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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can You See Me Now?

I recently had the opportunity to spend a morning at the Minnesota Highway Safety Center in St. Cloud with Director Bill Ruhr and his staff. The coffee flowed and our discussion covered emergency driving, police pursuits, PIT (Pursuit Immobilization Technique) and distracted driving. When we got on the subject of highway operations and setting up safety zones for emergency responders, Bill said he had something he wanted to show me.

Police car with retroreflectivity markings
We headed outside to the track where the staff has marked up two of their cars with the Battenburg retroreflectivity markings, a style for marking emergency vehicles that has been more common in Europe. The reflective “decals” seemed to have a light source of their own. The staff at the Center has been experimenting with a couple of striping options, shapes, and colors, and have loaded the cars with multiple designs and styles of application. They have also applied the material to the inside of a trunk lid and to the edges of the car’s doors. They invited me to come back at night to see it in action.

What do you think? This style of markings flies in the face of invisible deployment on crime calls and certainly announces your presence—on the other hand, I don’t doubt it would improve visibility at crashes and while making car stops. Squad cars getting struck and officers being injured is a serious problem. So officer safety cuts two ways on this one.

Alexandria Fire Department Rescue Truck

This approach for fire and EMS is a no-brainer. Many of their vehicles offer that big, flat surface to the rear—which some departments are already covering with the “hi-vis” chevron, like Alexandria’s truck pictured here.

But what about for police cars? I would appreciate your thoughts and have posted some poll questions for you to consider in the sidebar of this blog.

I thank Bill and the staff for allowing me to spend time with them and get caught up on all that they are doing. We look forward to following their research. Because at the end of the day:

Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time…fitness.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, December 9, 2011

EMS Training for Critical Incidents

Simunition scenario during TEMPO training
Police training was a topic in October during the Saturday Symposium at the State Fire Chief’s Conference in St. Cloud. Fire Chief Jeff Piechura of the Northwest Tucson Fire/Rescue District reviewed the mass casualty shooting call that occurred on January 8, 2011 that resulted in six deaths and 13 injuries, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Chief Piechura credits the actions and training of the first-arriving police officers—as well as the help of bystanders—with saving the lives of many of the wounded. The police officers had recently been trained in how to handle gunshot trauma victims with the use of quick clot and tourniquets. The Chief said some of the victims looked so good at the scene due to the work of the fast-acting responders that they confused his triage officer—in reality, the victims were actually severely injured.

Piechura also credits the strong relationships between police, fire and EMS—and the understanding of each other’s roles—with the success of the operation. “We grew up together,” he said when referring to the longstanding relationships between the police, fire and EMS commanders, supervisors, and responders at the scene.

Officer applies a tourniquet
Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to learn about another current facet of EMS training for critical incidents. Mylan Masson, the Director of Law Enforcement Studies at the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Education Center in Brooklyn Park, introduced me to TEMPO (Tactical Emergency Medicine for Peace Officers). To say TEMPO training is intense would be an understatement. It is skill- and scenario-based training in how to save gunshot victims, including yourself and your partner.

The course is taught by HCMC tactical medics who instruct officers on how to survive by controlling bleeding, applying tourniquets, and psychologically retaking control of a violent scene.  What impressed me the most was the incredible level of performance by the officers. They “got it” and quickly demonstrated a mastery of the techniques even in the high-stress, dark and chaotic environments with Simunition rounds coming at them.

Once again, we see the factors of relationships and training coming together. When police receive lifesaving training from local medics—and when local EMS, fire and police departments have solid relationships—the public is well-served.

Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time…retroreflectivity markings and emergency vehicles.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some Things Never Change

Alexandria Fire Department, first motorized engine
Nearly 100 years ago, our state’s public safety community looked very different from today. In 1913, the fire departments were transitioning from the horse-drawn steamers to the early fire trucks, and almost all were open cabs with wood-spoke or solid wheels. Many of the police officers were wearing the double-breasted coats and the London “Bobby” style of helmet while walking their beat.  

Brainerd Police Department, 1910

But while the uniforms and the equipment have changed significantly since the last century, one part of the job has remained the same: when citizens are in trouble, they look to public safety to help, help arrives, and things get better.

It was also in 1913 that the State Legislature enacted a bill to form what would eventually become the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC).  The League (initially part of the University of Minnesota’s Extension Division) was created to serve as a resource and advocate for cities. In 1980 the Insurance Trust (LMCIT) was formed to give cities an option for affordable insurance that could be provided through a nonprofit insurance pool. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a test.)

White Bear Lake Fire Department, 1911

What does this have to do with public safety and the work you do? The League is once again responding to concerns—this time about public safety injuries and liability. This spring, I was hired to be LMCIT’s public safety project coordinator. Before joining the League, I worked in public safety for nearly 40 years. I have been a peace officer in Prior Lake, a chief deputy in Scott County, a firefighter in both Bloomington and Burnsville, and have spent many years over the course of my career collaborating with EMS and emergency management. I’m here to be a resource for you.

Because another part of your public safety work has also not changed over all of these years: firefighters, medics and cops still get injured on the job. Your work is often dynamic, rapidly changing, and unpredictable (and for many of you, that is a portion of the job you really enjoy)—but we cannot let that be the excuse for the number of responders who are injured. We can do better.

To that end, we at LMCIT have some ideas and welcome both your input and evaluation. My hope is that this blog will open up more communication on responder safety because:

Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time…new EMS training for critical incidents.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Moorhead Police, 1911