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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.
Editor's note: This article is from the International Public Safety Association’s UAS eBook
By Thomas Margetta, Member of IPSA’s UAS Committee
The use of unmanned aerial systems in law enforcement and public safety applications is quickly gaining in adoption and will continue far into the foreseeable future. According to the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College estimates, as of May 2018, there were at least 910 state and local police, sheriff and emergency services agencies in the U.S. that have already acquired UAS. Initial applications of the use of UAS range from search and rescue, suspect pursuit and traffic accident investigations to SWAT operations. Key benefits, including tactical aerial support and situational awareness, provide agencies with many operational advantages like manned aircraft, but with greater maneuverability and safety without the associated high costs. While most UAS law enforcement applications generally refer to overhead tactical support use outdoors, one lesser known operational benefit is how UAS can assist during hostage negotiation and/or barricaded subject situations.
Law enforcement personnel who are experienced in working with UAS understand how critical it is to match the UAS and associated equipment with the right operation. This may include inherent capabilities of the UAS such as flight time, wind rating, weather, imaging payload, battery change capabilities, communication and control software. For example, UAS equipment required for a search and rescue operation over expansive, rugged terrain at night may be quite different than one used to take detailed aerial photography over a traffic homicide scene. Similarly, UAS used for hostage and/or barricaded subject situations also requires forethought in selecting the proper equipment for proper tactical support.
One example of this occurred in 2013, when a suspect shot a school bus driver and held a 5-year-old boy captive for nearly a week in an underground bunker in Midland City, Alabama. The FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team flew UAS over the scene to provide aerial intelligence while they snuck a camera into the bunker to build a replica to practice their assault for entry. In what Clint Van Zandt, former FBI negotiator, described as, “A classic, textbook situation,” the team exchanged gunfire with the suspect and killed him before rescuing the child.
Tactical UAS considerations
Some general requirements of tactical UAS to be considered may include:
To prepare for a multitude of variables that can occur during a hostage and/or barricaded subject situation, a law enforcement agency must ensure they have the right UAS and associated features and communications capabilities for the operations they will be called to respond to.
Once the right equipment with associated features and communications are selected, examples of how a UAS may be used include:
In summary, UAS are gaining in adoption and use for law enforcement. It is critical to understand that matching the right UAS and associated equipment, communications and software with the right objectives and tactical operations will help ensure successful outcomes. For hostage negotiation and/or barricaded subject situations, specialized indoor UAS, associated equipment, two-way communications and software should be considered to ensure law enforcement is prepared to handle these situations while providing greater officer and hostage safety and increasing operational efficiency.
About the Author
Thomas Margetta is the Director of Client Services for STRAX Intelligence Group, who’s STRAX® Platform provides aerial intelligence and real-time situational awareness solutions for public safety. The Florida-based company manufactures the SABER® Close Quarters Tactical Indoor UAS. He is in the 27th year of his 9-1-1 career supporting law enforcement. An inaugural IPSA UAS Committee member, he may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How UAS can help law enforcement, campus public safety manage mass gatherings
How UAS can assist during hostage negotiation, barricaded subject situations
Aerial swarming threats: Preparing agencies for the next attack
How public safety agencies leveraged UAS during recent natural disasters
What to consider before starting a new public safety UAS program
By Wesley Bull, Chair of IPSA’s UAS Committee
During a U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, National Counterterrorism Center Acting Director Russ Travers testified, "We're in the early stages of seeing terrorist use of drones and UASs for swarm attacks, explosive delivery means and even assassination attempts.”
Myriad positive use cases for operational deployment of aerial UAS by law enforcement and public safety agencies abound (search and rescue, special operations, investigations, surveillance, crime scene mapping, fire incident size-up, HAZMAT, disaster response and beyond). However, most protection professionals simultaneously recognize the threats and vulnerabilities that aberrant hobbyist UAS operators and criminal and terrorist actors enabled with UAS platforms can bring to a variety of operating environments. Aerial swarm advantages and vulnerabilities are not only strategic, but also operational and tactical, and both offensive and defensive. The notion of aerial swarms, whether deployed with negligence or evil intent is downright terrifying and at present, difficult to mitigate.
This in mind, let us consider the emerging threat of aerial swarms and what protective services agencies should begin to contemplate – whether they have a UAS program or not.
Setting a baseline using academic definitions of UAS and swarming can provide a useful framework for the concept of risks associated with aerial swarming threats:
According to a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, “current and near-term (by 2025) capabilities will enable the employment of multiple sUASs in coordinated groups, swarms, and collaborative groups.” This is highly concerning given that swarms pose a significant challenge for counter-UAS efforts to detect, identify and track multiple aerial UAS’s. As cited by Seiffert in the NAS report, “as the number of individual sUASs increases in a single swarm, humans lose the ability to track individual sUASs and begin to perceive multiple sUASs as a single entity. While it is not entirely clear at what number of entities this perceptual transition occurs, it is believed that the tipping point is about 40 sUASs.”
State-sponsored actors, such as China, are aggressively pursuing aerial swarm technologies to adapt, overwhelm and simultaneously deploy offensive splinter-attack capabilitiessuch as kamikaze drones with explosive warheads, decoys, electronic warfare UAVs, anti-radiation drones, armed UAVs, and communications relay UAVs. All are designed to overwhelm, exploit and adapt to counter-UAS solutions, along with causing the targeted entity to exhaust its defenses, leaving it vulnerable to the other offensive attack vectors that remain. Of note are the concomitant technology advancements with autonomous flight programming / AI whereby the swarm can even be pre-programmed to mount its attack strategy as a swarm, in autonomous mode with no pilot in command.
