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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Fire Marshals Grant Program for Turnout Gear Washer/Dryers

A guest blog by Loss Control Consultant Troy Walsh

Firefighters perform valuable services to their community, and they are encouraged to maintain good hygiene to minimize the carcinogens in the workplace. This includes their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office has another Turnout Gear Washer/Dryer Grant Program for 2020-2021 to help support these efforts. 

With the success of the FY20 program, an additional $600,000 has been approved for distribution. Department awards will be granted in amounts up to $10,000 for gear washer/extractors and up to $8,000 for gear dryers.

For full details on the program and how to apply, please see the State Fire Marshal’s website — or  contact Nolan Pasell at nolan.pasell@state.mn.us or by phone at (651) 201-7218.

Applications for the 2021 program year are due at 4 p.m. on Oct. 20, 2020.

Be sure to consider this great opportunity for your fire department’s PPE maintenance and decontamination!

Up next: Online Safety Training

Stay safe,
Troy

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Suicide Prevention Month: “It’s OK to not be OK”

A guest blog by Lora Setter, LMCIT Public Safety Program Coordinator

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. This week — September 6-12 — is National Suicide Prevention Week, and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is a major public health challenge and, sadly, a disease that greatly impacts public safety.

A striking fact regarding suicide and public safety personnel is that fire and police professionals are more at risk from dying of suicide than from being killed in the line of duty.

Recently, I’ve heard two mental health professionals use the phrase, “It’s OK to not be OK” about how to normalize conversations around mental illness in public safety. One of the most important ideas in making it “OK to not to be OK” is for leaders to talk openly about their own mental health struggles.

To be a leader doesn’t necessarily mean having a formal title of leadership. Being a leader means having the courage to share your personal mental health journey in order to help normalize the conversation about mental health. 

In her book, Trauma Stewardship, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky writes: “When we acknowledge our own fear, we have the opportunity to deepen our compassion not only for ourselves but also for every being that has ever been afraid.” To admit to a mental illness takes courage, and those that are brave enough to share their personal struggles help provide “safety” to others to do the same.

Here are five action steps for helping someone in emotional pain (taken from the National Institute of Mental Health’s website):

  1. Ask. “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Keep them safe. Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention.
  3. Be there. Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce — rather than increase — suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect. Save the numbers for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline [1-800-273-TALK (8255)] and the Crisis Text Line (741741) in your phone.
  5. Stay connected. Staying in touch after a crisis, or after being discharged from care, can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

We know that public safety personnel may be at an increased risk of mental illness/PTSD due to the nature of their work. Therefore, now is the time for all leaders (both formal and informal) to help reduce the stigmas associated with mental illness and to create work environments where it’s truly OK to not be OK. 

Up next: More guest blogs

Be well!

Lora and Rob


Friday, August 7, 2020

PPE: A Discussion on Masks and Face Shields

 A guest blog by Loss Control Consultant Troy Walsh

People in Minnesota are now required to wear a face covering in all indoor businesses and public indoor spaces, unless alone. Additionally, workers are required to wear a face covering when working outdoors in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained.

That’s all according to Governor's Executive Order 20-81, effective July 25, 2020.

The League of Minnesota Cities team has received many questions about face coverings. Where do they need to be worn, what is allowed for face coverings, and when does a face shield become an option instead of a face mask? 

We follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidance on wearing face masks, as well as the option of a face shield.  

  • The MDH has provided “Face Covering Requirements and Recommendations under the Executive Order.” 

    They say: It is not known whether face shields (a clear plastic barrier that covers the face) provide the same source control for droplets as face masks, but they may be an option in situations where wearing a face mask is problematic. For optimal protection, the shield should extend below the chin and to the ears, and there should be no exposed gap between the forehead and the shield's headpiece.

  • The CDC has also provided information on the mask and face shield decision in their document “Considerations for Wearing Masks.”

    They say: It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for masks. Some people may choose to use a face shield, in addition to a mask, when sustained close contact with other people is expected. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin. Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.


Face shield protection study

Here’s what we do and don’t know about how face shields can protect us from contracting the coronavirus: Researchers put a face shield on a type of mannequin head encasing a breathing machine and placed it a few feet from another head form spewing droplets of influenza. They measured how much influenza made it behind the face shield, into the mouth of the head form, and down the breathing machine. The face shield did a good job of blocking the cough at first, catching the big droplets. But as the minutes went on, smaller droplets (or aerosols) made their way behind the shield.

Masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. Face shields may not provide as much protection to respiratory droplets but are an option — especially if there are medical issues involved with the wearer.  

Up next: Public Safety Professionals and Mental Health

Stay safe, and stay healthy,
Rob and Troy