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Together we are stronger

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.

  • 01 Aug 2018 11:12 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Heather R. Cotter and Natasha Lukasiewich, DNP Candidate, MSN, HHP, LNC, RN, CCRN-K, CEN, CFRN, EMS-RN

    This article highlights a valued member of the International Public Safety Association, Natasha Lukasiewich. Recently, Natasha went above and beyond and created a Facebook fundraiser on her birthday to support the IPSA. Her goal was to raise $500, and she surpassed it.

    Q1: You recently created a fundraiser for the IPSA on Facebook. What prompted, you to do that and how can others replicate this?

    Recently I got a year older and thought, you know, how great would it be to share my passion and belief in the mission that IPSA? Therefore, I decided to take a leap to honor and donate my birthday to IPSA on Facebook.

    Facebook has a great feature in which you can choose a not-for-profit organization to raise funds for an organization you believe in. Any Facebook user can use this feature (instructions about how to easily do this are below).

    Honestly, I had no idea if my friends, family and connections would support my fundraiser for the IPSA. To my gratefulness they did, and I beat my fundraising goal. I know the funds will be used wisely to support the IPSA mission.

    Q2: Tell us about yourself. What is your professional background?

    I started my journey in healthcare in 2001, when I graduated from Grant MacEwan University, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with a diploma in Holistic Health. I worked collaboratively in integrative medicine approaches with a Naturopathic Doctor and Chiropractor. I later realized my calling in nursing. Graduating from the same university, I completed my Nursing Diploma, venturing into Emergency Medicine.

    In 2006, I moved to California to continue my ER nurse journey. I later found my calling as a flight nurse for Calstar. The rewards of flight nursing are never ending, but also the challenges mentally can tax even the most resilient. I continued my flight nursing career in Lake Tahoe/Reno, NV areas with Care Flight. Close to seven years in the skies, I stepped down due to a physical injury that would not allow me to fly anymore.

    So being a nurse, I reinvented my career. I then completed my MSN and I am currently completing my DNP (Doctorate in Nursing Practice). My focus is peer advocacy and raising mental health wellness in health care and first responders. Being a voice for those that cannot, has been a true honor. I have spoken for many webinars, symposiums and national conferences on the effects of PTSD, depression and suicide for our heroes.

    For the last six years, I have served as a Volunteer Auxiliary Deputy Sheriff on the Washoe County search and rescue team, and I also serve on their Critical Response Team and Peer Support Unit.

    Aside from having professional experiences in dealing with those that suffer with mental illness and wellness balance, I am also a survivor of my dad’s suicide when I was younger. I try to share how others can become more resilient and embrace post traumatic growth that can occur in our industries.

    Q3: Since you have been a member, what have you done to advance the IPSA mission?

    Joining the IPSA was one of those steps that I do not regret. I’d like to personally thank Todd Kerfoot, an IPSA Board Member, for introducing me to this fantastic association.

    Since I have joined the IPSA’s mental health committee, I have been part of the team that helped produce the mental health awareness posters, that have been shared for free and distributed across the nation. Just recently, I have taken on the support role of Vice Chair, hoping not to disappoint the committee members. We have some great talent, and I look forward to our next projects coming out. Some of us, and myself have been presenters on the IPSA webinars. I have also had the opportunity to attend one of our IPSA conferences in Arizona. It was so nice to put faces to familiar names.

    Q4: Why should others get involved with the IPSA?

    I have my own consulting and education specialist company. I know the importance of having support in one’s mission. I am constantly training with pre-hospital providers and hospital personnel to improve patient outcomes. The IPSA is an organization for those who serve. We truly cannot forget about ourselves, and the IPSA definitely helps bring those like-minded together. After all, together we are stronger.

    Closing remarks  

    I have served on many committees in the past and felt the frustration of never really accomplishing a lot. I can attest that joining IPSA and their committees, you are surrounded by the most motivated individuals. If you truly want to see change, then join us in the mission to improve our industries.

    Facebook Donation Instructions

    Step 1: Start by writing a post, and then click on the … to open up the menu you see below. Then click on Support Nonprofit.

    Step 2: Select International Public Safety Association and the write a story in your Post about why you’re doing the fundraiser and how much you’d like to raise. Press Post and you’re done.