However, aerial UAS swarm technology does not exclusively belong to state actors. Although there have been no reports of multiple UAS or swarms used by ISIS as yet, Geektime reports there are indications that ISIS is becoming more advanced in their ability to maximize multiple drones as part of their terror attack strategies and Russia has reported aerial swarm attacks in theater in the Middle East.
So what mitigation solutions are available to counter the threat of aerial swarming by UAS? Regrettably, the most advanced counter-UAS technologies that I’ve witnessed remain classified and are only available for use by the military and perhaps soon, given recent legislative changes in the U.S., some federal law enforcement agencies. Not surprisingly, several countries outside the U.S., with fewer freedoms, have taken a much stronger posture about protecting their airspace from the UAS threat, making counter-UAS technologies available to law enforcement and their homeland security equivalent organizations.
A recent Popular Mechanics article recently highlighted that “law enforcement have surprisingly few effective anti-drone tools, and none—that are declassified—to target multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or swarms.” Shotgun shells that fire nets to snare the propellers, or frangible projectiles to obliterate the propellers, work only at close range and their utility can vary considering whether the environment is urban, densely populated or remote and unpopulated. Other commercially available options include pure detection, frequency jamming, geo-fencing technologies to barrier an environment, “pursuit drones,” which fire nets or projectiles and even falcons have been effectively used to combat the single UAS effectively, but not to counter swarms.
Generally, a counter-sUAS system is used to implement the following kill chain: detect, locate and track potential targets; identify, classify and evaluate targets as sUASs; engage and defeat (neutralize) sUASs; verify the response through damage assessment; and recovery of device(s).
The legal analysts and researchers at Rupprecht Law developed a UAS law specific blogpost that details the legal and operational problems with many of the counter-UAS technologies in the market today. This site can provide the reader with more insight on the complicated landscape of conflicting laws, regulatory gaps and lack of legal authorities across the counter-UAS domain. It is increasingly apparent that current U.S. legal constructs, authorities and solutions for the public safety domains are ill-prepared to contend with the ever-increasing risks as UAS platforms go mainstream and this technology further advances.
As if the threat of a bad actor in some way weaponizing a UAS wasn’t enough of an operational challenge for emergency services to confront, we must now contemplate the potential for a swarm of UAS or micro-drones being deployed for primary and secondary attacks, to interrupt emergency response operations (aerial and ground), conducting pre and post operational surveillance combined with attack modalities, disruption of deployed public safety UAS platforms and beyond.
Notably, included within the FAA Reauthorization Act, was the Hartzler Provision for Drone Security - that provides Title 18 relief to allow these agencies to use counter drone technology to detect, monitor, and engage with unauthorized drones that pose a reasonable threat to the safety and security of certain facilities and assets, including those related to operations that counter terrorism, narcotics, and transnational criminal organizations.
While it remains unclear specifically what “destroy” means within the language of the Act, it is believed that U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among others, are looking at both kinetic and non-kinetic options based upon a variety of operational and environmental considerations.
This short primer was designed to bring cursory awareness to the emerging threat of aerial swarms using sUAS, and begin to provide some perspective on the preliminary solutions being considered to counter such threats at the time of publication.
As a fellow protection professional working around the world, I must conclude that there is still much work to be done to better understand and deter this emerging threat. On behalf of the UAS Committee at the IPSA, know we will be vigilant in furthering our knowledge of this threat and provide our members with updates as appropriate. We welcome your comments and insights as we work together to advance IPSA’s mission across the protection disciplines.
Wesley Bull is the CEO of Sentinel Resource Group, a consulting and solutions firm helping companies and governments better protect people, places and things from diverse and emerging threats. He is also the Chair of the UAS Committee for IPSA. Prior to SRG Bull’s career included sworn roles in law enforcement and public safety, special task force assignments within the US intelligence community, and as the CSO/CISO/FSO for two major global corporations.
By Lawrence Nolan Ph.D., Member of IPSA’s UAS Committee
The capabilities and missions that an unmanned aircraft system can provide to public safety agencies continues to increase as this emerging technology produces lesson learned and novel approaches to response with increased use in disasters. In a disaster or emergency incident, responders are exposed to hazardous environments or unable to gain timely access to a location to deal with the situations they confront. The UAS, with various types of sensors attached, allows the responders to initially remain clear of the hazards or provide a timely perspective of the incident to gain situational awareness. In a 2015 report on the use of UAS for disaster response and relief operations, responders to 11 disasters around the world from 2011-2015 used UAS to perform surveillance and mapping, search, structural inspection or estimation of debris.
The use of UAS by emergency response organizations across the nation has increased. A 2017 Bard College article identified that approximately 910 state and local public safety agencies have acquired the technology in the U.S.
Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires
Natural hazard incidents such as an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or wildfire may significantly impact a community with a variety of destructive outcomes. They may damage infrastructure in such a way that exposes hazardous materials, explosives or radiation to the environment. Public safety agencies responding to these dangerous conditions could use an UAS to identify the scope of the situation and develop an incident action plan to address the hazardous condition. This would provide public safety officials with critical information to reduce the exposure of first responders to the hazardous environment as the hazards are addressed.
In a March 2018 Vox news story, disasters in the U.S. have included Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, California Wildfires to include the Thomas Fire, Western Wildfires and tornados in the Midwest. Each of these natural disasters provide an opportunity for expanding the use of a UAS by public safety agencies. The option of various payloads that may be carried by the UAS, provides a range of alternative missions that can be used.
