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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Remembering Al Haynes

Captain Al Haynes died last week. I was lucky enough to hear his presentation and spend some time with him in the spring of 2002. I have remembered his message my entire career.

The back story

The Metro Emergency Managers Association was looking for a speaker for their annual end of the year luncheon. The group was skeptical but wanted to see if it was possible to arrange for United Airline Captain Al Haynes to address the group. We knew Captain Haynes had given presentations around the world on what he learned on July 19, 1989 when the DC-10 he was flying with 296 people on board suffered a catastrophic failure.

Haynes was the captain of United Flight #232 from Denver to Chicago when the tail engine began to break up. That resulted in a 12-inch piece of metal cutting all three of the plane’s hydraulic systems and the loss of all of the plane's control systems. Haynes and his crew figured out ways to control the plane, including adjusting the engine speed of the two remaining engines to get some ability to turn right and descend.

As the plane touched down in Sioux City, Iowa, it began to break up. One hundred twelve people on the plane were killed, and 184 survived the high-speed landing. The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation duplicated what happened to the plane using simulators, and none of the 57 crews who attempted to fly the plane were able to control the airplane all the way to the ground.

Much to our surprise, Captain Haynes agreed to come to the Twin Cities for the presentation. His fee was for us to cover his motel room and meals, and we were to make an appropriate donation to any of his favorite charities. That included a fund for the families of those killed on the flight, a fund for the survivors, a fund for the Sioux City area, and his hometown Little League program.

The presentation

Captain Haynes’ conversational style connected with an audience of public safety professionals. He was humble and thoughtful as he took us through what happened through photographs and the aircraft-to-tower recordings. He gave credit to the crew who worked as a team to try to solve the problem and get the airplane under control. And he credited the United Airlines Crew Resource Management training with providing them with a process. I think his words were similar to: “The captain is in charge, but everyone has a voice at the table.”

In addition to preparation, he spoke about the importance of communication, execution, and attitude. At one point he added, “And don’t forget about luck or fate, if you will” and went on to say how lucky there were that they had good weather, daylight, highly trained air controllers, and the highly trained public safety response on the ground waiting for them in Sioux City. He did not mention PTSD specifically but talked of the importance of getting professional help to deal with stress. He said it had helped him.

He was careful but used humor effectively. When talking about the air controller, he mentioned the controller by name and said he used to work in Chicago but transferred to a less stressful job. The audience chuckled. Humor was also present when the radio recording of the airport tower told Haynes he was cleared for landing on a given runway. Haynes’ response was: “You want to be particular and make it a runway, huh?”

The plane came barreling in with a limited ability to slow down and still keep flying. They did land on the runway but went off to one side and into a corn field.

When he concluded, Haynes asked for questions. There were none. He said this was normal for most audiences given what they had just heard and seen. He said he would stick around if anyone wanted to talk to him privately. And they began to line up. He was as interested in them as they were in him.

As the event wound down, we needed to get Captain Haynes to the airport. In addition for thanking him, someone in our group wished him a good rest of day. Haynes’ response was, “I will be having a great day. I get to umpire a Little League game tonight in my hometown.”

Haynes gave the presentation over 1,500 times around the world as a commitment to those who died on the flight.

Thank you, Captain Al Haynes.

Up next: Funding for Turnout Gear Washers, Extractors, and Dryers

Stay safe, responders.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

First Responders: Reducing Stigma, Providing Aid

“I’m Joe, and I’m here to help.” Those words are from an Eagan Police Officer who went to Mental Health First Aid—an eight-hour course created by Fairview. In a YouTube video, the officer talks about attending the workshop, what he learned, and how that knowledge paid off a few weeks later while handing mental health call.

Here's the story in Joe's own words: "When I took the class, I came away with a new appreciation of how much the words we use matter on calls like this." Our first responders are on the front line of this issue and this Mental Health First Aid course gives responders the tools and understanding to aid them in their work.

Did you know?
One in five American adults lives with a mental illness. Approximately 85% of first responders have experienced symptoms related to mental health issues at some point during their careers. Nearly 40% of first responders said there would be negative repercussions for seeking mental health help at work.

For the first time, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust is offering Mental Health First Aid for Fire & EMS, focusing on the unique needs and experiences of first responders. You’ll learn how to recognize the warning signs and provide first aid and support if a colleague, family member, or member of the community is experiencing a mental health crisis.

The class is being taught in two half-day sessions in two locations to allow more of our paid call staff to attend:

September 20-21—Fergus Falls
November 1-2—Windom

Visit our website for more information and to register. 

Up Next: Remembering Al Haynes

Stay Safe,

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Duluth Police Canal Park Officers

The League of Minnesota Cities held its Annual Conference in Duluth during the last week of June. As part of the planning process, League staff met with the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) staff well before the conference. In addition to a walkthrough of the facility and a review of the schedule, the DECC staff suggested we check in with “their” Duluth Police Department’s Canal Park Community Officer. They gave us his phone number and email address, and the DECC staff told us this program of police outreach has been very successful.

Upon returning to St. Paul, I followed up and sent Duluth Officer Mike Jambor an email introducing myself, and I provided him with a brief outline of the conference. Twenty minutes later, I received a phone call from Officer Jambor. He wanted more information about the conference and explained that he and his partners were assigned to the Canal Park area, including the DECC. He said they work with the area merchants, hotels, restaurants, bars, visitors, and the DECC staff in planning and problem solving. He made sure we knew how to contact his unit if we had any questions or issues before or during the conference.

The first day of the conference, Officer Jambor came to the DECC and introduced himself to our staff and looked at the conference layout. That happened each day of the conference with either Mike or his partners walking through and introducing themselves. We did have a very minor incident where a man who appeared to be confused wandered into the lobby and then ran out of the area. The DECC staff notified the police department, who quickly found the man and got him the medical help he needed. And afterward, Officer Jambor got back to us with an overview of what happened.

The Duluth Police Canal Park Community Officer program is more than just public relations. It is also about increasing the police department’s situational awareness of what is occurring daily in what has become one of the top tourist and conference locations in the region.

Kudos to the Duluth Police Department on this outstanding and responsive program.

Up next: First Responders - Reducing Stigma, Providing Aid

Stay safe,