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Public Safety Column
The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership articles about all topics facing public safety.
The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor.
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By Mike O’Shea, Program Manager, Safety and Integration Division, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, Federal Aviation Administration and IPSA September Symposium Presenter
Drones are reinventing industries, creating new ones and bringing benefits to public safety agencies who are increasingly using them to support their mission. This technology tool can significantly advance and support search and rescue, fire and crash investigations, and other dangerous situations where airborne situational awareness can decrease hazard risks to public safety personnel and the people they serve.
Drones are not toys. They are, by law, ‘aircraft’ and their use requires that public safety agencies know the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), state and local regulations, laws and statutes governing their use.
The presentation at the IPSA’s Natural and Man-Made Disaster Recovery Symposium this September 18 and 19 in Washington D.C. will provide the International Public Safety Association (IPSA) attendees with key information and FAA resources for public safety agencies that want to operate drones in our nation’s airspace. I will discuss the path to starting a program as well as many important considerations such as community outreach. The presentation will cover the FAA’s safety mission and how that mission impacts our actions and your proposed operations. I’ll cover the pros and cons of operating as a public aircraft operation (PAO Part 91) versus as a civil operator (Part 107) or operating as both.
We will also examine waivers and certificate of authorizations that allow greater uses of drones as long the operator can safely mitigate dangers to manned aircraft and people on the ground.
I’ll also introduce attendees to the FAA’s new Public Safety Small Drone Playbook, a great resource for public safety agencies that deal with possible unlawful drone operations. I’ll provide information that will help connect public agencies with the FAA’s Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) which is an incredibly useful field resource. Lastly, there will be time for participants to ask their specific questions regarding operating a drone in the national airspace.
Agencies operating a drone, starting a drone program, or are just curious as to if this technology might be a future direction for their agency, should attend this presentation.
Michael O’Shea is a Program Manager for the FAA’s UAS Integration Office’s, Safety & Integration Division where he serves as liaison, facilitator and resource for both public and civil unmanned aircraft integration efforts.
Before joining the UAS Integration Office, Mr. O’Shea was a program manager in the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Science and Technology for 17 years where he managed the law enforcement aviation technologies program. As part of his duties at DOJ Mr. O’Shea sat on the Small UAS and Remote Tracking/ID Aviation Rule Making Committees. Prior to working at DOJ, Mr. O’Shea spent almost 15 years as a uniformed law enforcement officer.
Mr. O’Shea is a graduate of Baker University (Kansas) with a degree in Business and Marketing. Mr. O’Shea holds a FAA Light-Sport Pilot Certificate (Fixed Wing, Gyroplanes and Powered Parachutes) and a Remote Pilot Certificate.
Register to Attend
Register to Exhibit
By Lauri Stevens, LAwS Communications and IPSA September Symposium Presenter and IPSA Board Member Chris Butler
International Public Safety Association Board member Chris Butler spoke with Lauri Stevens from LAwS Communications about her upcoming presentation at the IPSA’s Natural and Man-Made Disaster Recovery Symposium this September 18 and 19 in Washington D.C.
Stevens will be leading a panel of experts in a discussion about communications strategies for public safety agencies following a major incident, whether planned or unplanned. Butler asked Stevens a series of questions about the critical communication issues and her responses are presented here as a preview of the exceptional presentation that will take place at the IPSA’s event this September.
Q: Lauri, so you have a lot of experience in critical communications strategies following major incidents. Why do you feel this is such a vital topic for organizations to understand?
First responders seem to train, strategize and plan for handling incidents constantly. However, it seems this doesn’t always include a communications strategy. If they do have a communications strategy, the social media component is not comprehensive in terms of response, engagement and management.
Ideally, organizations should include social media simulations in their events training and have templated messaging formulated. Additionally, they’ve created an operational team includes members of their own organization and members of other sister organizations with whom they need to coordinate communications (especially social media) during an event.
Q: When you think about some of the incidents you have been involved in, what are some of the key concepts of communication strategies that the panel address?