A September 2017 post in Drone Life, reported the response use of UAS in Hurricane Harvey for damage assessment and search and rescue, while UAS usage in Hurricane Irma included aerial surveys and damage assessment. This demonstrates the versatility of UAS with its various payloads.
A December 2017 Wired.com article, reported that the Los Angeles Fire Department used UAS to support the response to a California wildfire by determining the advance of the fire and also to identify hot spots that needed to be extinguished. An infrared sensor payload on a UAS would provide the capability to locate hot spots in a wildfire despite the smoke or trees covering the area. This capability provided the LAFD with valuable information to track the advance of the fire and to locate those areas that may not be fully extinguished and require assets to eliminate the hot spots. This is another example of the range of missions that can be performed by an UAS with different payloads.
Disasters caused by natural hazards may also lead to conditions where access to the impacted area is not immediately possible. This situation is another opportunity to use UAS to provide that initial observation of the impacted area and allow for effective planning and response. In the previously cited report, payloads that may be carried by UAS include electro-optical video, infrared sensor to detect heat, mapping sensor, communications relay and sniffers to detect a substance in the air. The payloads on UAS expand the capabilities of public safety agencies to respond in a more informed and safe manner.
The value of the UAS by public safety agencies is supported by the increased usage during disasters. This article focused on natural disasters and the varied mission that could be performed by UAS. In disasters and emergencies developed because of technical accidents or manmade incidents such as terrorism, the use of UAS to respond would be effective as well. With increased usage of UAS by public safety agencies, it is expected that new approaches and payloads for UAS will increase to better respond to disasters and emergencies.
Lawrence Nolan retired as a Captain from the U.S. Navy Reserve and served as an Intelligence Officer and Navy Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer for New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic Region. He also retired as a Supervisory Logistics Management Specialist from the Department of the Army at Fort Monmouth, NJ. He currently develops Emergency Management Policy for Capstone Corporation supporting the Navy Installations Command.
By Bill Pritchett, Member of IPSA’s UAS Committee
The use of aerial support is not a new concept in public safety. Helicopters have proven to be a successful tool to aid emergency response personnel with aerial policing and search and rescue operations. Many law enforcement agencies, such as the Los Angeles Police Department, have had air support divisions for more than 60 years. Unfortunately, the price makes it unattainable for smaller public safety departments to utilize.
Unmanned aircraft systems are changing that. Technological advancements and the relatively low cost of these aircraft has made offering aerial support a reality in many communities. UAS are a less expensive alternative to a full-scale helicopter, and they can quickly be deployed from nearly any site. This capability makes them crucial in providing real-time situational awareness to commanding officers at a scene.
Cameras currently used on UAS can stream live 4K video footage to the ground, as well as take high-resolution pictures at a scene. Thermal imaging and GPS are also available and frequently used to aid crews in search and rescue and firefighting operations.
As UAS technology evolves, so will its use in public safety. Larger emergency agencies, such as the New York Fire Department, now deploy UAS to large, four-alarm fires. They clearly offer public safety departments the option to protect their communities in ways that they previously could not.
Using a UAS during an emergency provides incredibly helpful live data to incident command, which can lead to better, faster and safer decisions—ultimately saving lives and property and keeping first responders out of harm’s way. Perhaps the most critical domain for UAS use is in areas in which the assignment poses a significant risk to human life.
Explosive ordnance disposal is a prime example. According to the 2007 U.S. Department of Defense Unmanned Systems Roadmap report, coalition forces in Iraq neutralized more than 11,100 improvised explosive devices from 2003 to 2007. From 2004 to 2007, the number of EOD unmanned vehicles deployed in Iraq rose from 162 to more than 4,000. They were, without doubt, responsible for saving thousands of lives.
Dangerous job assignments are not limited to the military. The inspection of structures such as bridges, radio towers, wind turbines and oil rigs depend heavily on visual assessments from experienced field inspectors. Visual inspections of bridges and high-mast structures often require inspectors to be placed in high-risk settings, working at altitudes greater than 1,700 feet, or being suspended beneath bridges. This technology is ideal for taking the inspector out of danger and gaining new perspective on otherwise dangerous places to reach.
In the event of an emergency, UAS are an important tool for first responders. Every day, firefighters, law enforcement officers, SWAT teams and many others use UAS to survey areas that would be difficult or dangerous to survey on foot.
Getting started with UAS
Under the small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Rule (Part 107), pilots must pass an aeronautical knowledge test to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. FAA knowledge testing centers charge approximately $150 to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test. Keeping your license current requires testing every two years from the last day of the month of the initial test. It’s a difficult test. Someone with no aviation background will likely need to enroll in a course to prepare for the test.
Federal law requires that all aircraft (which includes sUAS and radio/remote-controlled aircraft) flown outdoors be registered with the FAA and marked with a registration number. Any sUAS weighing more than 0.55 pound and less than 55 pounds can be registered online at https://faadronezone.faa.gov.
UAS flown for work or business (commercially) must be registered individually by the owner. Each registration costs $5. Each registrant must supply his or her name, address and email address, in addition to the make, model and serial number (if available) for each sUAS that the pilot wants to fly.
UAS and safety
Once the pilot takes the course, passes the test, and has everything registered this makes him or her legal, but not safe. Executing a successful (safe) commercial operation for public safety, building inspection, aerial photography, videography or other flight mission requires actual flying skills. Just because a pilot has figured out how to take off, fly around a parking lot and land does not give him or her the necessary skills to fly commercially.
Flying publicly means flying near other people, over someone else’s property and/or under the ever-watchful eye of the FAA and the public. Flying skills such as these require training from professionals who have done it thousands of times without incident. There is an initial and continual need for UAS hands-on training for all pilots.
