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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.
The IPSA created this new K9 Officer Safety Infographic for free download, printing and sharing.
By Jerry Steckmeister, Police Lieutenant, Westchester County Department of Public Safety, IPSA Fitness and Wellness Committee Member
Anywhere that you find public safety professionals, you are sure to find hand sanitizer. It’s in their buildings, personal bags and vehicles. It’s always nearby as if it were a magical potion that can cure all ills. Sinks are often bypassed to get to the hand sanitizer dispenser.
The main benefit to hand sanitizer is speed. It is quicker than washing hands and it is portable. When used properly, hand sanitizer can be an effective tool in protecting public safety personnel. But is public safety’s reliance on hand sanitizer sound? According to science, the answer is no.
Most hand sanitizers contain alcohol, generally 60 percent or more. This is sufficient to kill most, but not all, germs. For instance, it is not effective at eliminating norovirus or Clostridium difficile spores. It is an essential tool in healthcare settings, where the primary threat comes from germs.
What the CDC says
Problems arise when individuals overestimate the power of hand sanitizer. As noted above, it is ineffective at killing certain germs. It also may not have an effect on chemicals, and does not remove dirt or grease. In fact, it may cause your skin to be more absorbent to certain chemicals, such as fentanyl.
For this reason, the Center for Disease Control recommends hand washing over hand sanitizer in a non-healthcare setting. When soap and water isn’t immediately available, hand sanitizer is generally a good substitute, but the CDC still recommends that you wash your hands as soon as you are able.
None of this means that you should throw out all of your hand sanitizer. Used correctly, it can be a valuable tool for hand hygiene. In a health care setting, when your hands aren’t excessively dirty, hand sanitizer can provide a quick reduction in bacteria. Outside of a health care setting, if you have access to soap and water, you should wash your hands instead of using hand sanitizer. If you might be exposed to germs, but do not have access to a sink, hand sanitizer might help reduce bacteria, but you should still wash your hands as soon as possible.
Do not use hand sanitizer if you have been exposed to chemicals such as pesticides or fentanyl. Wipe excess chemicals off with a clean cloth and wash your hands. If you have a large exposure or do not have access to a sink, follow your agency’s protocol for decontamination.
Public safety professionals have a wide range of tools at our disposal. Each tool is effective when used properly, but can be dangerous when used improperly. Hand sanitizer is no exception. When it is used appropriately, it can help us to stay healthy and prevent us from bringing unwanted germs back to our family. However, it is important to understand its strengths and limitations.
About the Author
Jerry Steckmeister is a Police Lieutenant with 19 years of law enforcement experience. He is also a Major in the NY Army National Guard. In addition, he is a Director on the board of the Westchester B.L.U.E. Foundation and serves as member of the IPSA Fitness and Wellness Committee.
Become a Member of the IPSA's Fitness/Wellness Committee
This International Public Safety Association InfoBrief discusses interoperability and unified command. The purpose of this document is to elucidate the fundamental and important principles of interoperability and unified command, suggest rationale as to why the deficiencies continue to exist and finally, to present some strategies for reducing the gap and opportunities for solutions.
Download the IPSA InfoBrief: Interoperability and Unified Command
This InfoBrief was authored by several members of the IPSA’s Rescue Task Force Committee. The IPSA’s RTF Committee is committed to advancing the IPSA mission and provides the IPSA guidance in all matters relating to the development, management and training practices of RTFs. The RTF Committee enhances the cooperation and sharing of information between agencies who use RTFs and those exploring the possibility of starting a new RTF program. The RTF Committee publishes documents and articles to assist in the understanding of the benefits, costs and complexities of on-going RTF training and management.
This International Public Safety Association InfoBrief discusses the legal aspects of tactical emergency medical support.
Download the IPSA InfoBrief: Legal Aspects of TEMS
TEMS is integral to SWAT and law enforcement tactical units in providing special operations medicine in a pre-hospital setting. Tactical paramedics deliver point of wounding care in the direct threat, indirect threat and tactical evacuation phases of the austere environment. TEMS teams respond to high threat incidents such as: high-risk warrants, terrorist attacks, active shooter/hostile events and other intentional mass casualty incidents.
Legal issues surrounding TEMS teams, law enforcement and allied emergency responders need to be fully considered prior to an incident. All agency administrators must have a solid understanding of their legal rights and duties. Once these legal considerations are realized, it is incumbent on them to make sure their personnel (volunteer and paid employees) understand how they should act or respond in any given event.
The IPSA’s TEMS Committee is committed to advancing the IPSA mission and contributes to the professional development of the public safety community. The IPSA’s TEMS Committee works to establish an all hazards approach and integrated response to public safety emergencies. This InfoBrief was authored by several members of the IPSA’s TEMS Committee.
