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Public Safety Column

The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership articles about all topics facing public safety. 

The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor.

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  • 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.

    Related Content

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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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  • 26 Jun 2017 4:08 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Mike Mitchell, Assistant Chief of Technology, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

    Technology trends change rapidly in law enforcement, and conservation law enforcement officers (e.g. game wardens) have a unique subset of challenges. Often these officers are widely distributed across their jurisdictions, a warden might not see his or her supervisor for multiple days and he or she may not even have cell signal for days at a time.

    While working conditions are moderately different for conservation law enforcement officers, their need for funding and maximizing their budget is similar to mainstream public service agencies. They, too, have high demands and expectations from the individuals they serve.

    When it comes down to it, all law enforcement agencies must be more creative and smarter with how they apply the funds in their operating budget. Knowing when, how and where to stretch the dollar is more important than ever.

    Technology purchasing decisions

    It is helpful to place technology purchasing decisions in the context of Diffusion of Innovations. Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies, popularized the theory in his book Diffusion of Innovations. Essentially, the theory seeks to explain how, why and at what rate new ideas and technology spread. Rogers allows decision-makers to consider whether they are innovators, early adopters, majority and laggards. 

    In technology decision-making, the critical moment is around the 15-18 percent adoption rate. That’s where decision-makers ought to select and take advantage of what will become the majority or abandon and avoid the tool.

    Let me give you a real-world example that most of us can remember. Do you recall when the VHS tape competed against the Sony Betamax tape format in the 1970s? The VHS format won and Betamax lost. Managers need to heed that comparison and stay out of the risky area (like the Betamax format), while achieving the progress of available tools (like the VHS tape).

    Technologies worth considering

    There are countless new technology products and innovations impacting conservation enforcement officers. By drawing from the best use-cases from seven states, here are 10 solutions worth considering.


    Mobile apps are performing simple tasks well for officers in the field. Some require connectivity, while other apps store information within the mobile device. 

    In Texas, for example, game wardens can use iPhones to check driver’s license, license plates, boat registrations, missing persons, warrants, hunting licenses, fishing licenses, education certification, officer locations and other pertinent and useful information.

    Some apps are internally developed while others are hosted by a third-party. The cost to develop an app is usually around $20,000 to $40,000. And some third-party apps cost annually between $100-280 per individual.

    Body-worn cameras

    BWCs are huge in the public eye due to recent well-known cases such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. BWCs bring the advantage of showing one viewpoint, but also have the liabilities of storage, retention, redaction, privacy, policy, training and auditing. 

    As U.S. law enforcement agencies are collectively purchasing these by the thousands, dozens of vendors are offering BWCs and storage services. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, for example, just got BWCs in April 2017.  It is in early deployment to about 86 conservation officers.

    Lack of bandwidth is often a concern among officers as the video must be uploaded. Some agencies are finding unintended consequences coming from these tools. Decision-makers are urged to utilize resources such as the U.S. Department of Justice toolkits and do their due diligence before procurement.

    Costs of BWCs vary by features, storage and vendor. Typically, BWCs and training cost around $400-800 per user. And data storage generally ranges from $600 to $1,000 per user annually.

    Radiological and nuclear detection

    In Texas, there are four million surface acres of coastal waters and 16 deep water ports, and the game wardens deploy detection capabilities daily. This elevates maritime domain awareness, information sharing, intelligence, prevention and protection. Grants have been used to secure 106 pieces of technologically advanced radiological and nuclear detection equipment.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and the U.S. Coast Guard are constantly seeking partners to enhance the radiological and nuclear detection efforts in the maritime domain. The goal is to have a mesh network reporting triggers to federal partners. 

    Electronic citations

    Issuing e-citations saves time, reduces steps and leads to increased officer safety. General concerns about the solution include connectivity, printing, screen size and accuracy. Some jurisdictions may also need to change processes or interfaces.

    In conservation law enforcement, the concern is increased by issues such as printing citations on a jon boat in the heat near saltwater during ten hours of patrol. Florida Fish and Wildlife has resolved this concern particularly well by having its portable printers in waterproof plastic cases with batteries. Other printing options are developing.

    Side scan sonar

    Any tool bringing rapid closure to the distress of a drowning is appreciated. Water is difficult to work in and dive teams are expensive. Fortunately, today there is a strong track record for the ability to locate persons or evidence underwater, using side scan sonar and towed arrays. Recoveries are occurring over minutes instead of days.

