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Friday, September 5, 2014

Not All Runs Are Emergencies—A Graduated Response

The Coon Rapids Fire Department is now
using a graduated response to calls.
The newspaper article focused on Coon Rapids Fire Chief John Piper’s decision to no longer respond to all fire alarms by sending fire trucks to them with their red lights or sirens on (Code 3) unless the alarm is accompanied by a report of smoke, odor, and any other signs of trouble. Instead, a truck will respond routinely.

Chief Piper cited the risks for the public and firefighters every time a fire truck goes on emergency response and the large number of fire alarms that are false. In Coon Rapids’ case, it had been more than two years since a fire alarm was actually reporting a fire.

When I asked Chief Piper about his decision, he quickly noted that many of the Anoka County fire departments had already adopted this policy and that they were just the latest to make this change. He directed me to Nyle Zikmund, the fire chief for the Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View (SBM) Fire Department.
Spring Lake-Blaine-Mounds View
Fire Chief Nyle Zikmund

Zikmund said SBM started making this change 15 years ago. At SBM, many of these alarm calls are handled by a duty chief who responds routine with a chiefs’ vehicle. Zikmund noted that the call can be upgraded to a full response at any point if additional information indicates an actual emergency.

He said his research indicated that less than 0.5% of the automated fire alarms are real fires—and added that it takes alarm companies more than two minutes to process the alarm information and notify the correct dispatch center. In other words, if it was a real fire, they would be getting 911 calls well before the automated alarm could be processed.

Zikmund said his decision was about safety and about managing resources. It is a “different mindset” and a “cultural change” that involves critical thinking as part of the response. He also noted that police departments have used a routine response to many automated alarms for years for exactly the same reason. At SBM, they have 15 years of experience and data and have not had a problem.

I noted that SBM Fire Department puts an explanation of their graduated response on their website: “While every call for emergency service is answered, the level of response is dictated by the nature and degree of the emergency. This results in a response that ranges from a phone call when time permits to all equipment and staff responding and if necessary, a mutual aid request.”


                                            Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…The old fire packets are gone—but the information has been updated, revised, and is now online.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fall Workshops

The registration is now open for the fall workshops, and classes are filling.

Back by popular demand is Fireground Safety—10 Frequent Mistakes, 10 Best Practices with Dr. Richard Gasaway. Dr. Gasaway will discuss common mistakes and best practices based on evaluations of near-miss reports and line-of-duty casualty investigations, and show how to improve fireground safety. The presentation will be offered in Slayton, Morris, St. Cloud, Crookston, Bemidji, and Sandstone. Class will start at 5 p.m., and the $15 charge includes a light dinner. For more information and registration, go to: 

Police Officers
We are bringing Randy Means back for the third year in a row and are still receiving positive comments from officers who attended his past workshops. Mr. Means will be presenting Police Leadership in the New Normal Part II. Join us at this intensive two-day workshop to learn how to create an organizational structure that includes consistent policies for the all the members of the leadership team. The $30 fee covers the working lunch for both days, and officers will receive POST credit. The course will be offered in Fergus Falls and in Maple Grove. For more information and registration, go to

Police Reports
Why Police Reports Are a Big Deal with Jason Hiveley is a one-day, hands-on workshop to improve police report writing. Mr. Hiveley presented a short version of this course at the spring workshops, and you asked for more. For police officers, a well-written report can be the key to a criminal conviction, a powerful defense in a civil case, and a very public example of an officer’s professionalism. Officers will learn practical tips and simple strategies for writing quality police reports. The course will be offered in Maplewood, Golden Valley, New Brighton, Lakeville, and Olivia. The $15 fee includes a working lunch, and officers will receive POST credit. For more information and registration, go to


                                        Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…Fire departments using a graduated level of response—not all calls rate an emergency run.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2014 LMC Law Summaries

A new law allows for first responders to administer
opiate antagonists to overdose patients.
The 2014 League of Minnesota Cities Law Summaries is out and available online. The annual publication highlights the new laws that were passed in the 2014 Minnesota Legislative Session. Here are a few that impact public safety:
  • A new statute authorizes public safety responders to administer “opiate antagonists” to overdose patients if authorized by the department’s medical director. It also provides some legal immunities for the patient or an individual who seeks medical help for the patient.

  • The time limit for officers to make a warrantless arrest for misdemeanor domestic assault was expanded from 24 hours to 72 hours.

  • Chapter 201 amends the forfeiture burden of proof by requiring a criminal conviction for judicial forfeiture of property associated with controlled substance offenses and vehicles used in drive-by shootings. 

  • Judges will now be ordering persons to turn
    in their firearms to local law enforcement.
  • There are new laws requiring the court to order persons subject to an order for protection to surrender their firearms to a
    federally licensed firearms dealer, a law enforcement agency, or a third party. The law also applies to persons convicted of domestic assault and stalking. In all of these cases, the judge may order the firearms to be turned over to the law enforcement agency for storage. The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association has a committee working on a model policy to assist their departments.

  • State statute 626A.42 now requires that a “tracking warrant” be obtained to acquire the location information of an electronic device. The statute defines the warrant requirements, exceptions, duration of the warrant, and the required reporting. 

  •  In an effort to respond to the retention and recruitment issues for many of the state’s volunteer emergency medical services and fire departments, there are now four regional pilot programs to fund $500 stipends to volunteers in those areas.

The last part of the document describes the bills that Did Not Become Law (DNBL). The DNBL section is popular, as these bills have a head start and almost certainly will be reintroduced in the next session. Bills that caught my eye in this section were the residential sprinkler requirements, traffic citation diversion programs, and classification of data from license plate readers.

You can find the 2014 LMC Law Summary online at:


                                          Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…Fire and Police Fall Workshops

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.