Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Applications Open for the Firefighter Turnout Gear Washer/Extractor 2023 Award Program

A guest post by LMCIT Public Safety Specialist Troy Walsh                                                   

Photo of a gear dryer.
Since 2015, the first year of the Turnout Gear Washer/Extractor Program, the Department of Public Safety has awarded more than $2.1 million to 265 Minnesota fire departments for the purchase of turnout gear washers/extractors and/or gear dryers. Individual awards will again be granted in amounts up to $10,000 for gear washer/extractors and up to $8,000 for gear dryers.

Apply by April 14

Applications are now available for the 2023-2024 firefighter washer/extractor award program. If you have any questions, please contact Nolan Pasell at (651) 201-7218. A complete application packet must be received by 4 p.m. Friday, April 14, preferably by email to nolan.pasell@state.mn.us

Download the application packet. 

Headshot of Troy Walsh.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at twalsh@lmc.org or (651) 281-1231. 

Remember:   Responder Safety = Public Safety

In the meantime, stay warm and be safe!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Social Media Misuse Is Costly. Are Your Fire and EMS Departments Prepared?

A guest post by LMCIT Public Safety Specialist Troy Walsh

Photo of a crashed car and three firefighters in the background.
I’m sure by now you have all heard about the unfortunate events surrounding the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, including the $31 million in damages awarded to family members for the graphic photos that sheriff deputies and firefighters took at the scene.

But what about the emergency responders, investigation photos, or just the conversations that occurred around this tragic event? Social media is ever-changing, and it’s becoming increasingly more important to manage from a liability perspective. 

Do you have a plan if a high-profile incident happens in your community? Do you have a policy? These types of events happen every day, and we need to look at the ramifications of social media if it’s misused. In this day and age, it is essential for fire and emergency medical services (EMS) departments to understand that the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act also applies to video and digital images, including the use on a privately owned device.  

Check Out LMC’s Model Policies for Social Media and Digital Images

The League of Minnesota Cities has a model social media policy for fire and EMS departments to ensure that the information shared is not private, confidential, or sensitive. Additionally, all fire and EMS department should have a policy on taking images (digital, video, or otherwise) while on duty and the dissemination of those images, including on social media. A model social media and digital images policy is also available for your considered use.  

These policies are great starting points for anyone in public safety to educate your staff members in the proper use of social media and the protections of digital images. Additionally, there are many other liability topics addressed in the LMC fire department management and liability issues information memo.

Headshot of Troy Walsh.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at twalsh@lmc.org or (651) 281-1231. 

Remember:   Responder Safety = Public Safety

In the meantime, stay warm and be safe!

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Nationwide 9-8-8 Hotline Connects Callers With Mental Health Crisis Counselors

In the past, most people in a mental health crisis would call the general 911 emergency line for help. Although the 911 system is convenient for deploying first responders, it can be an ineffective way to connect people to behavioral health services that do not always require a police response.  

Additionally, each year millions of Americans, including emergency responders, experience thoughts of suicide but do not call 911.

To better serve our country’s growing mental health needs, the Federal Communications Commission recently designated and transitioned to “9-8-8” as a nationwide mental health crisis and suicide prevention phone number. The new 988 dialing code directly connects callers to trained mental health crisis counselors and responders within the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network, creating a valuable opportunity to increase connections to accessible mental health crisis care.  

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is an easy-to-remember code for anyone experiencing a suicidal, mental health, or substance use related crisis. Since the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline launched on July 16, call centers have seen a 45% increase in use – primarily in people texting or sending messages seeking help – compared to last year, according to new data from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Download the FCC “988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Fact Sheet” (pdf) 

People who call or text 988 will be connected to a crisis center near them. Lawmakers and mental health advocates also see this new hotline as an opportunity to transform the mental health care system, reduce confrontations with law enforcement, and make additional crisis care services easily available in communities across the United States. Cities and counties nationwide are building or expanding their own community responder programs to meet their local needs.

Law Enforcement-Mental Health Collaboration Support Center provides free resources, training 

The Law Enforcement-Mental Health Collaboration Support Center is administered by the Council of State Governments (CSG) and offers free training, resources, and support to communities wanting to improve their law enforcement and community response models to people with behavioral health conditions or intellectual and development disabilities. Learn more about the community responder models by checking out the CSG Justice Center’s Expanding First Response Toolkit. Additionally, the CSG has just released the Expanding First Response Assessment Tool, which will help communities determine where they are in planning, implementing, and sustaining community responder programs that position health professionals and community members trained in crisis response as first responders. The assessment tool provides valuable insight and practical information for law enforcement agencies exploring alternative responses to mental health related calls.

This resource is supported by a Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grant awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs. Any state, locality, or federally recognized tribal government, as well as organizations such as non-profit behavioral health organizations, criminal justice agencies, and service providers, can request assistance from the Law Enforcement-Mental Health Support Center. 

Send your questions or comments to tstille@lmc.org or give me a call at (651) 215-4051.

Remember: Responder Safety = Public Safety

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.