  • 20 Jul 2018 10:56 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Lori Pina, Lead Telecommunicator, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, Communications and IPSA 911 Telecommunications Committee Member

    Have you ever tried to find a watch? If not, it is very time consuming. Dispatching these calls isn’t what delays customer service, it is the process of calling back every smart watch-wearing citizen. Although policy varies between 911 call centers, it has the same impact overall, which is a call taker is temporarily unable to take an inbound emergency call due to calling a 911 hang-up back from a watch.


    iWatch and its technology is becoming quite the experience for 911 call centers across the country. If you hold down the side button on the iWatch, it will call 911 with a Wireless Phase 2 location (approximate location of the watch-wearer). For this feature to work, the watch-wearer must be within a Bluetooth connection range to their cell phone or connected to a stronger Wi-Fi.

    As the call comes into the 911 call center, it sounds something like this: several voices can be heard in the background, and the call taker is unable to advise if there was a disturbance. However, they have an approximate location (Phase 2).

    The call taker will then call back the number associated with the iWatch, and, if lucky, the subscriber will answer and advise their watch called 911 accidentally. If there is no answer, then the call will be forwarded to voicemail. If voicemail is reached, the next step a call taker will implement varies based on call center policy.


    Samsung technology is entirely different. The smart watch has an SOS feature that will contact up to four people. If the watch-wearer intentionally or unintentionally pushes the side button three times in a row, it will notify up to four people of their approximate location via text message and also provide audio coming from the smart watch. However, no audio will return to the watch (in case the watch-wearer is in an emergency situation). It will continue to update your SOS contacts for up to one hour after with location.

    While this is a great function in theory, the functionality has limitations in practice. In theory, the SOS contact would notify law enforcement, fire or medical of the victim’s location and advise what is occurring.

    However, the 911 call center will receive up to four 911 calls for the same incident, with minimal information. Often, the caller can only advise that their friend pushed an SOS button and give an approximate location.

    If the 911 call taker is fortunate enough to find the watch-wearer, they usually discover one of the following:

    1. The individual accidentally sent an SOS call.
    2. The individual was trying to reach a family member that wasn’t answering their phone.
    3. A child was playing with the watch.

    Unfortunately, most of the time, 911 call takers are unable to find the watch-wearer due to them being in a large crowd, or because the individual just moved on and continued whatever it was they were doing.

    Other smart watches

    In a 911 call center, we often deal with the Apple or Samsung smart watches but there are other watches that impact the 911 world.

    Watches designed for children: The other smart watches use a service such as an alarm company or GPS technology that gets relayed through a parent or guardian. These smart watches tend to be targeted for children and usually have a geofencing technology, which is simply a geographic boundary set up specifically for the watch by the guardian. These smart watches are usually set up around a school, home or park where the child is known to frequent. In a situation involving a missing child or a person with special needs, although a 911 call taker would have to go through a parent or guardian on the account, they could get a decently accurate location for the subject.

    Watches designed for the elderly: Smart watches designed primarily for the elderly are usually monitored by an alarm company. When this is the design, the alarm company usually has minimal information, such as the subscriber’s address, known medical information and key location. While the alarm company may not be able to give a 911 call taker an accurate phase 2 (approximate location), they may be able to provide medical information that can be relayed to first responders.

    Although there are other brands and different types of smart watches on the market, the best practice out there is to be knowledgeable of what your smart watch can do and who you’re reaching when utilizing a SOS feature. If it is a third party monitoring the smart watch, such as an alarm company, make sure they know what information you are willing to have released to authorities ahead of time in case of an emergency. In an emergency, seconds make all the difference.

    To all smart watch-wearers, figure out what your smart watch can do, so when the seconds matter, 911 call takers aren’t wasting minutes to help.

    About the Author

    Lori Pina is a Lead Telecommunicator with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department and a member of the IPSA’s 911 Telecommunications Committee. She has been an Emergency Telecommunicator for the last decade. She began her career with a smaller consolidated agency that dispatched for police, fire and medical and completed all DCI functions. She relocated to Charlotte, NC in 2014 and subsequently got hired to join CMPD. Pina has been a Communications Training Officer for six years and has I recently become a Lead Telecommunicator. She loves her job in the communications center and enjoys the challenges that are thrown her way.

  • 18 Jul 2018 9:37 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Ahrar “Sid” Siddiqui, Supervisor, Arlington County (VA) Emergency Communications Center, IPSA Fitness/Wellness Committee Member

    Wellness is defined as the state of being in good health, and strength training is a critical component of getting in good health. Whether you work in law enforcement, the fire service, 911 telecommunications or other public safety related discipline, there is a clear need to be in good health. There are obvious physical benefits to reap from a balanced program, such as increased strength and flexibility, but also many overlooked advantages that can make a bigger difference in your overall health.