By Anne Camaro, IPSA 911 Telecommunications Committee Member, Assistant Director of Administration and Training Cambridge Emergency Communications
As we gear up to celebrate another National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, it is important to pave the way for new telecommunicators as they make their way from the classroom to the communications center. Whether working eight or 12-hour shifts, dispatchers know that no shift is ever like the last one. The uncertainty of the next call, the excitement of the next chase and the relief of the resolution are the only constants. The situations, the names and the people are ever changing in a web of stories that become the reason we choose to stay.
Ability to adapt
Having grown up in the boom of technology of the 1990s, I still remember the first time I sat down in front of a DOS based CAD. Having to adapt from mouse clicks to keyboard tabs was no easy task, however, that was the first of many different things I had to adapt to throughout the years. However, not everyone can adapt in the 911 telecommunications profession.
As communications supervisors recruit new talent and promote from within, one of the most desired qualities in a candidate is adaptability. Most supervisors will not hire or promote someone who demonstrates a resistance or fear to change. Individuals who are hired to work in this profession and then become unwilling or unable to adapt to the ever-changing environment in the communications center, rarely stay. No dispatcher, at least no successful dispatcher, can stay rigid and resist change.
So how can we become more adaptable? Jennifer Garvey Berger, author of “Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders” describes four steps we can take to become more adaptable. To face change successfully, she states that we must shift our mindset and highlights four tips on how to get started: (1) ask different questions; (2) accept multiple perspectives; (3) consider the bigger picture and (4) experiment and learn.
Further, Jeff Boss, an adaptability coach, describes an adaptable person as someone who is open to change, who has the will to face uncertainty, and who sees opportunity where others see failure. According to Boss, adaptable people are resourceful and think ahead; they don’t whine, or place blame; and they also don’t claim fame. Adaptable people stay current, are open minded and know what they stand for. A dispatcher who possesses these traits is desirable and will become invaluable to the agency they work for because they are willing and able to go the extra mile.
Change is scary and complex. It involves coming out of our comfort zone, but if we want to succeed as 911 telecommunicators we must understand that change is part of the job description. It is inevitable. From change, the best 911 telecommunicators learn and thrive. In a field that gets more complex by the minute, a famous quote attributed to Leon C. Megginson’s work regarding Darwin’s “Origin of Species” is valid, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
By Ken Wallentine
In a recent survey, I asked for reader thoughts on meeting the challenge of the active shooter in schools. Thanks to the officers who sent thoughtful responses. Not surprisingly, several respondents suggested placing more officers in schools.
Here is a snapshot of some other responses:
Virtual reality, active shooter scenario
I recently participated with dozens of school district executives, school resource officers, principals, vice-principals and counselors in a series of school shooting scenarios. The virtual reality system allowed us to experience an active school shooter scenario in penetrating virtual reality, using actual weapons and feeling the impact of gunfire. At the end of each virtual reality session, we gathered cops and educators to debrief. Ideas and questions flowed freely. Conversations that began in virtual reality will continue as partnerships strengthen.
I learned about programs that help students report concerns and/or reach out for help. The best of these is a smartphone app called SafeUT. It is a resource for students, parents and educators. Students and parents can submit tips, chat with a qualified mental health professional, make an immediate one-button call for help and monitor existing tips and helpful hints for safety and well-being. Other states are creating similar apps.
Just last week, a middle school student in my community threatened to shoot up his school. Classmates who heard the threat said something and used the SafeUT app. A cop went to the home and spoke with parents and the student. He and his partner searched the kid’s bedroom and found an AR-15 and a handgun. The app, powered by students willing to say something, worked. Mass shooting prevented? Probably.
Broadening the discussion
The conversations about safer schools and safer kids are happening across the country. These discussions need to include local public safety officers, teachers and parents. Those conversations need to be far broader than just hardening the targets. Let’s join the community in talking about prevention. Let’s be sure that our departments and schools are social media smart. Are we watching out for and reaching the kids who signal trouble? Are our schools fostering an emotionally healthy environment? Are there safe places and trusted people for kids who are bullied, abused or emotionally struggling?
As public safety servants, we prepare tirelessly for many events that will never happen in our community. With the violence at Parkland and Great Mills, the focus right now is on school shootings.
We must prepare the best we can. In our sheriffs’ offices and police departments, let’s talk about something that we know about: threat assessment. When we get a tip, do we have a system in place to quickly bring a school official, mental health professional, school resource officer, and—as appropriate—parent or guardian together for a risk analysis and intervention plan?
Our preparations will necessarily lead to deeper connections with educators, parents, kids and our entire community. Our preventive efforts will pay off, too. As we stretch our reach to kids on the fringe, we may or may not prevent a school killer, but we may just make life better for a lonely kid.
There is a genuine compassion and commitment among public safety officials to keeping our communities safe. Your communities need your critical conversation contributions.
