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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.

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  • 28 Sep 2018 8:19 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    Editor's note: This article is from the International Public Safety Association’s Acts of Mass Violence: Public Safety Response and Recovery Initiative

    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.

    About the Author

    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.

    Related Content

    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

  • 28 Sep 2018 8:04 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    Editor's note: This article is from the International Public Safety Association’s Acts of Mass Violence: Public Safety Response and Recovery Initiative

    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

    • There are specific rules of engagement when conducting an AAR. The spirit in which the AAR is conducted is paramount. When a safe environment is created employees are more likely to admit mistakes. Every employee must feel comfortable in being honest about what occurred. Open and frank discussion is encouraged but must be done respectfully by all participants. Again, the focus is on the performance/action, not the employee. Rank has no place in the professional discussion.
    • Accountability is universal, it must be applied at each level. It is OK to disagree with methods as long as they are legal and tactically safe. Pride is the enemy and humility rules the day. Admitting mistakes or shortcomings gains the trust of subordinates for real leaders. I recently had two discussions with different peers where I admitted fault/mistake in past scenarios. Both claimed they gained great respect for me following the admission. I’ve never had a perfect boss or employee. Those that were close to perfect, admitted when they made a mistake.

    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 happened?

    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.

    • Administrative/Policy
    • Communication/Intelligence
    • Training tactics, techniques and procedures.
    • Equipment
    • Safety


    About the Author

    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. 

    Related Content

    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

  • 28 Sep 2018 7:48 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    Editor's note: This article is from the International Public Safety Association’s Acts of Mass Violence: Public Safety Response and Recovery Initiative

    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:

    1. Make improvised tourniquets and how to apply them under duress;
    2. Self-apply an improvised tourniquet on his/her person;
    3. Apply an improvised tourniquet on the injured;
    4. Stop a sucking chest wound with an occlusive dressing; and
    5. Properly pack a wound to save a life. 

    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.

    About the Author

    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.

    Related Content

    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

  • 28 Sep 2018 7:39 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    Editor's note: This article is from the International Public Safety Association’s Acts of Mass Violence: Public Safety Response and Recovery Initiative

    By Dave Mulholland, Administrator, Arlington County Emergency Communications Center 

    Each day, 9-1-1 telecommunicators handle stressful calls involving law enforcement, fire and medical incidents. Telecommunicators are trained to calm highly distressed callers and gather the appropriate information within structured protocols and processes. Their training and the protocols they use have been developed and refined over decades. Coupled with strong training and defensible protocols, telecommunicators have become experts in handling high-stress calls through repetitious use of both foundational elements. 

    However, the 9-1-1 landscape has changed as acts of mass violence and other multi-caller/multi-victim high-threat incidents begin to increase. These acts have restructured in-the-field first response efforts.  Police officers now arrive and directly enter the area to engage the threat, no longer securing exterior perimeters and staging until sufficient resources exist for team entry into the incident. Trained fire personnel and medical personnel now enter hot zones rather than waiting for a scene to become secure before they enter to render aid.

    Similarly, acts of mass violence impact traditional 9-1-1 response. Telecommunicators, as the first of the first responders, play a critical role in determining the nature and extent of the threat and supplying the in-field responders with information to end the threat. During an act of mass violence, it is likely that the 9-1-1 center will be quickly overcome with calls. Triaging these calls to gather the most pertinent information is paramount. To successfully do this, the telecommunicator may need to deviate from traditional practices such as gathering detailed information about injuries and providing emergency medical dispatch protocols.

    Below are five tips to assist the 9-1-1 center in handling mass violence events.    

    Tip 1: During an on-going act of mass violence, the highest priority is to gather information to stop the threat. Law enforcement first responders must be provided with as much information regarding the type of threat and information to help identify the attackers and their location. High-threat trained fire and rescue personnel need to understand the environment to make informed decisions on when and where to begin their response inside the incident. The dispatcher is informing these decisions.  Telecommunicators also help inform the response by identifying any additional information sources at the scene such as video feeds and determining if there are possible secondary threats at the scene.