We all want to learn from others and learn from our own experiences. Not all our discussion will be about successes, but also the mistakes that were made.
Our goal for the panel will be for it to be interactive with the audience. I can always lead a discussion, but we want the audience participants to ask their own questions and be part of the discussion.
In addition to strategy, other key concepts will be messaging development and consistency, inter-organizational cooperation, importance of engagement even if you have nothing to say and monitoring for situational awareness.
Q: I'm sure you have witnessed the full range of communication strategies after major incidents - from great to extremely poor. In your experience what are some of the consistent communication errors that agencies make?
Time and time again the mistakes fall into the following buckets: Not using social media until something happens; having no plan; no policy and not engaging.
Q: What are your objectives for the panel discussion? In other words, what 'take aways' are you hoping the attendees leave with that will create positive changes in their own agencies when they go back?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, organizations all need to take social media more seriously.
I can’t think of any other thing that can destroy you if handled poorly. On the flipside, if handled well, social media can save lives and property and make your organization look stellar.
And yet, hopefully the attendees will also see that even if they do all the above well, we have a long way to go to fully realize the depth of what can be achieved with expert use of social media and open source technologies.
Lauri Stevens is the principal consultant and founder of LAwS Communications. Lauri is also the creator and producer of the SMILE Conference® and the creator of the ConnectedCOPS™ blog and social media awards program; as well as the Global Police Tweet-a-thon. She is an interactive media professional with over 25 years of media experience, including 12 years in higher education as a Department Chair of Interactive Media and 14 years as a radio and television journalist prior to that.
Chris Butler is a member of the International Public Safety Association’s Board of Directors. He is a 34-year law enforcement veteran and recently retired as the Inspector of the Major Event and Emergency Management Section of the Calgary Police Service in Calgary, Alberta, Canada; an agency of over 2,200 sworn officers policing approximately 1.2 million people.
Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection and is a life-threatening medical emergency. With sepsis starting outside the hospital in 80% of cases, first responders like Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel are often the first medical providers to see patients with sepsis. Prompt action by EMS personnel is critical and can increase a patient’s chances of survival.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an EMS card for sepsis to remind first responders of the signs and symptoms of sepsis and to gather critical medical information to communicate to hospital healthcare professionals upon arrival.
Additional sepsis resources for care providers and families can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/sepsis/index.html
Editor’s Note: Article reprinted from EMS Week 2019 publication. Please find out more about EMS Week at emsstrong.org
“It started as a way for me to cope, process and purge some of the bad calls I attended,” explains artist Daniel Sundahl. Five years ago, firefighter and advanced care paramedic for the City of Leduc (Alberta, Canada), Sundahl turned to art as a way to manage his own on-the-job stress. “Each image is based on an actual call I attended,” explains Sundahl. “I stage the photo, capture the image then digitally draw and paint over that digital photo, recreating more of how I felt during that call rather than what I saw.”
Daniel Sundahl’s art helps to ease the mental health challenges of first responders. (Photo/Daniel Sundahl)
Sundahl never realized how much his blend of photography and graphic art would inspire other first responders. “It was never my intention to share the images initially,” he says. “I thought for sure I would receive negative feedback from my peers for showing our profession in a such a vulnerable condition.”
On the contrary, his thought-provoking and sometimes haunting artwork has been celebrated throughout the EMS community. He has become a popular speaker at EMS events, has been featured in publications throughout the United States and Canada and has published two books of his work. “The positive response I received once I shared those first images was overwhelming; I never imagined others would attach their own experiences to my artwork.”
What started as an outlet to express his own personal experiences with occupational stress injuries and post-traumatic growth has turned into a passion for exposing PTSD and easing the mental health challenges faced by first responders.
Says Sundahl, “It’s been very therapeutic for me because the response I get every day tells me I’m not alone in the way I sometimes feel about my work as a paramedic and firefighter.”
Find out more about Daniel Sundahl at dansunphotos.com.