    Side scan sonar units cost around $1,300 to $1,800 each and can even be made portable. Towed array sonars cost about $50,000 with training and rigging.

    Social media

    Social media is proving to be a significant, low-cost, high-yield tool in conservation enforcement. From outreach to obtaining tips, it is proving to be invaluable.

    In a 2016 post about poaching, a suspect called one Texas agency’s dispatch center within two hours, asking, “Why is my picture on Facebook?” There are several resources out there for agencies to learn how to get started like the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Center for Social Media.

    Information sharing

    Conservation related citations, licenses and education certificates are not often stored in any shared databases. Although some data is shared through the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact Act, there are still several states and jurisdictions that do not participate.

    Shared databases could greatly improve cross-border information sharing. Regulatory, privacy and legal issues remain. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources and Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game are providing some information to the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. 

    Online collaboration

    Since conservation officers work in disparate areas at disparate times, having an online collaboration tool is invaluable. There are CJIS-secure platforms available that offer discussion boards, wiki pages and specific access for who can see what online. These collaboration tools often include virtual screen sharing using any type device (mobile or PC) and automatically adjusts to available bandwidth. 

    The cost varies number of licenses and other bundled features. One state conservation agency currently pays about $100 per person per year.

    Public safety broadband

    First responders having voice and data communications capability in times of crisis is crucial. Thus, the federal government is pursuing FirstNet, a nationwide system that will provide broadband service for first responders. States must opt into the system or come up with a similar one.

    It is an exciting, integrated approach that should deliver specialized features that are better for public safety. 

    Some concerns among conservation law enforcement include rural coverage capabilities, pricing and the potential need for new equipment.


    The days of manual reports are over.  New technologies bring better ways to gather, store and share information. From entering evidence to writing case reports, from entering daily vehicle information to monthly summaries, reporting can be done securely online. 

    For example, at Oklahoma’s Department of Wildlife Conservation, game wardens report daily patrol vehicle mileage via a mobile app. They can then check or print their work via a desktop computer.  Routing and approvals are done electronically.

    Many states also use records management systems for case and/or evidence management. Vendors host these in the cloud or they may be developed in house. An example of cloud-based annual fees from one vendor is $558 per individual. 

    Looking toward the future

    We know from Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory that exposure to new trends is key. Public safety managers need to consider what trends are developing around them and what tools might help their officers. 

    In the case of conservation enforcement, there is a unique set of needs. But perhaps some of the trends could be valuable for any public safety manager to examine.

    About the Author

    Mike Mitchell has 14 years of service in public safety and serves as the Assistant Chief of Technology for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Mike has a Master’s Degree of Management in Hospitality from Cornell University, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Geography from Texas A&M University.  He is a certified Texas Peace Officer and a member of the IPSA. 

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  • 14 Jun 2017 3:15 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Gary Teeler, Chief of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, IPSA Emerging Technologies Committee Member

    Even though a contract between FirstNet and AT&T was recently signed and the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network is almost here, first responders shouldn’t be quick to get rid of their land mobile radios. I’ll explain why, but first let me explain the concept of the NPSBN.

    If you have ever experienced a high-volume event where service was congested, you likely could not get your pictures or videos to post, or texts to send. Currently, the public safety community shares that same experience, although the information that needs to be transmitted is likely to be more critical and life-saving.

    The NPSBN will be very much like a data service that you might purchase through several commercial carriers. The goal of the NPSBN is to provide dedicated bandwidth so all first responders can effectively communicate during mission critical situations, such as emergencies, disasters and events, without getting bogged down in congestion or being kicked off the network (something we’ve all experienced). 

    Ability to actually communicate 

    You have heard the phrases such as “knowledge is power” or a “picture is worth a thousand words.” The NPSBN will allow first responders to quickly harness information, transmit data, stream live video, provide situational awareness and be more efficient on communicating, which is a most critical function in this line of work. The missing piece is voice communications, and this is being addressed.

    The question that is often asked is, "How does my agency get FirstNet?" Each State and Territory must-opt in or opt-out of the network that will be stood up by FirstNet. 

    If they opt out, they must build their own. Also, the network itself, requires special “Band Class 14” devices. 