UAS programmatic planning, cost
All agencies must plan for success by budgeting for great equipment and training. Ask around because there are but a handful of manufacturers’ products universally recommended for use in public safety. Budget for training. Be proactive in the development of your department’s deployment procedure, training recurrence and equipment maintenance and management.
One item to be aware of is cost. There is no question that a single UAS is substantially less expensive than deploying a full-scale helicopter at a rate of $1,000 per hour. However, do not try to compare a real public safety UAS deployment budget with what anyone can buy a single UAS for at any local retail store. Anticipate several other line items in the UAS programmatic budget – not just the cost of the technology – and plan for those items accordingly.
Bill Pritchett is the Director of Education for the Academy of Model Aeronautics. He has 40 years of experience as an educator. A graduate of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, he received his undergraduate degree in education in 1976 and a master’s degree in 1981. Bill is an RC Precision Aerobatics national champion and continues to fly and participate in competitive model aviation Precision Aerobatics events.
By Gerald Steckmeister, IPSA Fitness and Wellness Committee Member
First responders and public safety officers have a higher rate of suicide than the average population, and it is time we started to talk about it. In 2017, a reported 103 firefighters and 140 law enforcement officers died by suicide, higher that the line of duty deaths for both disciplines, and according to another study, the rate of suicide attempts among EMS workers is 10 times the national average. In 2018, there was a similar trend in law enforcement.
High stress work environment
First responders make life and death decisions every day. They have a front row seat to horrific accidents and, even worse, an individual’s inhumanity toward another. Some first responders are required to use force on a fellow human being. In an average month, first responders are exposed to more trauma than some people see in a lifetime. No one calls for a first responder’s help when things are going ok. They call when because their lives are in chaos, which sometimes causes first responders to experience second-hand trauma. This vicarious trauma takes a toll. One study noted that the types of stressors identified in this line of work “may lead to a temporary reduction in the biological ability to respond to further stressful events.” And these constant encounters can result in cumulative PTSD.
Most first responders choose a career in public safety to help others. As such, first responders do not generally think about asking others to help them when help is needed. Unfortunately, when a first responder realizes he or she needs help, it is often too late and there is also a fear of being stigmatized by their peers and colleagues. They are often the last to seek assistance when they really need it.
Make an actionable difference
There are several actionable differences that departments can make today. Some of the suggestions are simple to implement and others require substantive conversations and planning. The below items will make a difference and may save a life. Below are some ideas to get a conversation started.
Cultural shift. A paradigm shift is needed in the public safety profession in which behavioral health is viewed in the same regard as medical health. A behavioral health checkup should not be feared by the public safety profession. Self-care needs to be practiced, just like preventative maintenance on our equipment, firearms training or any other regularly scheduled activity. Make sure to perform a regular self-assessment.
Identify risk factors. It is important to recognize the risk factors and warning signs of depression, PTSD and suicide. If you recognize these symptoms in one of your friends or co-workers, reach out and talk to them. Try to convince them to seek help. The IPSA created three free downloadable infographics on depression, PTSD and suicide. Everyone is encouraged to print and post them in their departments.
Implement a resiliency program. All departments need to develop a resiliency program. The IPSA recently did a webinar that is available for 24/7 viewing about how to start a resiliency program. It is titled: Mental Readiness: Stigma Reduction & Resiliency Program.
Use peer-support programs. Another solution that has worked well is an inter-agency peer support program. Some first responders may be reluctant to speak to someone on their own job, but they may speak to a peer with a different agency, allowing for a certain amount of anonymity.
Suicide in public safety is prevalent and it is rarely discussed. This needs to change. Discussion can lead to solutions and save lives. First responders advocate to the public “if you see something, say something” and they need do the same. When a co-worker needs help, the department needs to be there. Self-reflection is equally important. If first responders don’t look after themselves, they will not be able to help others.
Gerald Steckmeister is a Police Lieutenant, with 19 years of law enforcement experience, and a Major in the NY Army National Guard. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Westchester B.L.U.E. Foundation and serves as member of the IPSA Fitness and Wellness Committee.
Infographics: Depression, PTSD and Suicide
Why public safety professionals need to prevent, identify stress (and apply coping strategies)
How self-care can reduce police officer stress
Webinar: Mental Readiness: Stigma Reduction & Resiliency Program.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Association of Mental Illness: 800-950-6264
Safe Call Now: 206-459-3020
By Jim Dundas, Ret. Battalion Chief, IPSA Board Member and IPSA Memorial Committee Chair
The United States observes Fire Prevention Week beginning Sunday, October 7 - Saturday, October 13, 2018. This national week is a time to reflect on the firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect our communities.
A week in October in which the 9th calendar day occurs commemorating the Great Chicago Fire of 1922. The purpose of FPW is to champion fire prevention and control practices. The theme for this year’s FPW, as dedicated by the National Fire Protection Association is “Look, Listen, Learn, Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere.™”
FPW is kicked off by the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial service at the National Fire Academy in Emmetsburg, Maryland – the site of the National Emergency Training Center and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Each year, a remembrance service is held in which the names of fallen firefighters and fire-based emergency medical personnel are added to the memorial wall. Family members, agencies and friends also sponsor bricks engraved with the names of the fallen all along the courtyard walkways.