By Phil Raum, Maryland Emergency Response System and IPSA UAS Committee Member
The goal of creating a drone program is to create a deployable sUAS capability to meet the agency’s mission requirements. Generally, building a capability requires several tasks associated with planning, organizing, equipping, training, and exercising. Just buying equipment does not necessarily give an agency a deployable capability. There are usually policy and training issues that need to be addressed with the purchase of equipment, and sUAS equipment is no exception.
Here are 10 tips to assist an agency in developing a legally deployable drone capability.
1. Define objectives and outcomes. Clearly define the outcomes the agency wants to achieve with the sUAS capability, such as:
3. Comply with all legal requirements. Ensure that the agency complies with all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and case law.
4. Identify risks and mitigation strategies. Identify risks associated with developing and deploying this this capability and the strategies to mitigate those risks, such as:
5. Develop a realistic budget. Ensure that the agency’s budget addresses all the expenses associated with developing a deployable capability. There is a significant risk that equipment will be damaged or destroyed during training and/or deployments.
6. Consider building the sUAS capability in phases.
7. Ensure all the right people, disciplines and agencies are involved. Ensure that all the appropriate personnel, disciplines, and agencies that should be involved in the development of the sUAS capability are, in fact, involved and can weigh in on that process.
8. Buy the right stuff appropriate for the agency’s mission. Ensure that the agency purchases equipment and software that will accomplish the mission of the sUAS program. Do the research and talk to the people who have already developed a sUAS capability.
9. Operators need the right training. sUAS Operators need to be very familiar with the legal and regulatory requirements, as well as the safe operation of the vehicles.
10. Agencies need to exercise this capability. Agencies should ensure that drone operators maintain and enhance their flight capability through real-world deployments and exercises. Additionally, command staff and others in decision-making roles should participate in exercises to test, develop, and enhance the agency’s sUAS capability.
By Jessica Dockstader, IPSA Mental Health Committee Member
Police officers experience traumatic events throughout their career called critical incidents. A study conducted by Chopko, Palmieri and Adams (2015) found that on average, law enforcement officers experience 188 critical incidents in the course of their career. In response to critical incidents, officers can develop negative coping mechanisms, experience symptoms of and/or develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and develop other co-occurring psychopathological disorders. Additionally, factors such as organizational stress, stigma surrounding mental health within the department, a lack of mental health literacy on the part of the officer, and a lack of leadership surrounding mental health in the department can also lead to an officer developing PTSD and/or using poor coping mechanisms.
Officers suffering from PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms have a higher likelihood of exhibiting violent tendencies towards the community and themselves; this is in part due to patterns such as “death imprint” and “desensitization” commonly displayed by individuals suffering from PTSD (James & Gilliland, 2017). Furthermore, the characteristics of PTSD such as hypervigilance and reliving memories can cause officers to become violent towards themselves and the community. Law enforcement departments must adopt best practices and policies relating to officer mental health to in turn address police violence—thereby reducing officer suicides and preventing traumatized officers from causing harm to the communities they serve.
Trauma and policing
Police violence in the United States may be significantly influenced by unaddressed trauma. Police officers experience trauma on a daily basis during critical incidents which “frequently involve perceptions of death, threat to life, or involve bodily injury” (Digliani, 2012). In addition, studies have found that law enforcement officers under-utilize available psychological services (Spence, 2017). As a result, officers’ ability to distinguish real from perceived threats may be impaired, causing an overreaction in situations involving threat (Lancaster, Cobb, Telch & Lee. 2016). Officers may legitimately “fear for their lives”, as they often assert after a use of force, but their fear response may originate from a history of untreated trauma related to cumulative post-traumatic stress disorder, and lack of coping skills rather than an actual threat (Beshears, 2017).
