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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Slip Sliding Away

A Brainerd firefighter shows the safest way to enter a vehicle
It always happens fast. The firefighter, medic, or police officer is concentrating on the call they are handling, and often carrying equipment like a medical bag, an axe, a flashlight, or a clipboard—and suddenly they slip and fall on ice. Once they are down, there is a momentary loss of awareness and usually a quick mental check of what just happened. That is often followed by a self-assessment and a check to see if they are injured.  

Aggressive treads and ice cleats are "like four-wheel drive"
Too often, they are injured. Eleven percent (11%) of the police work comp injuries are the results of slips and falls on ice. That number is even higher for firefighters due to the icy environment at winter fire calls. In addition to the lifting and carrying of heavy equipment, firefighters are usually walking with an air pack on their back. We also know that statistically an injury from a slip and fall on ice is more severe than a “normal’ slip and fall.  

As we head into winter, there are four proven tips to reduce ice- and snow-related slips and falls.

#1. Awareness. Bring up the dangers of slips and falls at trainings, meetings, and roll calls. Remind each other at the scenes of emergencies to be careful, look for ice and packed snow, and identify the hazards. When snow is predicted or when we are in the freeze and thaw cycles, these reminders should be daily.


#2.  Footwear. Be sure your boots have aggressive tread to minimize slips. Get ahead of the problem and have your new boots before the weather changes.

Ice cleats can quickly be applied to fire boots

#3. Ice cleats. They work, they go on and off fast, and they don’t impair your ability to drive. Last winter the city of Willmar gave every responder a set of Yaktrax-brand cleats. One of the police officers said, “It was like I had four-wheel drive!” They slip on over your fire boots or duty boots in just a few seconds. There are a couple of brands and models. My pair cost $21.50 online.

Champlin officer Joan Radke maintains three points of contact

#4. Three points of contact. This technique for getting in and out of a vehicle is a time-proven method to avoid slips and falls. The goal is to have at least three of a responder’s arms and legs in contact with a solid surface as they get in and out of a their car or truck. For fire apparatus, that means climbing down backwards and making use of the grab bars and steps. For police officers, it means coming out forwards but holding on to the door (or door frame) as they get their feet underneath them. It takes some practice, but it works.

Our statistics show that a slip or fall on ice is a 25% higher claim than a “normal” fall.


                                      Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “YouTube/Social Media Meets Your Emergency Call”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Beating Police Driver Fatigue—A Free LMCIT Webinar

Police driver fatigue: we must manage the risk.

Every police officer who has worked a night shift has dealt with the issue of fatigue and driving. Many officers have caught themselves nodding off while at the wheel, or suddenly realized they can’t remember the last few blocks they traveled. 

We know there are times when officers are experiencing very short sleep periods and are drowsy, and their ability to drive is severely compromised. On a straight flat road with no traffic, they might luck out and be startled awake by the tires hitting the shoulder. But often that is not the case.

This issue is real—and it impacts the safety of the officers and the public. Well-known national public safety consultant Gordon Graham recently said: “Law enforcement is in denial in reference to fatigue,” and ”We must take the responsibility and manage the risk that fatigue poses to our law enforcement officers.”

And this concern goes beyond law enforcement. We know our EMS transport services are dealing with this issue—especially for crews returning to their stations after transporting a patient to a hospital, at night, and when things are quiet. The same risk factors apply.

Want to know more? We have a free webinar on this topic. I am the moderator, and League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) Loss Control Consultant Matt Columbus presents on police officer driving fatigue. The webinar was presented live on Thursday, November 15, and the recording is now available on the LMC website.

During this webinar, Matt explores the causes, effects, and “vicious cycle” of fatigue for police officers and its impact on their driving. The physical and cognitive impacts of fatigue lead to decreased situational awareness and poor decision-making. As Matt explains how cumulative risk factors begin to add up, I suspect many officers hearing this will be thinking: “I have been there!”  

Fatigue can cause loss of situational awareness.
We also discuss recent research on the topic, including studies from Harvard Medical School and the ongoing research of Dr. Bryan Vila (former Los Angeles-area police officer and associate professor of criminal justice professor at the University of Wyoming, and author of the book Tired Cops).

Most importantly, Matt explores recognition factors, a culture of denial, and prevention techniques that officers, supervisors, and departments can employ to diminish driver fatigue. 

Access the webinar recording at


Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “Slip-Sliding Away—Improving Performance and Safety on Ice”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

If It Ain't Broke...

Randy Means speaks to a full house.
Randy Means brought up one of my favorite sayings during the recently completed League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust Police Workshops.

For those who don’t know Mr. Means, he is one of the national speakers and consultants in the areas of police leadership, supervision, and risk management. Mr. Means presented to capacity audiences of police administrators recently at workshops in Bloomington and White Bear Lake.

Means was addressing the need to keep police operational policy current—and he got more than a few smiles and head nods when he asked how many departments have policies that are never followed, policies that are followed most of the time, and polices that are always followed.

Means peppered his comments with relevant, true stories that brought his themes to life and demonstrated the relationships of policy, training, supervision, and discipline.

I found myself nodding in agreement when he brought up the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” About the time my chin went down, Means came right back with: “That’s the perfect time to fix it! Why wait until you are dealing with a problem?” He was referring to proactive risk management and staying ahead of difficulties. Ah-ha, I got the point.

We hope we can bring Randy Means back for additional workshops. The course evaluations and the personal comments we received after the presentations reflected that his message truly resonated with those of you who attended, and you want more.


                                 Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “Police Driver Fatigue—Some Facts and an Upcoming Webinar”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.