When I was on the job, firefighting was neck and neck with mining as the most hazardous of occupations in the U.S. The fire profession has accomplished a lot in decreasing the number of
line of duty deaths in the operational environmen, partly due to enhanced safety procedures and improved protective equipment, the incidence of death by cancer and cardiovascular disease is increasing exponentially. Firefighters suffer cardiovascular and cancer deaths at a far greater rate than the general population. It is estimated that firefighter cancer deaths exceed the general population by 14 percent.
There has also been recent speculation that firefighters’ protective clothing contains carcinogenic materials. In ongoing research, Notre Dame University in their experimental nuclear physics laboratory, tested swatches of turnout clothing that had not yet been used. They found a significance presence of fluorine in the material, a known carcinogenic. "The results were phenomenal—off the scale in parts per million of fluorine in all but one of the samples,’ Peaslee said. ‘Everything was just loaded with fluorine.’ Following the initial tests, Peaslee is leading a study of new and used turnout and personal protective gear issued throughout the 2000s, including jackets, pants and undershirts—all of which are either new or have been in service for more than a decade.”
Many fire departments are adopting practices in which they supply firefighters with two sets of protective clothing, require that exposed personnel be decontaminated prior to leaving the scene, that the protective ensemble by washed after every fire, be professionally cleaned periodically or if specific contamination occurs, and that personnel shower prior to returning to service. These are positive practices to protect fire personnel from unnecessary exposure.
Review of 2017 LODDs
In calendar year 2017, 113 firefighters and fire medics died in the line of duty according to the USFA and another 103 firefighters died by suicide according to a report in USA Today.
Cancer and CVD: The U.S. government has approved and created the firefighter cancer registry and many states have adopted presumptive legislation that considers cancer and cardiorespiratory diseases to be job related. As reported by the U.S. Fire Administration, 68 of those LODDs were the result of occupational related diseases, namely cancer and CVD/respiratory disease. This is a staggering 60 percent of all firefighter and fire medic line of duty deaths in 2017 were from job related illnesses.
“Over the last decade, our understanding of CVD among firefighters has significantly improved and provides insight into potential preventive strategies. The physiology of cardiovascular arousal and other changes that occur in association with acute firefighting activities have been well-characterized. However, despite the strenuous nature of emergency duty, firefighters' prevalence of low fitness, obesity, and other CVD risk factors are high.”
Seatbelts: Another 28 firefighters and fire medics (25 percent) died in vehicle crashes, either in response mode or in normal driving conditions. Without researching each individual crash report, there is no way to determine if the vehicle occupant(s) were wearing seatbelts. Modern fire apparatus is equipped with passive restraint systems that are integrated with the SCBA harness. The cabs of fire apparatus are designed to locate controls and mounted equipment out of the path of deploying airbags.
We need to reinforce the notion that a first responder is no good to anyone if they don’t arrive safely on scene.
Other causes: The remaining LODDs succumbed to a variety of injury modalities such as burns, smoke inhalation, falls from heights, falling trees and drowning. The fire services of North America have substantially improved incident scene safety by employing the Incident Command System that includes the Safety functions and Rapid Intervention Teams.
Suicide: An April 11, 2018 article in USA Today cited that more police officers and firefighters die by suicide than in the line of duty. They reported that in 2017, 129 police officers and 93 firefighters died in the line of duty, while 140 law enforcement officers and 103 firefighters died by suicide.
There are numerous resources available to first responders who feel overwhelmed by PSTD and other circumstances. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a 24 hour, seven days a week “national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.” In addition, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the USA’s largest “non-profit dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. Local chapters of the AFSP host annual “Out of the Darkness” walks bringing together friends, families, and colleagues of those who have experienced suicide in their own lives. I just participated in one in Fairfax, Virginia.
The loss of any public safety practitioner is tragic, whether by job related injury, occupational borne illnesses or suicide. While eliminating deaths within our ranks is not possible, we must – as a community of practice – never cease in our pursuit of survival. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that health and safety should be our ever present top priority.
As you travel this week after dark, you may encounter a firehouse or a landmark with all its lights on. This is part of the “Light the Night” campaign by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in honor of fallen firefighters.
During FPW 2018, take note of your fire safety profile: in your home, in your places of work, in your school and in your community. Once you have done so, then thank a first responder for their service to the community – and even though this is FPW, thank them regardless of the uniform they wear, and tell them to be safe.
Jim Dundas is a retired Fire Battalion Chief and Paramedic from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. In his 25-year career, he held both administrative and operational roles. Following his retirement, he has worked in private industry as a business developer, consultant, and communications and IT specialist. He is a Board member of the IPSA and he chairs its Memorial Committee. He currently resides in Ashburn, Virginia.
Editor's note: This article is from the International Public Safety Association’s Acts of Mass Violence: Public Safety Response and Recovery Initiative
By Amy Morgan, MSC, Executive Training Director at Academy Hour and IPSA Mental Health Committee Member
If you were attacked and bitten violently by a dog when you were a kid, you would most likely have an adverse reaction throughout adulthood every time you see a similar dog. At a minimum, you would feel a heightened sense of caution and awareness. Any disturbing, traumatic or high-risk event that we are a part of becomes a factor in how we see the world around us. An act of mass casualty violence is this type of event, but on a much larger scale, and with the added component of the attack being with a person’s purposeful intention to frighten, hurt and kill other people.
Because most people do not think like the individuals who commit acts of mass violence, it is difficult for us to understand the why behind their action. It is common for events like these to make us question things and people around us. The unknown and questioning often leads to the development of fear and anxiety. We start to question the safety of our workplace or school, or even regular outings like a trip to a mall, grocery store, movie theater or an evening at a concert. With this insecurity and fear, we wrap ourselves in negative emotion and thought. We begin to discuss the darker sides of people in general, the world as we see it changing for the worst and the possibilities of more violent and unpredictable events happening around us or to us.