    Getting started and sticking to a plan can be difficult but setting attainable goals and pre-planning workouts can help you achieve your goals. Like many other things in life, your level of commitment to a strength training routine will determine what kind of results you get and how close you are to your wellness objective.


    Everyone who works in public safety, wants to be stronger or leaner, maybe weigh a little less; strength training can get you there. Beyond that there are many other ways strength training can impact your health in a positive way. It is an invaluable tool in relaxation, blow off some steam after a long day at work with a lifting session and you’ll be surprised how good you feel when you leave the gym. An added benefit, muscle burns more calories than fat even at rest, so if you are trying to lose weight you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much easier that becomes even if you keep your caloric intake the same.

    Your bones will thank you, as resistance training is one of the best ways to improve bone density and stave off or mitigate the effects of conditions like osteoporosis. It can help fight and slow down several major metabolic diseases like diabetes, by teaching your body how to use insulin more efficiently and lower your risk for heart disease by better regulating your blood pressure and boosting your good cholesterol. All of these are little pieces in the overall wellness picture, with the result being a healthier you.

    Getting started

    Beginning a strength training regimen can be quite difficult, especially if you have never really been into exercising before. Searching for plans on from authoritative sources (e.g. the American Council on Exercise), will give you literally thousands of options. But before you begin searching for a workout plan, set some goals. Simply ask yourself these three simple questions:

    1. What kind of physique do I want, do I want to be a mass monster like a bodybuilder or do I want a trimmer more athletic body?
    2. What’s my timetable to achieve these goals, do I just want to get in shape for the summer beach season, or am I trying to create life time habits?
    3. How much time and money do I have to invest in this process, depending on my work and personal schedules?

    If this sounds kind of daunting, it is. The answers to the above questions will help determine what kind of plan you should develop and where to begin. Here are two invaluable tips, keep it simple and just start doing it. 

    You can join a gym or work out at home but pick a few exercises that you feel comfortable with and focus on those in the beginning, there will be plenty of time later to add variation and complexity. And start, as you gain experience over time you will be able to better understand where you want to be and how to get there.

    Strength training is an important component in any plan to improve your health. Its benefits can vary from the immediate to subtler and long-lasting improvements in the form and function of your body and mind. Starting can be hard, with lots of choices to confuse you, but if you never begin you will never see the results that you want, so, keep it simple and just start doing.

     At the end of the day you want to look and feel good to be well, and this along with a few other pieces like a good diet and rest, will get you there.

    About the Author

    Ahrar ‘Sid’ Siddiqui serves as a Supervisor in an emergency communication center, with 11 years of experience in Emergency Management and dispatching Police, Fire and EMS resources. During his career he has served on Arlington County’s Diversity Workgroup, EOC, Vesta/Nextgen 911 committee and is currently a member of the IPSA Fitness and Wellness Committee.

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  • 14 Jun 2018 6:59 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    Application period closes on August 15. 

    The International Public Safety Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Arizona, is recruiting for the position of Secretary. Our current Secretary, Communications Supervisor Jennifer Stewart with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, was appointed to serve on the IPSA’s Board of Directors during our Annual Meeting this past February. She is fulfilling her one-year appointment as Secretary and is seeking to pass the torch to an aspiring IPSA Member that wishes to get more involved with the IPSA’s leadership team.

    About the position

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

    Candidates with previous experience serving on, or working closely with a Board, is preferred.

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

    In addition, given that this is a leadership position, there is an expectation that the Secretary will assist with membership referrals, fundraising efforts and be a champion for the IPSA. The level of effort is approximately 10 volunteer hours per month. 

    Other duties performed by the secretary include the following:

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

    Eligibility and other details

    You must be a current Active Level Member of the IPSA. If you are currently an Associate Level Member, you must upgrade your membership prior to submitting your letter of interest and resume.

    • This is a one-year appointment with the option for reappointment by the Board.
    • Appointment will begin in September 2018.
    • You do not need to reside in Arizona.
    How to apply

    Please submit a letter of interest and a current resume in a combined .PDF to Executive Director Heather R. Cotter at describing the following: 

    1. Why you are the best candidate for this position.
    2. Two professional references.
    3. Assertion that your supervisor approves and supports your involvement. 

