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Monday, July 23, 2012

Level III Professionals

On a recent Friday night, my wife and I attended a funeral for an 18-year-old man who had taken his own life. The first family member to see me as we walked into the funeral home immediately said, “I’ll tell you, we have a wonderful sheriff’s office.” I was caught off-guard and was not sure where the conversation was going.
Statues outside the Robbinsdale police caption read:
We honor those who have gone before us and
challenge those who will come after us to
continue the tradition of excellence.

She went on to say how caring, careful, and understanding the responding deputies were with the family. The deputies kept the family informed as they investigated and also provided resources to them. She starting crying and said, “They even cleaned up the mess, they were wonderful.” Similar comments were repeated by the other family members we met in the receiving line. Those deputies were “Level III” professionals.

We have a fire department that has started a program when they respond to “lift assist” calls to help one of their residents back into bed or a chair after they have fallen. In addition to addressing the immediate issues, they have a team of firefighters follow up with the residents to see if they can address the problem and not just the symptom.  That is “Level III” performance.

It is the letter to the editor in the local newspaper from the carpet store owner who lost it all in the fire and continually thanks the fire department—not only for their fine work but because they genuinely cared about his business, his employees, and their families. And it is the police officers who didn’t give up on a prolonged investigation and maintained contact with the victims so they did not feel abandoned or in the dark—and got the conviction. It is the “Level III” performer who remembers that they are dealing with people in one of the worse moments in their lives.

Statues outside the Columbia Heights public safety building.

In his book, Going Pro, Tony Kern writes of the importance of continuous improvement, ethics, and setting the bar high for a new level of professionalism. Many of Kern’s themes have been echoed by our national public safety figures: Alan Brunacini, Gordon Graham, Billy Goldfeder, and Randy Means have been long been champions of this level of personal and departmental professionalism. It is truly doing the right thing and doing it the right way.

Being qualified, certified, and hired is the entry Level I Professional. The book uses numerous examples as it leads the reader up the scale through Level II to Level III performance. The book reads as if it was written for the public safety community. In chapter 3, entitled “Aren’t we all professionals?,” Kern writes:

By practicing precision and seeking perfection, we are also improving our readiness for the day when the world turns mean and we need to be near perfect just to survive.

The book was given to me by a friend. I highly recommend the book and have purchased two additional copies that I have given away as gifts.

Up next time… “More fire and police workshops coming this fall

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

HOT HOT HOT: The Impact of Heat on the Public Safety Athlete-Responder

Firefighter in rehab.
The Metro Fire Chiefs recently sponsored training sessions on responder rehab and heat- related issues at emergency scenes. The session was coordinated by the Emergency Preparedness Resource Group. Scott Tomek, MA—Allina’s risk manager and a paramedic—began the session with a comparison of firefighters and extreme athletes, including a section called “Sims and Diffs.”

Some of the sims (similarities) were: personal commitment, highly specialized training, lifestyle impacts, high levels of exertion, highly specialized equipment, a rotation of “players” in and out of the “game,” and high levels of risk.

What struck me more were the differences. For responders, there is no time to stretch or warm up, no time to hydrate ahead of the event, and no idea when the “competition” will occur. It is like training for a marathon, and you have no idea when the race will start or even what day it will happen.  

Scott explained the “inter-relational changes” that start occurring during exertion in hot weather: the body strives to maintain body function and regulates fluid volume while it tries to preserve a normal blood pressure. The blood thickens, and that further stresses the heart. “Look for who is not sweating,” he advised.

Rehab can keep you in the game.
He also shared some “hot statistics:” At 37 degrees, a healthy, physically fit person can do 95 minutes of hard work. At 104 degrees, that drops to 33 minutes—and there is a sharp decline in performance after 10 minutes. A 1-2% drop in hydration will decrease work performance 35-48%. The impact of heat is cumulative, and “you do not rebound.” You have got to get ahead of the problem. He ended with photos of professional athletes drinking sports drinks, while large fans and water misters blew across them. In the background were the team trainers who were monitoring the athletes. It looked a lot like rehab at a fire scene.

Allina EMS South Operations Manager Jeff Lanenberg presented the second part of the presentation, which focused on the Metro Fire Chief’s rehab program and the use of EMS at large events and calls. It made sense, and the comparison to professional athletes was effective.

Make rehab and planning for heat part of your operating procedures. Take advantage of the events that are scheduled—the special events and community festivals—and plan for the summer heat. Make hydration a briefing item during training or roll calls briefings.  When it is hot, we need to watch each other and help each other.

Preparation and rehab lets you stay in the game.


Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time… “Level 3 Performance - The Highest Level of Professionalism”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.