    The selection is limited, and they are costly. The network on which this system will operate does not yet fully exist. 

    LMR for now

    Land mobile radio has been the go-to communication method for public safety for many years. It is reliable in emergency and disaster situations, easy to use and is a familiar piece of equipment to most first responders. A recent trend experienced by many agencies is users communicating more frequently by smartphone. When networks get overloaded or fail, then responders fall back to LMR. 

    The message to push up to management is that the NPSBN will be a great tool for public safety, but it will not replace LMR right away.

    Funding mechanisms must be put in place to fund both broadband public safety and LMR. The two systems may converge in the future, but at this point neither is the complete solution. 

    Those of you reading this that have been involved since from the beginning and when FirstNet was being conceptualized will likely recall comments like “not in my lifetime” or “it will never happen” being commonplace. I hope the naysayers are watching, as many remain dear friends, because the NPSBN is coming to fruition soon. In fact, it is a reality in five parts of the U.S. right now.

    About the Author
    Gary Teeler has 21 years of service in public safety and currently serves as the Chief of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Gary has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management from Sam Houston State University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Law Enforcement from Texas State University. He is a certified Texas Peace Officer, Certified Emergency Manager (CEM), and a graduate of the 256th Session of the FBI National Academy. Gary serves on the IPSA Emerging Technologies Committee and as an adjunct professor at South University in Austin.

    Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the IPSA or any agency of the government.

  • 12 Jun 2017 2:59 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Columbia Southern University

    If you ever wanted to learn more about something, but cannot invest the time to earn a degree, continuing education may be the right choice for you.

    Continuing education offers busy adult learners a valuable and convenient way to expand their knowledge without having to invest a great deal of time. Generally, continuing education courses are short-term, focus on a single topic and may meet a required purpose for a job.

    However, continuing education can offer so much more to eager learners, particularly those in areas of safety. Chief among its benefits are personal enrichment, employment success and career development.

    When combined, these three aspects can generate superior continuing education courses.

    1. Personal enrichment: Education provides a fascinating arena for a mind to grow stronger and sharper. However, learning does not always have to be regimented or result in an academic degree. In fact, education is simply about gaining knowledge. That knowledge offers enrichment on various levels while satisfying a curiosity or key career interest. No matter the topic—art, history, technology or safety—continued learning allows a person to grow intellectually.

    2. Employment success: Many departments and organizations encourage continuing education so employees can learn specific skills to do their current job more efficiently or to advance through promotion.

      Hiring officials and executives in the public and private sector recognize that a general lack of skills is likely to hold an organization back from advancing its mission. This may explain why 85 percent of human resources and business leaders ranked learning and development as a top issue, according to “Global Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading in the New World of Work,” by Deloitte. Workers can further benefit as the learning can foster possible promotions or increased value to the organization.

    3. Career development: Perhaps one of most important aspects of continuing education is that it can be vital to helping individuals develop new skills or knowledge. Gaining expertise on the latest trends in a profession not only adds to a person’s resume, but it indicates to your employer that you are taking your position seriously, possibly seeking career advancement and doing your best to advance your skillset.

    Separately or combined, these three benefits make continuing education very appealing to learners. They help learners gain knowledge for personal satisfaction, boost a resume or career, appease an employer or gain a promotion.

    Columbia Southern University designs its continuing education courses in occupational safety and health with these features in mind. Industrial Hygiene for Safety Professionals features a history of the topic and discussion of how the principles of physics, chemistry and biological sciences apply, appealing to some students’ interests in history and sciences. The course also discusses how the practice of industrial hygiene fits within an environmental health and safety program that gives students information to adapt their environmental health and safety program at their workplaces. As a resume builder, students learn about the latest health hazards to impress potential employers with their knowledge.

    CSU also offers two continuing education courses for safety professionals eager for a career boost, promotion and/or personal enrichment.

    The ASP Prep Course and CSP Prep Course are both designed to prepare students for the Associate Safety Professional Examination and the Certified Safety Professional Examination offered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

    From statistics to ergonomics to safety management and more, these continuing education courses will instill a huge amount of knowledge and preparation for anyone seeking certification.

    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.

    CSU is an IPSA Supporter. All IPSA Members are eligible to receive a tuition discount – login to our Members Only page to learn more.

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