Negative thinking after experiencing trauma
For emergency responders, trauma from an act of mass violence can create a cyclical pattern of negative thinking. An up-close view of mass violence, with its injuries and fatalities, and all the accompanying sounds, sights and smells, may create a new trauma. There is the direct impact of the trauma and the incident itself – being right in the middle of it, participating in the response action, interacting with injured survivors, imagining all that happened prior to responder arrival. An act of mass violence is traumatic, and it will create predictable post-trauma responses and reactions.
A new incident may trigger memories and reactions from a previous incident. If an emergency responder had previous trauma, a post-traumatic response could reappear. In this scenario, the emergency responder is not only dealing with the disturbing images of this new event, but he or she is also mentally and emotionally reliving a previous event.
Understanding your personal triggers
Triggers could be things like similar weather, sounds of sirens or of voices crying or yelling or the smell of fire. Anything that either consciously or subconsciously reminds the responder of a previous traumatic incident can make him or her feel as if they are right back there again. As with any difficult event in life, getting immediate help like counseling, education and building a strong, positive support network, will make the difference in speed and effectiveness of recovery. Strength and resilience comes in many forms – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual – and a responder who uses available resources to rebuild that strength, and get back to a healthy state of being, will be better equipped and prepared to manage the next critical incident.
After a traumatic event – like an act of mass violence, it is critically important talk. Talk to a loved one, to friends, to peers and coworkers who are going through the same thing. Do not isolate yourself and keep everything inside. And make sure those you are talking to also use their own resources – it is difficult to be the spouse of a responder, and hear all the danger and risk stories, and not take that in and begin to worry and feel anxiety. Both members of this team need to use resources to keep that strength and resilience at its best.
Acknowledge the trauma
Admit that the incident was disturbing, difficult and even painful. Trying to act like something was not bothersome to you may make you feel like you are protecting yourself from criticism, but the honesty and openness to find resources will protect you far more and for much longer.
Do not over-react, but instead be purposeful and strategic, with a well-researched plan. After something goes wrong, we often find ourselves jumping in to implement changes to prevent something from happening again. Emergency responders need to keep in mind that there are people who are unstable and are intent on doing harm to other people. You need to acknowledge that you cannot resolve the world’s problems all by yourself – but do your part, get involved and know that little by little you can make a difference. Awareness is excellent. Problem-solving is needed.
Be compassionate. Do not let the negativity and cynicism bring you down, but instead use this type of incident to remind yourself that the world needs more good, more positive and more compassion. If anything positive can come from an act of mass violence, it should be that it serves as a reminder to us all that we are all one, that we need each other and that by building each other up we will go much further than by tearing each other down.
Violence is never easy to watch or to clearly understand, and it is traumatic to experience it from many perspectives. Use resources to keep yourself healthy and resilient. Do not let evil bring down your own outlook on the world. Focus on the good that is done every day in the world, by many people. Look out for others, be good to yourself, practice compassion and empathy, and go out there and keep making a difference.
Ms. Morgan is the founder and Executive Training Director of Academy Hour (www.academyhour.com), a training provider offering mental health & leadership courses to emergency response personnel. She holds a Master's degree in Counseling, and a Bachelor's of Science degree in Behavioral Sciences. She serves as a member of the International Public Safety Association's Mental Health Committee, and as a subject matter expert and presenter of leadership & mental health training sessions for the International Public Safety Association, IADLEST (First Forward) and the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training in Oklahoma.
International Public Safety Association’s Acts of Mass Violence: Public Safety Response and Recovery Initiative
Calm before chaos: 5 tips for 911 telecommunicators during an act of mass violence
Acts of Mass Violence: Preparing immediate responders (the public) with education and training
The AAR: An effective tool for first responders
5 concepts for building a resilient community before an act of mass violence
How to recover mentally and emotionally after an act of mass violence
By Michael Lugo, Lieutenant, Fort Worth (TX) Fire Department, IPSA Rescue Task Force Committee Member
Imagine you have an important test to take, one that has final, forever reaching consequences. Would you want to know the answers before the test was even given? Indeed, anyone serious about such a scenario would.
Law enforcement, fire and EMS and allied emergency responders have specific training, backgrounds and mission sets that make them suitable to prepare the public and build resilient communities. Public safety is not just about actions at the time of, or in response to, a disaster. The level of preparedness of the targeted population will have a direct effect on the impact of the disaster. At best, a well-prepared, aware and empowered community is capable of (and has before) prevented mass violence and other human-caused disasters.
Communities do not have to prepare in a vacuum or from scratch. Most public safety agencies provide community outreach to help prepare for community-wide threats and hazards, including fire safety, commercial inspections, drowning prevention, bike safety, stranger danger and drunk driving prevention. When it comes to preparation for incidents of mass violence, here are five concepts that will yield more prepared, capable and resilient communities.
Concept 1. Suspicious Activity Reporting: This is a force multiplier. Establishing a centralized, functional, investigative and easily accessible conduit to report suspicious activity is imperative to preventing mass violence. Having an untold number of potential human intelligence agents, with eyes and ears all over the community, capable of reporting suspicious circumstances and environments helps prevent the unthinkable from occurring.
While that may sound conspiratory, there is no doubt that the best time to stop an act of mass violence is before it even happens – during preparatory and planning phases. While schools, hospitals, public transportation and areas of assembly commonly come to mind, don’t forget to include public safety personnel in this training. The broader See Something, Say Something concept and the specific iWatch program are examples of asking our communities to contribute to the larger public safety mission.
