you respond to the next call. I guarantee that you will be shocked at how few things provide true cover and will stop a bullet.

    Set up a meeting with your law enforcement partners today to get a debriefing.


    This is a concept that many law enforcement officers have adopted that can be applied on medical incidents. It’s very difficult to conduct patient care and still maintain overall situational awareness of the overall scene. By using cover and contact one member can focus on patient care while the other focuses on scene safety. Essentially, one individual provides direct patient care – the contact person- and the other takes the position of cover. The crew member acting as cover is keeping his or her eyes on the scene, watching for threats and maintaining situational awareness. Make sure anyone tasked with cover is paying attention to everyone present.

    Actively assess the entire scene until you leave

    Take in the entire picture and identify escape routes and safety zones. Fire crews and paramedic/EMTs are not law enforcement officers. We have two objectives for safe response:

    1. Avoid the need to escape.
    2. If objective one fails, escape.

    However, law enforcement officers must also take extra precaution when responding to a call and actively assess the scene for danger. Below are some questions that all first responders must start addressing to improve situational awareness:

    • How are you determining scene safety?
    • Is it a quick look around when you arrive on scene? If so, what are you looking for?
    • Are you using dispatch information? If so, what pre-arrival information would cause you concern?
    • Or are you using standard safety procedures developed by your agency?
    • What should a firefighter or paramedic/EMT do if they believe there is a threat when responding to a call for service?
    • Do you have a way to communicate with first responders at the scene when something is off – like a code word or phrase?

    In addition to the above questions, below are some situational awareness tips that will also help first responders from preventing the next assault.

    • When you are clear to enter the building or residence, clearly identify yourself as “fire department,” “paramedics,” or “law enforcement.”
    • Put something between you and the patient (or individual) during your approach. This will provide a block and may slow any attacker trying to get to you.
    • When entering don’t bunch up. This will allow for a quick escape if needed.  It also allows each member to see a different portion of the environment. 
    • Don’t get tunnel vison on the patient or individual you’re talking to – remember to look around. Understand where your nearest exit is and whether it’s clear of any obstructions.
    • Asses the scene, the area around the patient and the patient before beginning care.
    • If you don’t like the room or if the environment seems off, then move. Remember patient condition does not dictate where patient care is done, the environment does. You would not do patient care in a burning house, under a hanging power line or in the middle of the freeway. For your safety, you would move the patient. When the environment the patient is found in can’t be made safe, then move the patient prior to beginning care.
    • For fire/EMS: Have a safe word that everyone on your crew knows that tells them that it’s time to exit and call law enforcement. Make sure everyone’s radios are off when you’re making that call for law enforcement support.
    • Check your attitude and ego at the door.

    First responders get assaulted. It’s often under reported. And, it’s not going to get better anytime soon. 

    Sure, first responders can continue to tell themselves that “if” something happens, “then” I will handle it and be unprepared, putting themselves at unnecessary risk.

    Or first responders can step up and say “when” something happens, “then” I will be ready. I’m going with “when” and preparing myself and my crews.

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  • 30 Jun 2017 12:35 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

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

    The headline of a WIRED magazine article published on August 19, 2016, states, “Hackers Trick Facial Recognition Logins with Photos from Facebook (What Else?).” The article is about a study that was conducted with 20 volunteers, and it proved just how easy it was to obtain various facial photos of your identity from social media sites on the web.

    Essentially, the study showed how someone can “spoof” or trick biometric technology through impersonation to access devices or other personal accounts. It further demonstrated that without proper precautions in place, anyone can take a photo or video of someone and present it to a facial recognition system to gain access. A definite breach of personal privacy and security, and a major setback to the growth of facial recognition as a valued and secure form of biometric technology.

    Spoofing prevention

    Recognizing the vulnerabilities of spoofing attacks against facial recognition systems, Vigilant Solutions implemented strong liveness detection countermeasures for true facial authentication. This countermeasure can easily identify and prevent these types of fraudulent attacks.

    Liveness face detection uses multi-modal biometric technologies to confirm that the face belongs to an actual living being, and it is not a face captured in a photo or video. The Vigilant Solutions Liveness Face Detection web application uses random interactive actions, along with facial recognition technology, to validate the person is truly alive and actually in front of the facial recognition system, versus a photo that has been submitted to spoof the system and gain access.

    How it works

    Movements are measured through randomized prompts. Each command is subsequently verified in the system. This is classified as an active facial analysis requiring the end-user to follow a series of face position commands that are set by the system administrator.

    These unpredictable commands make it much more difficult to simply rely on canned photos or videos to spoof facial recognition technology. If the end-user does not comply with one prompt, the application generates a failed identity check. When the end-user follows all the random and unpredictable face command prompts, then the “proof of life” validation process ends, and a secondary facial recognition verification begins using facial recognition technology to compare the user against the stored profile image contained in the database.

    Two-factor authentication

    This two-factor authentication combines motion verification, one-to-one facial recognition technology and continues to be the most secure form of identity verification and authentication.

    When accurately implemented, it can be used to complement or replace PIN numbers and passwords, or it can be used as means to check-in for those who require supervision. First responders that rely on facial recognition software to aid in their investigations must challenge their facial recognition providers to constantly seek ways to improve upon any vulnerabilities identified in their technology.

    Don’t get caught by attempts to spoof your facial recognition systems. Make liveness face detection a part of your identity verification solution today.

    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.

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