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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Keep CALM(S) and Carry On

Dealing with a public health crisis can bring up a variety of emotions for you and your family. These are unprecedented times of vulnerability. The COVID-19 pandemic is understandably stressful and can lead to an array of psychological and physiological symptoms — including fear about you or your loved one’s health and safety, sadness, anger, or anxiety. You may also feel boredom and fatigue, or guilt about not being able to perform some job duties during this time.

This can all contribute to psychological disruption, which can in turn affect components of our wellbeing. It’s important to identify those components and find ways to counteract this disruption. Let’s take a look at some ideas to help us manage during these difficult times, using the acronym CALMS:

C - Control and Routine

  • Losing your sense of control can lead to frustration and a feeling of helplessness.
  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Make yourself a routine on both workdays and days off — and stick to it. Routines promote time management and can help lower anxiety and worry. Make a realistic and attainable to-do list for each day. Be sure to schedule in breaks for relaxing and enjoyable activity. 
  • Try to keep the same sleep and wake schedule that you have always had. 
  • Don’t let yourself get to the point that you are not sure what day of the week it is. 

A – Activity

  • Stay physically active — it will help increase resiliency.
  • Exercise at your own pace. Find a routine that matches your needs, abilities, and physical condition. This can include individualized activity outside or in your home, or utilizing online options, where you can find instructor-led formats and be directed through an exercise activity/class. 
  • Spend time doing an activity that you love.

L – Laughter – Maintaining a Sense of Humor and Connection

  • As public safety personnel, finding ways to talk to others — even a casual connection — can help you feel involved and vital.
  • Outside of work, social distancing makes connections different. It is important to maintain contact with your social circle and find unique ways to connect with others right now. Utilize Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, Zoom, the phone, etc., to reach out. 
  • Look for ways to do fun activities with family and friends, like virtual gatherings, virtual game nights and dinners, photo scavenger hunts, etc. 
  • Try to stay involved in your community by supporting local businesses, donating supplies, or responding to a need. 

M – Mental Wellness

  • Allow yourself to recognize and acknowledge uncomfortable or unusual feelings. 
  • Identify your support system, and pay attention to changes in yourself and in them. Encourage one another to share thoughts and feelings. Supporting and assisting others in their time of need can benefit both the person receiving support as well as you.
  • Try online mental health apps such as Calm, Moodpath, Youper, etc. 
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself with too much news. Minimize watching, reading, or listening to news about COVID-19 that causes you anxiety or stress. Get updates once or twice at specific times during the day. Seek information only from trusted sources and mainly so that you can take practical steps to protect yourself and loved ones (information from the WHO, CDC, and local health authority websites will help you distinguish facts from rumors). Facts can help to minimize fears.
  • You are the person most likely to know how you can de-stress, and you should not hesitate to keep yourself psychologically well. This is not a sprint — it’s a marathon.

S – Sense of Identity

  • Understand that your role during this pandemic may be different than before. This can cause stress, which is a completely normal response. 
  • There is nothing to be gained by fighting your circumstance. You must try to make the best out of an unpleasant situation. 
  • See yourself as a survivor — not a victim — of these circumstances. Refrain from judging yourself. Utilize all of your coping resources. 

During this time, what’s most important is to take good care of yourself.

And remember — we're all in this together! As we've been saying at the League, #WeGotThis.

Up next: More COVID-19 Resources

Stay safe, and stay healthy,

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Occupant Load Determination for Retail and Business - and A Thank You

As many cities prepare to start the process of reopening, public safety officials — particularly fire chiefs and fire marshals — are being asked to determine the occupancy load for retail buildings.

The Stay Safe Minnesota directive from May 20 allows for some opening of retail businesses with capacity restrictions and if additional criteria is met, as outlined in Minnesota’s Stay Safe Plan.
The Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division is providing helpful guidance. The Occupant Load Determination Information Sheet provides a straightforward process on how this is determined. The second page of the document has an example with a diagram of retail space (including a storage room) and the corresponding calculations.

Additional League of Minnesota Cities resources on COVID-19 can be found here.

You Are Appreciated

Signs of support for the first responder community are continuing to appear on front lawns, billboards, and at EMS, fire, and police stations. Your communities appreciate your work and take comfort in knowing you will respond if they need help. Some of the appreciation is in the form of food, or a thumbs up from a jogger as a police car passes by. Here are a couple of signs I came upon recently.

Up next: More COVID-19 Updates

Stay safe and stay healthy,

Monday, May 4, 2020

True North Policing

As Minnesota began to experience the COVID-19 epidemic and the “Stay Home MN” executive order went into place, many EMS, fire, and police departments around the state found it necessary to cancel scheduled training, change work schedules, and make adjustments to their models for service delivery.

This was done to limit the number of personnel who could potentially be exposed to COVID-19 and to give departments flexibility if staff became ill or needed to be quarantined. Along with these changes, law enforcement agencies also began to report a decrease in their calls for service, making these very interesting times indeed.

But with changes and challenges also come opportunities. One silver lining in these interesting times is the chance for officers to engage in many of the important online training resources available to them. One of these is a free e-learning course entitled True North Constitutional Policing. 

A cool thing about the True North Constitutional Policing course is that it highlights Minnesota law enforcement, as it was created with the help of 14 Minnesota law enforcement agencies. It’s also approved by the Minnesota POST Board for 5 credit hours toward the required 16 credit hours of education.

Personnel that successfully complete the True North course will earn five mental health credits toward the POST-mandated learning objectives for: Crisis intervention and Mental illness Crisis; Conflict Management and Mediation; and Implicit Bias, Community Diversity, and Cultural Differences.

Some of the things law enforcement officers have said about the True North course:

“It was one of the best five hours of any online training I have experienced.”
– Todd S. Schuster, City of Cambridge Police Chief

“[The training] makes you take a look at yourself. It makes you feel like you’re involved with something bigger than yourself. This is a training that [all law enforcement officers] will learn from.” 
– Brian Vycital, Belle Plaine Officer

“I found the modules easy to follow and of interest. It is great when an organization can take mandated training and make it interesting and meaningful.”
– Greg Weber, City of Eden Prairie Police Chief

Along with highlighting Minnesota law enforcement and providing POST-mandated credits, True North Constitutional Policing also reminds officers about individual integrity, personal accountability, ethical decision-making, and challenges them to remember why they do what they do. These reminders are important at any time, but especially during these most challenging and interesting of times.

For more information and to enroll, go to
If you need help registering or if you’ve got questions, please contact

Up next: More COVID-19 Updates

Stay safe and stay healthy,