    Tip 2: It is essential that 9-1-1 lines be kept clear so that additional information may be obtained. This often requires truncating calls from victims and witnesses on the scene. It is hard to disengage with someone who is injured or next to someone who is seriously injured or dead. Calls must focus on stopping the threat, and until that happens, telecommunicators should not be triaging medical priorities or providing medical direction through emergency medical dispatch protocols. Jurisdictions could consider creating specially trained crisis personnel from other governmental departments (such as human services) who can be activated to communicate with callers during an active incident and provide direction and comfort to the callers. After the 9-1-1 telecommunicator obtains the necessary information from the initial call, the call be transferred to another phone bank staffed with these specialists. 

    Tip 3:  As soon as it is clear that you have a mass casualty or significant active shooter event, mobilize Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) or Traumatic Exposure Recovery Program (TERP) team members. When developing these teams, ensure that there are members not actively deployed as an event responder who can respond to on-going event to help begin help with stress management in the 9-1-1 center. Thus, the healing process can begin even as the incident is still ongoing. All 9-1-1 supervisors and managers must constantly communicate with and evaluate telecommunicators during the incident to gauge when they may be reaching breaking points. Be prepared to appropriately relieve an employee who may have reached maximum stress levels during the incident. A broken employee will not effectively contribute to incident resolution.

    Tip 4: Train, train, train. As stress levels rise, thinking functionality begins to rely more on how the brain has been trained and conditioned to respond. The adage of you fight as you train is equally true in the 9-1-1 center. Telecommunicators must be trained on response to acts of mass violence, especially through repetitive simulation exercises. This will assist the telecommunicator in developing greater comfort to follow different protocols during a mass violence event. Time spent in continuous roll call and simulation trainings multiple times a year will reap large rewards should a mass violence incident occur.

    Tip 5: Great efforts have been made to educate the public on responding to acts of mass violence, such as the “Run, Hide, Fight” educational campaigns. However, little has been done to educate the public on what information is important to relay when calling 9-1-1 during an act of mass violence or what to expect when calling. For example, the public should be prepared for the telecommunicator to quickly gather information regarding the active threat but not remain on the line to determine extent of injury or provide reassurance and medical direction. 9-1-1 centers should work collaboratively with their respective first responder agencies to expand education efforts to include communications with 9-1-1 during a mass violence incident.

    The role of the telecommunicator is critical in responding to and resolving acts of mass violence. It is imperative to continually evaluate appropriate response to 9-1-1 calls during acts of mass violence through decomposition of prior events, adoption of best practices and lessons learned and development of new tactics and protocols in the 9-1-1 center. Telecommunicators prove their value in saving lives, providing hope to those in distress, and protecting first responders every day. Efficient handling of acts of mass violence amplify the telecommunicators critical role as part of the first responder team. 

    About the Author

    Dave Mulholland is currently the Administrator for the Arlington County, Virginia, Emergency Communications (9-1-1) Center. He retired as a Major from the United States Park Police after 27 years of service. He has also served as the Statewide Interoperability Coordinator for the District of Columbia. Mulholland will be presenting at the IPSA’s Mass Casualty Incidents Symposium this Fall in Washington D.C.

    Related Content

    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

  • 15 Aug 2018 10:02 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Natasha Lukasiewich, DNP candidate, MSN, HHP, LNC, RN, CCRN-K, CFRN, CEN, EMS-RN and IPSA Mental Health Committee Member, Critical Response Team and Peer Support Unit Member for Washoe County Sheriff’s Office

    How many times has one said this to themselves or have heard others say this, I want to help, but I do not know what to say? Sometimes, it is not about saying anything, and it is about the ministry of presence. Active listening and knowing your resources available are key.