The trauma that police officers face on a daily basis during critical incidents, coupled with their lack of or under utility of mental and emotional health training leads officers to be less efficient (Spence, 2017) and have high rates of suicide (Heyman, Dill & Douglas, 2018). One historical reason for the under usage of job-related psychological services by law enforcement officers of all ranks is fear of reprisal and creating barriers to promotion (Spence, 2017). Studies have illustrated that individuals struggling with psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress symptoms are more prone to violence (Gillikin, Habib, Evces, Bradley, Ressler & Sanders, 2016; Kivisto, Moore, Elkins & Rhatigan, 2009; Heyman et al. 2018). Therefore, a lack of adequate care and training leads to a more violence-prone police force patrolling our streets.
Ignorance and dismissal
Factors contributing to the ignorance and dismissal of the mental health crisis in law enforcement stems from mental health stigmas held across the United States and within the law enforcement community (Spence, 2017). Other contributing factors are the unwillingness to establish a mental health baseline in currently operating officers based on the fear that some of them are unfit to serve and the polarization between the police and the community which leads each side unwilling to admit any fault.
The challenge lies in establishing that police officers are, like all human beings, in fact affected by trauma without implying they are unable to do their jobs. It is imperative to impress upon the law enforcement community that their officers might be suffering from post-traumatic stress which in turn impacts the way they do their job. This impairment is a public health concern to the officers and the communities they serve.
In the current age of polarization, many officers are apprehensive that community members will point to the proven trauma an officer experiences as a reason they either should not be on the job, or why the community member should receive compensation in a civil suit as a form of justice. Fear is present among both sides of this equation, with the officers and the community, leaving the problem of trauma-impaired law enforcement officers to be relatively unexplored. Researchers must determine if prolonged exposure to traumatic events throughout a law enforcement professional’s career, which is proven to increase aggression and violence, can be offset by mental and emotional health training at the beginning and throughout said law enforcement professional’s career.
Below are key recommendations for law enforcement agencies and researchers.
Law enforcement recommendations
Centralize Mental Health Resources: Develop an area within the department where all resources available for officer mental health and wellness are centralized and can be easily accessed. This will simultaneously accomplish two goals: reducing the stigma of receiving help and ensuring every officer knows where to go if and when they are seeking out help.
Partner with Mental Health Organizations: Partner with mental health organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and/or former law enforcement officers who have experienced and overcome mental health issues to deliver presentations to officers on how to recognize signs of mental illness within themselves.
Collect Data on Officer Suicides: Begin to collect data on the suicide rate of officers from the department, and contribute to the new data platform, a partnership between the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Prepare Lateral Transfers for Critical Incidents: Lateral transfers coming from a smaller department to a larger one may be more severely impacted by critical incidents (Chopko et al. 2015). Ensure these officers are receiving appropriate training and assistance as they integrate into the department.
Recognize the Impacts of Understaffing on Officers: During the ongoing nationwide staffing shortage, it is important to emphasize mental health awareness and self-care for officers. Copenhaver and Tewksbury (2018) found that officers were 28.4% more likely to seek help for symptoms related to mental illness when they had received an extra hour of sleep; thus, it is imperative to better understand the impact of shift work and sleep deprivation on officers.
Improve the Organizational Culture: Research has shown that organizational stressors have an equal or greater impact on law enforcement officers than critical incidents (Shane, 2010). Bring in an organizational consultant to assess and address issues which could be negatively impacting the department.
Establish Partnerships with Research Organizations: Partner with local and/or national research organizations to integrate evidence-based practices in the department. Without coordinating these partnerships, the department, officers, and communities you serve have the potential to be negatively impacted.
Conduct Research inside Departments: Develop relationships with law enforcement departments, so as to conduct research with their officers to determine their level of mental health literacy, attitudes towards mental health treatment, and to begin to determine how many officers are struggling with PTSD and PTSD related symptoms.
Develop Safety Protocols for Officers: Law enforcement officers have a large fear of being “de-gunned”. At the same time, having their weapon can be a risk to them while suffering from PTSD. Researchers and counselors must work with law enforcement departments to create special safety plans to address an officer’s access to lethal means while placating their fear of not being able to work.