Concept 2. Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program (BMAP): Learn about the BMAP program. This program intends to put knowledgeable ambassadors in contact with identified commercial businesses to educate these providers of commerce about the precursors and materials related to homemade explosives, as well as potential behaviors of bomb makers that may gather their materials from publicly available sources. The BMAP program should be implemented by a collaboration of neighborhood law enforcement officers, fire inspectors and related public safety personnel with regular access to areas of public commerce.
Concept 3. Civilian Active Threat Training: There may be no greater return on an investment than a class to prepare civilians about the immediate actions they need to take if they find themselves in a situation of mass violence. Civilian training for mass violence is not just for schools. Places of commerce and assembly are traditional targets, making the entire community a target population and necessary audience.
Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) using Avoid, Deny, Defend, or Run Hide Fight, are two examples of programs already created to educate the public in this area. While law enforcement agencies train continuously to quickly end an act of mass violence, and fire and EMS resources join that preparation to quickly access and treat victims, there are still those ominous and deadly minutes before any public safety resources arrive. The actions the target population takes in those moments can be the difference between life and death.
Concept 4. Medical Training: Injuries from mass violence incidents undoubtedly run the spectrum from minor to the most severe and unrevivable. When injuries occur that are survivable if rapid and proper aid is administered, it is easy to see how a populace trained and maybe even equipped for basic trauma care can make the difference in the survivability of that particular segment of victims.
Not only would mass violence victims benefit from this preparedness, but trauma and medical victims from other disasters and emergencies will as well. Some communities have even taken the proactive step of requiring a Stop the Bleed Kit, along with an Automatic External Defibrillator, in certain occupancies. Examples of community medical training include Stop the Bleed and Hands Only CPR.
Concept 5. Proactive Collaboration: The aforementioned programs have stand-alone benefits, but pulling them together, advertising or promoting them and creating opportunities for the public to receive the necessary tools and training will make an incredible impact in disaster preparedness. Several public and private partnerships have joined forces to sponsor half-day and one-day workshops, providing a venue to showcase and teach these programs.
Meetings with community groups, schools and businesses have provided opportunities to discuss these programs, educate and schedule focused program deliveries. These are not fire-and-forget platforms to prepare the public. To be effective, this training and awareness needs continual tending, direction and reinforcement. Identified points-of-contact for these programs as well as ensuring all members of a department or agency is aware of these programs and POCs are important to the longevity and impact of these services.
Public safety is not just about actions at the time of, or in response to, a disaster. The level of preparedness of the targeted population will have a direct effect on the impact of the disaster. At best, a well-prepared, aware and empowered community is capable of (and has before) prevented mass violence and other human-caused disasters. While tragedies happen daily, jurisdictions are experiencing a lull before a storm we are unable to schedule on our terms. Making sure our communities are prepared, resilient and ready to partner together to deal with mass violence is a smart investment of public safety resources. Empowered communities become prepared, and prepared communities become resilient.
Michael Lugo is a Lieutenant and 22-year veteran of the Fort Worth (TX) Fire Department, currently serving in the department’s Homeland Security/Intelligence section and Bomb Squad. A combat veteran and 14-year law enforcement officer, Michael also coordinates the department’s Active Threat program and is a member of the IPSA’s Rescue Task Force Committee.
By Dan Murphy, Lieutenant in the Special Operations Section, Arlington County (VA) Police Department and Vice-Chair of IPSA’s Rescue Task Force Committee
Today, in public safety, most organizations struggle to procure funding for their training budgets. One underutilized tool available to everyone is the After-Action Review. This process, originating in the US military, is an extremely effective method of conducting a professional review of what occurred and how to improve performance in the future, based on the AAR. I’ve seen it work in groups as small as four individuals and as large as 160. This article focuses on the informal AAR, conducted as soon after the event as possible. This process differs from a formal AAR or Report which is much more resource and time intensive.
The value of the AAR process cannot be argued. By sharing the experience of everyone involved in the incident, with personnel who were not there or did not see or hear exactly what other personnel experienced, everyone gains a better understanding of what transpired during the incident. The AAR provides immediate feedback so everyone has a better understanding of what actions were taken and why. Results of the AAR should be used to resolve questions pertaining to policy application, process clarification and/or updates can be addressed. During the process, leaders can collect teaching points and trends. Training gaps and deficiencies can be discussed and identified. Future training plans can be modified to improve future performance.
Conducting an AAR
Ideally, the optimal time to conduct an AAR is immediately following the incident, when details and questions are fresh on everyone’s mind. This is especially true because you want to include just those who were directly involved. If you wish to include the entire squad (group), it is best to wait until the end of your shift. When possible, ask the oncoming supervisor to relieve your squad early, to ensure employees do not stay over their scheduled time to conduct the AAR. If leaders do not accommodate personnel schedules, poor participation is often the result because people want to leave on time. At shift change there is usually an overlap of time to help facilitate the early relief. When supervisors embrace a spirit of reciprocity between all shifts, this is usually not a problem.
Leaders should take brief notes to facilitate upcoming training adjustments or policy review. It is important to highlight that significant events may require an administrative or criminal investigation making an informal AAR inadvisable or against policy. Depending upon the incident, there may be value in delaying the AAR until after the investigation. In the event of a delayed AAR, the detailed notes of the leaders are very important. The AAR will likely take on the format of a peer support, rather than training performance, based on the length of the delay.