Chief Ken Wallentine is a Special Agent who directs the Utah Attorney General Training Center, overseeing use of force training and investigation and cold case homicide investigations. He is also a consultant and Senior Legal Advisor for Lexipol. Ken formerly served as Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General, serving over three decades in public safety before a brief retirement. He also serves as the Chairman of the Peace Officer Merit Commission of Greater Salt Lake County.
The IPSA created this new Scene Safety infographic for free download, printing and sharing.
By James Dundas, IPSA Memorial Committee Chair
Duty. Honor. Courage. Noble words to live and serve by. The epitome of those words was sadly reinforced recently as the public safety community of practice lost seven brave souls in the line of duty. In the one week from March 21 to March 28, 2018, the United States has averaged the loss one first responder per day.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018: Police Officer Andres Laza-Caraballo (age 31) of the Juncos Municipal Police Department in Puerto Rico was shot while off duty when attempting to intercede in a violent incident. Officer Laza-Caraballo confronted armed men when they entered a barber shop and began firing. Officer Laza-Caraballo was fatally wounded. He was a 10-year veteran of the department. He leaves behind two children.
Thursday, March 22, 2018: FDNY Firefighter Michael Davidson (age 37), a 15-year veteran, husband and father of four girls, died in a fire on a movie set in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood of Harlem. Part of an interior attack crew, FF Davidson became separated from the others when an evacuation was called. Search teams were quickly assembled and re-entered the building in a desperate attempt to locate FF Davidson. When found, FF Davidson was unconscious. He was transported to Harlem Hospital where he died.
Also on Thursday, March 22, 2018, in York City, Pennsylvania, FF Ivan Flanscha (age 50) and FF Zachary Anthony (age 29) perished in a huge multiple alarm fire in the former Weaver Organ and Piano Warehouse. FF’s Flanscha and Anthony were part of an interior crew dousing hot spots when a part of the structure collapsed, entrapping them and other members. The York City Technical Rescue team was brought in to lead the search, but unfortunately, both Flanscha and Anthony did not survive. Two others, Assistant Chief Greg Altland and FF Erik Swanson received serious, but not expected to be life threatening injuries.
In what is becoming a more frequent and tragic consequence of exposure to hazardous substances, Special Agent Melissa Morrow (age 48) of the FBI succumbed to brain cancer on March 22, 2018, because of her search and recovery work at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. She worked 10 weeks on site, and like many first responders, fell from continuous, long-term exposure to toxins. She is survived by her parents and one sister.
Friday, March 23, 2018: The Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management reported that FF Larry Marusik of the Ellinger Volunteer Fire Department succumbed to critical burn injuries sustained on March 10 while fighting a large wildland fire. He had been under treatment at the Brook Army Medical Center.
Saturday, March 24, 2018: We saw the deaths of two Pratt, West Virginia, volunteer firefighters who died in a crash of their apparatus when responding to a severe multi-fatality traffic accident. Preliminary reports show that their rig left the roadway and crashed into a rock wall. Three other firefighters were injured, one critically.
While it is premature to speculate on causal factors of these tragedies this past week, there are some practices that the public safety community may acknowledge that may help prevent a future tragedy from occurring. These recommendations were pulled from the IPSA’s 2017 LODD Report:
IPSA's Report about 2017 Line of Duty Deaths
Join the IPSA’s Memorial Committee
The IPSA Executive Director's Policy Task Force developed a series of InfoBriefs on Homegrown Violent Extremism. The IPSA encourages you to download, review and share these documents with your professional network.
HOMEGROWN VIOLENT EXTREMISM: BACKGROUND, RADICALIZATION AND COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM
HOMEGROWN VIOLENT EXTREMISM: COLLABORATIVE LEADERSHIP AND COMMUNITY RESILIENCE
HOMEGROWN VIOLENT EXTREMISM: RECOVERY PLANNING FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
First responders experience extreme physical demands, often in hazardous environments. Many tragedies occur suddenly and without warning. Gunshot wounds, building collapses, vehicular accidents, assaults and other causal factors contribute to untimely deaths in our emergency response community. Further, first responders face several threats to occupational related diseases such as cancer and cardiorespiratory related maladies. Law enforcement, firefighting and rescue activities are inherently dangerous occupations. Since the year 2000, the data reviewed accounts for the loss of 2,841 law enforcement officers, 1,937 fire and EMS personnel and 233 K9s.
Download the IPSA's Report about 2017 Line of Duty Deaths
The International Public Safety Association Memorial Committee was established to monitor line of duty deaths to honor the supreme sacrifice of our brave and heroic first responders and to review LODD data for trends, patterns and anomalies so the IPSA can develop recommended policies and changes that improve safety. If you are interested in getting involved with the IPSA's Memorial Committee, then apply to serve today.
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