Educate Departments on Evidence-Based Practices: Law enforcement departments have been utilizing Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) despite the fact that it has not been found to accomplish what it claims to (Mitchell, n.d.). Researchers must develop partnerships with law enforcement departments to routinely update them on the latest evidence-based practices, to ensure a robust flow of knowledge surrounding best practices in the field of law enforcement.
About the Author
Jessica Dockstader is an M.A. Candidate at the University of San Diego, and earned her B.A. in Human Development with a concentration in Counseling Services from California State University San Marcos. She is currently completing her Master’s capstone on mental health in law enforcement, and has worked in the field of police-community relations in San Diego for a year and a half. She also serves as a member of the IPSA Mental Health Committee. email@example.com
By Kevin Aries, Leader, Product Management, Product Success
Public and private organizations that operate fleets are facing growing challenges, from regulatory compliance to rising fuel consumption and a burgeoning driver shortage. Vehicle-dependent agencies are trying to identify technologies to address these roadblocks and streamline operations as budget constraints add stress on their resources.
Due to the sheer number of vehicles at their disposal and the number of citizens they serve, public safety fleets, in particular, will see the coming years bring with them a number of challenges that only modern technology can help them overcome. Some of these include:
A scalable and robust fleet management technology can help public safety fleets of any size rise to these challenges and also help them prepare for future issues.
GPS tracking helps keep your fleet journey smooth
Government Fleet’s 2018 benchmarking report shows that advanced technology ranks second among respondents’ top concerns, and about three-quarters have implemented telematics in at least some of their vehicles. Training needs, an aged fleet/replacement budgeting, recruitment, and data management round out the rest of the top five concerns.
A comprehensive GPS fleet management solution with a centralized dashboard can help public safety fleets address these top concerns as well as increase asset visibility for improved utilization and greater overall productivity, such as:
From smart dashboards to driver education tools, GPS tracking can dramatically improve fleet management and ROI. Public safety officials can use smart dashboards and driver education tools available through GPS tracking solutions to address the issues that are most critical to efficient and successful fleet operations.
Preventative maintenance. According to Government Fleet’s report, “vehicle age has increased across every class compared to statistics from last year (which averaged 2014–2016 data).” In addition, maintenance cost per mile has gone up for almost all vehicle types part of their survey. The ability to proactively schedule preventative maintenance will be key in making advances in reducing vehicle downtime (especially unexpected), including vehicle alerts and insight into vehicle diagnostics (odometer mileage, engine miles and diagnostic codes).
Vehicle Utilization. Forty-four percent of respondents to the Government Fleet survey indicated flat or reduced budgets, despite cost increases in fuel, pars and oil, and technology. For these fleets, the ability to do more with the vehicles and assets already owned will be critical. GPS tracking provides data visibility into vehicles status and availability to help managers identify underused vehicles and reallocate them accordingly.
Mitigate liability claims. OSHA’s Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes, an on-the-job crash resulting in employee injury costs an average of $74,000 to the employer. In addition to providing historical data for use in the case of litigation, GPS tracking can provide data on driving behavior and vehicle use to help negotiate reduced premiums or discounts with insurance companies. Telematics provides access to data to verify vehicle location and speed and in turn mitigate the potential of costly claims.
Safe driving behavior. Training is the top concern for Government Fleet’s survey respondents, and encouraging safe driving behavior is a part of that challenge. Though GPS tracking cannot automate and ensure safety, the data it provides can equip you to more effectively coach your employees for increased chances of improvement. Administrators and management can use reports and alerts on vehicle speed and harsh driving events to coach drivers on safe driving behaviors.
Idling. Idling is a major source of fuel waste, leading to wasted money. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 6 billion gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline are wasted by idling vehicles. The few minutes an engine is left running, whether during a lunch break or for a “quick” task is being completed, add up to significant costs for fleets. Fuel is one of the most tangible and fast areas to see the financial benefits of improved habits, and with GPS tracking, managers can take steps toward reducing idle time and understand idling patterns in order to reduce those costs.