    The first review of resumes will occur in August. This leadership position will be filled in September 2018. 

  • 30 May 2018 2:13 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    The International Public Safety Association’s Tactical Emergency Casualty Care vs Tactical Combat Casualty Care InfoBrief is authored by members of the IPSA’s Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) Committee.

    Download the IPSA InfoBrief: TECC versus TCCC

    The IPSA is a 501(c)3 non-profit public safety association that represents all public safety disciplines: law enforcement, fire service, EMS, telecommunications, public works (water, sanitation, transportation), public health, hospitals, security, private sector, and emergency management. Our vision is for a stronger, more integrated public safety community capable of an effective joint response to all public safety incidents.

    The IPSA’s TEMS Committee includes public safety practitioner, subject matter experts and trauma-care physicians from around the globe. This committee is dedicated to advancing the IPSA mission and contributing to the professional development of the public safety community.

  • 25 May 2018 9:28 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Robert Mitchell, Retired Chief and Member of the IPSA's Memorial Committee

    “Rescue 22 respond to 2615 Kingfisher Dr. for a two-year old having seizures. Timeout 0345, Unit responding select Tac 6.”

    It’s 0345 in the morning. You’re on duty having just laid down for the first time this shift about 30 minutes ago. You’ve decided not to eat anything to try and get some sleep. You’re on the back side of a 48-hour shift which wasn’t much slower. As you stagger to the truck, you try to remember where Kingfisher Drive is. When you do arrive at the address, a mom comes running out the front door carrying her two-year old daughter in her arms. As you take the toddler you notice she’s kind of stiff and her colors a bit greyish. 

    In the back of the truck you assess the little one and determine that she is indeed having a seizure and she is posturing. Mom tells you she has no known history, no allergies, doesn’t take any medicine and she’s been like this for at least 10 minutes. As you have done a thousand times, you continue her assessment, treatment and transport. 

    The hospital is 10 minutes away and your partner makes it in five. There’s been no significant change in your tiny patient’s status the entire time she’s been in your care. You turn her over to the Emergency Room staff and get your unit back in service and write your report. You’ve done everything possible for this little one and you’ve done it right. You return to the station. Your shift finally ends. You go home.

    After the shift ends

    As you stagger into the house, your greeted by your two-year old who wants to do nothing more than play with you. Tears well up in your eyes and you can hardly keep it together. This is an all too often sequence of events for most of us in EMS, and sometimes it’s hard to let go.

    • Does this happen to you regularly?
    • What else is causing you stress? 
    • Do you have a healthy way to deal with stress?

    These are just a few questions you need to ask yourself to self-assess. Everyone knows the importance of diet, exercise, sleeping and staying hydrated. But is there more? The answer is yes.

    Recognition of PTSD in public safety is at the forefront of the media and in many states, their legislatures. The International Public Safety Association has done several webinars on the topic and even created a series of posters for agencies and individuals to download and post in their departments. This is fantastic news, but how is this going to help the EMS responder in the field?

    Collectively we have seen an increase in Critical Incident Stress Teams, Peer Support Teams, Chaplains and family training classes for spouses, significant others, and children that help to prepare them for what their responder maybe facing. Most responders don’t want to open to someone who has no operational experience in EMS or at the very least public safety. Having leaders who at least know how to recognize the signs of stress is a critical first step in getting help. As individuals we need to learn and understand that we may need help as well.

    • Talk with your family about your feelings.
    • Talk with a trusted professional.
    • Remember your spiritual needs.
    • Talk to your peers. 
    • Seek positive ways to release your stress like exercising, reading a book and even playing video games.

    Do yourself and your loved ones a favor, if you’re stressed, look for healthy ways to de-stress. Don’t be afraid to reach out, you are not alone.

    About the Author

    Chief Mitchell retired after 38 years of public safety service in fire, EMS, law enforcement and Emergency Management. He currently holds his Chief Fire Officer, Chief Emergency Medical Service Officer and Professional Emergency Manager designations.  He hold a degree in Professional Management from Nova Southeastern University and currently consults for a variety of different organizations.  Chief Mitchell is a member of the IPSA Memorial Committee.

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  • 22 May 2018 11:49 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    The IPSA created this new K9 Officer Safety Infographic for free download, printing and sharing.

  • 21 May 2018 5:21 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    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.

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  • 17 Apr 2018 1:26 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    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.

  • 10 Apr 2018 2:45 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    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.


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