    When I was seven years old, my dad died by suicide. He died from severe depression, lack of support and not knowing what resources were available for him. From the coroners’ viewpoint, he died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but he also died of shame, guilt and a lack of knowing how to better his situation. Ultimately, he died of reasons unknown to those left behind and, more importantly, he is not here today.

    This article presents a tool that allows one to check in with oneself and your colleagues. This tool needs no specifics, but a self-awareness based on color identification.

    Health care professionals and first responders

    What is happening in our industry of health care professionals and first responders? Think about the calls for service you have been involved with:

    • Colleague overdoses on narcotics they have been diverting.
    • Physician overdoses.
    • Death by suicide on duty.
    • Suicide by cop.
    • Another staff member takes their own life by suicide.

    These stories are not unique, and everyone could sit here all-day recollecting about how they have all lost some amazing souls in their time. Again, the same responses that occur over and over is often, I just don’t know what to say or do.

    Shift workers all have shift changes, pre-brief, debriefs and so on. Why is so much of the health care and first responder industry focused on the hard skills and not the soft skills? Those who serve must be resilient and must improve all skills – hard and soft. Research shows that individuals who health care professionals and first responders serve are only receiving the care and service as good as the providers that are serving them.

    Changes to implement today

    The challenge for each reader today is to implement what is called the mental health continuum model in your daily shift reports – adapted from the National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces.

    The Red Cross Crisis Response Teams worldwide also use what is called the Stress Continuum Model. This allows for the team leader to check in with those out in the field to see how they are coping with the horrific things they are being exposed to. See below.

    Next steps

    Now that the above tools have been shared and we have acknowledged that every health care professional and first responder must begin using them today, what are the next steps? Here’s an example about how to easily apply these tools in practice.

    If you serve in an EMS agency, while doing crew change, the team lead can check with the crews and simply ask, “What color level is everyone today?” Without even knowing the details, a crew lead can assess mental readiness to the start of the shift. They have just triaged their team’s mental readiness.

    The team lead can also check in after a bad incident – such as after a horrific pediatric call. Teams may have started off their shift in green or yellow, but after the call some of them are likely to be orange or red. If there is a significant shift in color after a bad call or shift, then there needs to be a tactical response to ensure the appropriate resources are dispatched or in contact with the health care professionals or first responders that need it, preferably, sooner than later.

    Perhaps if my dad, or my colleagues had some sort of communication tool, they too could have been saved or at least been shown they were not alone.

    The health care and public safety industries need to take mental health readiness seriously and regularly assess their personnel. These industries need to stop being reactive and be proactive with mental health readiness.

    Try it, challenge yourself, challenge your organization. What color are your today?

    About the Author

    Natasha Lukasiewich started her journey in Health Care back in 2001, when she graduated from Grant MacEwan University, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with a diploma in Holistic Health. She later graduated from the same university, and completed her Nursing Diploma, venturing into Emergency Medicine. In 2006, she was recruited central coast California, to continue her ER nurse journey, later becoming  a flight nurse for Calstar. She then continued her flight nursing career in Lake Tahoe/Reno, NV areas with Care Flight.  In 2017, Lukasiewich completed her MSN and is currently completing her DNP (Doctorate in Nursing Practice). Her focus is primarily peer advocacy and raising mental health wellness in health care and first responders. She has been an invited speaker for many webinars, symposiums and national conferences on the effects of PTSD, depression and suicide for health care and first responders. For the last six years, she has served as a Volunteer Auxiliary Deputy Sheriff on the Washoe County search and rescue team, and also serves on their Critical Response Team and Peer Support Unit. You can connect with Natasha on LinkedIn or connect via her business website at Feel free to email her at

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  • 14 Aug 2018 1:55 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Anne Camaro, Assistant Director, Cambridge Emergency Communications, IPSA 911 Telecommunications Committee Member

    Training is always needed in public safety, but its methodology, delivery and perceived success of the training is often a subject of controversy. Fiscal resources, staffing and time constraints are often impeding an agency’s ability to form a consistent and well-developed training program.