Routing. In addition to reducing idling, optimized routes using a GPS tracking solution is a key area where fuel waste can be addressed for a reduction in expenses. Another valuable use for the routing capability is the ability to know vehicle locations and efficiently deploy vehicles in an emergency or time-sensitive circumstance.
Case Study: Snohomish County Improves Officer Safety
Law enforcement comes with inherent risks. Officers face a lot of different dangers while on the job, but statistics show that the majority of officer fatalities (over 35%) are caused by car accidents, and almost half involved unbelted officers.
A major aim of the Snohomish County, WA, Below 100 Program is to address these and other leading causes of officer deaths. The program focuses on five tenets that promote key ways to encourage officer safety, two of which relate particularly to safe driving and can be managed using Verizon Connect telematics software:
The Under 100 Program took on special meaning for Undersheriff Rob Beidler of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office while undertaking specialized training at the FBI's National Academy in Quantico, VA. A presentation by Kim Schlau, a mother of two daughters killed by a state trooper's reckless driving, really made an impact, underscoring the importance of actively managing office safety behind the wheel.
“I realized that my positional authority as Snohomish County's under- sheriff obligated me to ensure that my people make it home every night. Safety is paramount,” he said.
In addition to cost savings in several obvious areas, including fuel and maintenance, the county was able to see a reduction in expenses resulting from collisions and litigation. Vehicle collisions during 2015 cost the county $151,171 in medical and legal expenses and lost work hours and wages plus $2.3 million in litigation expenses. "We'd like to use those extra funds to hire more deputies," said Undersheriff Beidler.
Watch their story at verizonconnect.com.
Kevin Aries leads Global Product Success for Verizon Connect, helping build software solutions that optimize the way people, vehicles and things move through the world. Working predominantly with field service businesses, Kevin spends his time understanding the problems and solutions of the service industry to improve customer experience.
How tech can empower next-gen police fleets
By Kevin Aries, Leader, Product Management, Product Success
Police fleets—and the officers behind the wheel of patrol vehicles—often face a level of danger that goes above and beyond that of the average motorist. Technology and data play an important role in both modernizing police fleets and helping keep officers (and citizens) safer. Knowing this, here are some of the current trends and challenges in the police fleet space, and a look at how the right next-generation GPS tracking technology can help.
For police fleets, driving safety takes priority
The nature of their work means officers can face situations that require them to drive more aggressively than others on the road, whether accelerating to catch up to a speeding motorist, responding to reports of a fleeing felon or urgently trying to reach the scene of an emergency (car accident, fire, public disturbance, etc.).
An added risk is that being behind the wheel of a police vehicle inherently means having to multitask. Answering dispatcher calls, typing names, license plate numbers or other search queries on dash- or front-seat-mounted laptops and keeping track of speeding vehicles or other disturbances in their vicinity are just a few of the responsibilities police officers must contend with in addition to the “usual” responsibilities of driving their vehicle.
Due to the increased wear and tear from increased driving hours and aggressive driving, vehicle maintenance plays a crucial role in fleet – and driver – safety. Budget-strapped police forces must get the maximum number of miles and service out of each patrol car, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of those operating the vehicles (often at high speeds). Police cars must be safe to operate, and that’s where diagnostics comes in. The ability to proactively keep track of both routine maintenance and unexpected issues help ensure that trouble codes associated with each vehicle are addressed.
Integrating the right GPS tracking system – with features that include everything from vehicle diagnostics and maintenance schedule adherence to keeping track of crime within a certain geographic area – can help take the burden off police officers. 1 And the benefits of integrating fleet tracking software into patrol cars and other police vehicles don’t stop there. This technology can also help:
A connected network of police cars
Police fleet vehicles are essentially standard consumer trucks and cars customized to handle the demands of police work – and the enhanced connectivity hitting mass market vehicles has likewise made its way to police transports. With built-in WiFi (4G and even 5G) set to become standard on most cars and trucks in the next few years, increasingly, vehicles will act workplaces and mobile hotspots on wheels as well as modes of transportation.