If you are not conducting AAR’s on a routine basis, begin by conducting small AAR’s following lower profile incidents. As your personnel and leaders become more comfortable, they will be familiar with the format and able to facilitate AAR’s with larger groups. This familiarization with the process prepares everyone for the larger scale, higher profile event AAR’s. Everyone benefits from a well-executed AAR.
Less experienced personnel can gain experience faster by learning how to correctly respond to an incident before they are faced with a similar call. Note, leaders must demonstrate that actions, mistakes and thoughts of participants will not be used in professional evaluations. Allow the rank and file to respectfully discuss what occurred and what they were thinking as the scene unfolded. When they observe a senior officer admit to a mistake or that he could have done it better they gain respect for their senior officers for being authentic, a common area needing improvement among first responders.
The AAR is an optimal time for supervisors to listen. The goal is to create a respectful environment where people can admit mistakes and improve future performance. The focus must remain on the action (improving performance), not the person. Depending on the incident, it may be beneficial to utilize a moderator who was not there. He or she may be able to ask difficult questions without offending the participants. Senior personnel benefit by gaining a keen insight to the preparedness and professionalism of the squad. Just by listening and observing how the squad interacts can provide valuable information about employees.
Rules of engagement
The U.S. Army has a standard format, but the process can be modified. Try the below standard format. Trusting the process usually leads to positive results. The below format (on the next page) is readily available through open source of the internet in Army Publication, TC 25-20, A Leader’s Guide to After-Action Reviews.
When most agencies are faced with reduced staffing and reduced budgets, it is difficult to deny the inherent value of the informal AAR. The AAR can be done anywhere at any time. First responders work in a time-compressed environment. By slowing things down and allowing them to self-analyze their own response everyone benefits by increasing the perspective of their peers and leaders alike. Leaders better understand their personnel/unit capabilities and shortcomings. Training assessments drive the specific training needed to improve overall performance and safety.
Introduction to AAR and ground rules.
Start with a short background on what was known at the beginning of the incident.
What was supposed to have happened?
What was done well? How can we sustain that level?
What was not done well? How can we improve?
Discussion of key issues.
Dan Murphy has been involved in public safety for over 35 years, working in a wide variety of positions in the law enforcement field, military and civilian. He served as an operator on a law enforcement tactical team for over 18 years, serving eight years as a SWAT Team Leader. He was instrumental in the early development and fielding of Rescue Task Force Operations and Critical Emergency Tactical Training for law enforcement. Dan privately consults in the corporate environment and serves as a subject matter expert in Active Shooter Response for the US federal government. He is a retired Senior NCO from the US Army Reserves. Dan is currently a Lieutenant in the Special Operations Section, Arlington County (VA) Police Department. He is also Vice-Chair of the IPSA's Rescue Task Force Committee.
By Mark Warren, Vice President, Strategos International and IPSA Member
The term first responder has been used for decades to describe the heroic women and men in uniform that make up our law enforcement, EMS and fire services. Due to several significant and recent acts of mass violence, there is now a new, different way of thinking about the term first responder. What we have learned from these tragedies is that the group of people who have a significant impact on survivability are the individuals on scene – the immediate responders. What immediate responders do, or don’t do, will make a difference. Any individual who is on-scene during a violent event is effectively considered as an immediate responder.
Unlike the professional first responder who has ample training, equipment and knowledge to respond to crisis, the probability of immediate responders having similar training, resources and knowledge readily available to aid in a response is low. The likelihood that immediate responders have received training and education about how to respond may be greatly limited. There are several response options that immediate responders can take. Each option impacts the outcomes of the individual and the victims.
Mental preparedness and readiness
Acts of mass violence occur everywhere. To adopt a when/then mindset, immediate responders need to accept that acts of mass violence happen wherever you work, live or visit. They are not geographic specific. They are not venue specific. By accepting this reality, immediate responders are better prepared to see, understand and proactively look for potential warning signs of concerning behavior. When an act of mass violence happens, then I will do these things.
Unlike if/then (if this happens, then this will be a possible response), the when/then philosophy is about mental preparedness and readiness to respond. It eliminates the theoretical. Skilled first responders inherently use this method when before and during a response to any call for service. Further, paying attention, being knowledgeable and ready to respond prevents normalcy bias. Normalcy bias delays proper response when seconds count. Immediate responders need to adopt the when/then philosophy and accept the situation for what it is and respond.
Medical treatment/casualty care training Immediate responders need to know how to do casualty care. This is a life-skill. Practicing casualty care training every few months will keep the skills current. Once an act of violence stops, or when the individual is removed from harm’s way, he or she needs to be able to transition and stop the bleeding. At a minimum, immediate responders need to be prepared to:
These critical life-saving skills bridge across the spectrum of crisis. Providing aid as soon as possible is one of the greatest steps to saving lives, understand that life could be yours, a family member, friend, coworker or a stranger. Immediate responders can save lives with this knowledge.
Immediate responders are better prepared once they mentally accept the threat and have a plan for proper response. Don’t wait for someone to provide instructions during crisis. The body cannot go where the brain has never been. Learning the knowledge and developing the skills to treat serious trauma will help save lives, including your own.
Mr. Warren is the Vice President and Director of Training for Strategos International and began his 27-year law enforcement career in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He has experience as an undercover operative, a tactical team member, and an instructor. He has been involved in the planning, implementation, and execution of hundreds of high-risk arrests, and spent five years with a large multi-agency task force working as an undercover operative and team leader. Mr. Warren was the Firearms/Use-of-Force Program Manager for his department prior to retiring. Mr. Warren is currently a Retired Sergeant for a local agency and was the 2000 Missouri P.O.S.T. Part-time Instructor of the Year.
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