    The private sector recognizes that developing meaningful, impactful and task-focused training will improve business performance, and of course, the bottom line. Private companies seem to have an easier time gauging the impact of talent development. Training effectiveness can be measured by looking at several indicators, including an employee’s cost-effectiveness.

    But what is the public safety bottom line? Perhaps the bottom line in a 911 communications center can be defined as the ability of the dispatcher in managing incidents. But how is that quantified or measured? There are myriad possible bottom lines when it comes to public safety call taking and dispatching that the water gets muddied when trying to determine how to measure the effectiveness of training.

    1. Should 911 communications centers measure how calls are handled?
    2. Should 911 communications centers measure how field units are dispatched to determine effectiveness of the dispatch and time to scene arrival?
    3. Should 911 communications centers measure whether call takers are gathering the necessary information from callers for an effective response?
    4. Should 911 communications centers measure a successful shift by the number of field responders who arrive safely at home at the end of the shift?
    5. All the above?

    Agencies must go back to the basics of risk management and needs assessment, and have a continuous process to identify training needs, desired outcomes and measure whether the training model being used is addressing the needs.

    Three training steps

    In his book Work Rules, Laszlo Bock talks about the need to create a culture of learning within an organization. He highlights a few steps organizations can take to create this culture of learning.

    Step one: Deliberate practice creates improvement. Organizations that focus their training in breaking down job duties into small practicable tasks encouraging employees to perform these tasks repeatedly have more success in improving performance with training. Bock cites the work done by K. Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, who studies the acquisition of expert level skills.

    Ericsson found that individuals who attain expert level skills in any task, mostly learn by breaking down those tasks into smaller ones, and repeating them over and over after receiving feedback, or observing their results, making small adjustments to their tactics to improve. Ericsson refers to this as "deliberate practice: intentional repetitions of similar, small tasks with immediate feedback, correction, and experimentation.” Public safety agencies can maximize their budgets by utilizing downtime for these practice exercises.

    Step two: Identify internal subject matter experts and invite them to teach. Many agencies when faced with training needs go to third parties (e.g. consultants) for classes, but they fail to consider that the consultant has never worked in their agency and do not have a true understanding of the agency’s organizational culture.

    While the information received at these classes is often relevant, if not enforced or immediately applicable, it will likely be forgotten within a couple of days. Teaching from within the agency will allow for topics to be relevant to daily tasks, and employees will have easier access to the instructor for follow up questions.

    Step three: Identify and measure the intended outcomes from the training. When implementing a new training program in a department, unit or division, agency leadership must be diligent in identifying and measuring the intended outcome from the training. Bock suggests implementing a controlled study in which employees are placed into two groups and only one group is exposed to a training course. Then, after a period time, compare the performance of the two groups. If the group that received the training is performing better, then the agency can reasonably infer that the training was effective.

    Bock’s three steps in creating a culture of learning addresses many of the common complaints of public safety agencies. When agencies get creative and leverage internal talent and resources for training, they can address their training needs without having to constantly rely on budget approvals and balancing out staffing and time constraints.

    About the Author

    Anne Camaro is the Assistant Director of Administration and Training at the Cambridge Emergency Communications Department in Cambridge, MA. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, and a Post Graduate Certificate in Local Government Management and Leadership. Anne is passionate about the 911 industry and has devoted a lot of her time to developing and implementing training programs.

  • 01 Aug 2018 6:56 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Heather R. Cotter, IPSA Executive Director and Founder

    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 June 2018, we have lost 48 first responders, according to data pulled from the Officer Down Memorial Page and the U.S. Fire Administration. These 48 fatalities include law enforcement officers, firefighters and K9 officers. The cause of death includes vehicle accidents, illnesses, gunfire and duty related injuries.

    Download the Article

  • 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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