This is a great development for police fleets, as officers can connect in-vehicle systems with other agencies to simplify data access and promote near real-time data review and exchange. In addition, having a connected in-vehicle network enables the ability to build displays right into the car, which connect to a computer in the trunk, versus having a standalone laptop take up space in the front seat, distracting drivers and becoming a potential danger/projectile should the vehicle be involved in an accident.
Future-focused fleet features
Looking to the future, there are a number of ongoing tech-enabled improvements on the horizon for patrol cars and police fleets, including:
Learn more about how your organization can safeguard the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our communities now and well into the future by visiting verizonconnect.com.
Kevin Aries leads Global Product Success for Verizon Connect, helping build software solutions that optimize the way people, vehicles and things move through the world. Working predominantly with field service businesses, Kevin spends his time understanding the problems and solutions of the service industry to improve customer experience.
Public safety fleets must prepare for a digital future
By Lieutenant Joseph “Paul” Manley, IPSA Board Member, IPSA Memorial Committee Vice-Chair
Ensuring that first responders return home safely at the end of each shift is a paramount concern for all public safety leaders. The IPSA is committed to honoring fallen first responders while also raising awareness about line-of-duty deaths. As of April 30, 2019, the IPSA reported 67 first responder fatalities and nearly one-third of them were vehicle related.
Surviving a vehicle
On Saturday, April 13, 2019, a Georgia firefighter was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic in a school zone. On Saturday, March 30, 2019, police officers were at a residence serving an arrest warrant when the suspect arrived home, he fled the scene and in doing so he struck a police officer with his vehicle. On Saturday March 9, 2019, a California paramedic was assisting the driver of a car that had gone over the side of the freeway when a tractor-trailer hit both the ambulance and the fire engine at the scene before going over the side of the highway, as well. On Monday, February 4, 2019, a Massachusetts State Police trooper and a tow truck driver were struck while assisting the driver of a disabled car on Interstate 95.
These are just a handful examples of first responders being struck by vehicles reported in 2019. Fortunately, all survived. However, in such incidents, fatalities are common. According to the National Fire Protection Association and Officer Down Memorial Page 8, police officers and 11 firefighters died after being struck by passing vehicles in 2018.
“Move Over” laws
In response to increasing roadside fatalities in the line of duty, the United States and Canada have passed “Move Over” laws which require motorists to “Move Over” and change lanes to give safe clearance to emergency responders working along the roadsides. The law identifies emergency responders as law enforcement officers, firefighters, ambulances, utility workers, and in some cases, tow-truck drivers.
In the past, Canada and United States have used this term to apply to two different concepts; however, this is beginning to change as Canadian provinces have begun expanding the scope of their “Move Over” laws. This legislation currently exists in six Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec). Currently in the United States, only Washington, D.C. does not have the “Move Over” law.
Reducing vehicle-related tragediesIn order to reduce the number of injuries and deaths to first responder personnel due to vehicle collisions and being struck while operating in the roadway, all parties involved must take responsibility for addressing and solving the problem. This includes agency administrations, labor organizations and individual members. If any one of the links in this chain fails, the likelihood of unnecessary injuries or deaths increases. While the service that each provide are obviously different, the responsibilities associated with managing the hazards and reducing risks associated with vehicle response and roadway scene safety are generally similar.
Below are four recommendations to reduce vehicle-related LODDs:
Motor vehicle line of duty deaths are preventable. It’s important to remember that when operating a motor vehicle, first responders do so at speeds that are reasonable and prudent for the existing conditions. It is always important to wear seatbelts. Operating at the scene of an emergency, placing your vehicle strategically to maximize accessibility, utilization, safety and egress is extremely important in making an operation run smoothly.
Lt. Manley is a 30+ year law enforcement professional and adjunct faculty member at North Shore Community College, Danvers, MA. Paul is the Founder of Risk Mitigation Technologies, LLC and currently serves as the Executive Officer for the Nahant Massachusetts Police Department. Paul has a master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Anna Maria College, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from American International College. Paul is honored to be a Board Member of the IPSA and Vice Chair its Memorial Committee.
International Public Safety Association InfoBrief: First Responder Line of Duty Death Causes and Prevention Strategies
International Public Safety Association InfoBrief: Assaults Against First Responders
International Public Safety Association InfoBrief: Fitness, Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Public Safety
By Chief Robert A. Mitchell, Ret., CFO, CEMSO, PSC, FPEM
There were 54 first responder fatalities during the first quarter of 2019 (January – March). The three most common causes include gunfire-related (n=18), vehicular related (n=16), and medical emergencies (n=9). Sadly, these types of deaths are recurring in the public safety profession.
Gunfire-related. The 18 gunfire-related fatalities in Q1 2019 include three K9s and 15 officers. Gunfire-related fatalities occurred during arrest warrants, vehicle pursuit, investigations, accidental ambush attacks, domestic call, barricaded subjects and traffic stops.
Historically, law enforcement officers were not shot for stopping a driver with a tail light out. They were simply trying to enforce laws to make the roads safer for other drivers, and this is still an officer’s intent – safety. Given that times have changed, officers and departments need to assess if they are doing everything possible to prevent gunfire-related deaths. Before duty, officers need to ask themselves:
While these questions may seem like rookie stuff, the seasoned professional tends to get complacent about details over time. An officer can never let their guard down, no matter how routine an encounter may seem.
Below are some recommendations from the International Public Safety Association InfoBrief: First Responder Line of Duty Death Causes and Prevention Strategies:
Vehicle related (assault, struck by a vehicle crash/accident). There were 16 vehicle-related fatalities in Q1 2019. This includes vehicle crashes/accidents, assault and being struck by a vehicle. No other group in the world multitasks like a first responder: lights and sirens; navigating traffic; clearing intersections; operating a two-way radio; getting updates from a mobile data terminal; receiving calls from dispatch on a cell phone with that one more piece of information. However, emergency drivers must start putting things down. It’s life dependent.
When reviewing data from third party sources, there is very little information cited to explain the crash (e.g. excessive speed, distracted driver or medical emergency). Further, there is no consistent data whether the occupants were wearing seat belts, whether the airbags deployed or did materials and equipment dislodged that may have caused a fatality.
Medical emergencies. There were nine line of duty deaths in Q1 2019 from cardiac arrest and medical emergencies. While the job of a first responder is inherently stressful, being in good health is part of the job. This is probably the thing that can be most controlled by an individual. Below are four tips for first responders to adopt:
All first responders age, and with age the body changes and health or medical issues surface. It is imperative to get an annual physical exam.
According to the International Public Safety Association InfoBrief: First Responder Line of Duty Death Causes and Prevention Strategies, "Beyond an annual physical, agencies have developed policies that require wellness exams based upon certain circumstances as officer involved shootings, major fire or rescue emergencies and mass casualty events. This medical surveillance program is mandatory, conducted by the department safety officer or other dedicated medical resources, and the first responder may not return to duty until the examination or observation is complete. Included in these programs is healthy diet education, teaching the firehouse cooks how to prepare healthy meals, how to teach patrol officers to avoid fast food, and how to teach EMS personnel foods to avoid. It is a combination of these initiatives that will or have, over time, created a healthier workforce."
First responder line of duty deaths will continue to occur, but there is an opportunity to reduce the number of fatalities. Avoid distracted driving. Wear a seatbelt. Go to work with the right mental frame of mind. Talk to a clinician. Get an annual physical. Be health conscious. Maintain situational awareness. Learn what is causing line of duty deaths to prevent them from happening.
Chief Mitchell is a retired Chief Fire Officer, Chief EMS Officer and Professional Emergency Manager. During his 40-year career, he has worked in law enforcement, fire service, EMS and emergency management. He now consults and teaches around the country. You can reach Chief Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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