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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Live Burn, Part 2: The Procedure

Firefighters head into the house for the pre-burn “walk-through”
During EMS, fire, and police training, responders frequently hear the phrase that they need to “train like they fight because they will fight like they train.” The firefighter live burn training in Richfield exemplified that phrase as the firefighters followed their normal procedures for on-scene operations and for training safety. There were no shortcuts.

They followed the NFPA training standard #1403 protocol, and firefighters walked through the structure before the live burning started. Crews were staged through the positions of the back-up team and Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) assignments in advance of working their way up to be the next to go inside. It went like clockwork, and they used baseball terms to indicate which crew was “on deck” and who was “up.”

When a crew was ready to attack the fire, two firefighters would “mask up,” take a line (hose) near to the door, wait for the engine company’s officer to conduct a 360-degree walk around the house, and then broadcast a “size up” of the scene on the radio. They were simulating their exact protocol at real fires even though this was training. The company officer would then join the crew, and they would enter the house to extinguish the fire.

The status board indicates the location of each crew
When the crew came out, there was a short debriefing as the instructors inside rekindled the fires before signaling to the on-deck crew that they were up. The firefighters got at least two entries into the house, and many got three as the outbound crew would rejoin the rotation. It was very methodical and amazingly quiet, except for sound of the engine pumping water from a hydrant to the firefighters inside.

What was not visible was the planning and coordination to make all of this happen at such a high level. The details were covered from coordinating a multi-day training session to arranging for a Hennepin County Medical Center paramedic ambulance to be standing by two houses down the block.

The fire department worked with the city and developed a training plan that allowed 275 firefighters to receive live burn training in real houses. It was a collaboration of people training on a standardized plan that will pay dividends long into the future. Congratulations to the Richfield Fire Department and Deputy Chief Mike Dobesh for a job well done.


                                                       Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…An interesting idea from Kentucky

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, November 25, 2013

The Live Burn, Part 1: “The Collaboration”

Crews from nine departments trained together.
On a cold Thursday morning, firefighters from nine metro fire departments gathered on a residential street in Richfield. They were there for “live burn” training. The city of Richfield had obtained a block of homes for redevelopment and made the homes available for live burn training. 

Richfield Assistant Fire Chief Mike Dobesh was in charge. All of the homes were inspected and had hazardous materials removed prior to the start of training. The training was conducted over three evenings and one morning session.

It was a sea of cooperation. Chief Dale Speken from Hopkins gave the briefing, and that morning Minnetonka’s assistant chief, Kevin Fox, took the safety officer position and maintained the status board of who was where. Inside the house, “burn teams” made up instructors from Bloomington, Excelsior, Hopkins, and Minneapolis ignited the fires and positioned themselves to assist firefighters in need of coaching and to act as safety officers. Bloomington supplied the pumper, pump operator, and hoses. Three Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) response kits were laid out in case a crew or “company” got into trouble. None did.

Fire crews "mask up" before entering the house.

The fires were normal combustibles—or class A fires—and the ceiling temperatures were around 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of the current residential “real” fires burn closer to 2,400 degrees due to the high amount of petroleum-based products that are in the contents of modern houses. The temperatures were reduced for safety and to allow more fires in each house, but the techniques were the same.

In addition to the departments already mentioned, fire crews from Saint Louis Park and Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) airport participated as well that morning. Chief Dobesh reports that more than 275 firefighters from 11 departments trained at the site during that week. Referring to the multiple departments on site, Dobesh said: “This is what we need to do more of.” He said more departments need to train together and know each other because they need each other’s assistance more than they have in the past.  

And one final point: there were no injuries.


                                              Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…The Live Burn, Part 2: “The Process”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Updates and Links

SceneSafe Training Video

The “SceneSafe” training video is done, available, and it’s excellent. This 30-minute video blends real crash videos with the testimonials of crash survivors and high-quality animation to demonstrate how to make highway response scenes safer. In addition to instruction and considerations for properly responding to roadway incidents, it has critical tips and advice for setting up emergency traffic control scenes.

Copies of the video will be mailed to every law enforcement, fire, and EMS agency in Minnesota in the coming weeks. The video can be viewed online now at:

Congratulations to Inver Grove Heights Fire Chief Judy Thill, who headed up the project, and to the State Fire Marshal’s Office for funding and supporting this venture.  

IACP Reducing Officer Injuries Final Report

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has released its report on police officer injuries. The study analyzed volumes of data, and the report matches our overall injury experience in Minnesota. Here are some of the recommendations:

-Findings show that there are certain groups and types of officers who are more likely to experience injuries, including those in the first five years on the job and those who are overweight.

-Data reveals that those offenders who had prior contact with police caused more severe injuries to officers than those without prior contact.

-Officer training efforts in the areas of arrest procedure and use of force resulted in fewer injuries during officer encounters with suspects, and thus should be incorporated into academy and in-service training.

The report also addresses training injuries and proposes a “safety lecture” that is similar to the Training Safety Officer (TSO) program’s safety briefing. The study can be found online at:

Fire Attack Tactics

The International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) issued a press release on October 30, which was straightforward:

“Given the latest research in fire dynamics and the potential impact on firefighter safety, the ISFSI board of directors unanimously releases this position statement. The ISFSI encourages all fire departments to incorporate the fire dynamics research into their tactical operations through any and all means necessary.”

The bottom line is the research on fire dynamics is challenging many long-held beliefs and tactics. Here is a link to the press release:


                                               Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…A Live Burn

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Rescue on the Range: “It Was Close”

The fire spread quickly from the porch to the house.
Once again, a dramatic rescue starts with an observant citizen. This time it was 10-year-old Lauren Devich who was riding in a car with her grandmother, Cindy Forseen. They were on 5th Ave South in the city of Virginia, which is located on the Mesabi Iron Range. Lauren spotted a fire on the front porch of a house. That is an area of Virginia where the homes are on small lots and very close together.

Lauren alerted her grandmother, and Forseen called 911. As the call arrived at the Saint Louis County Communication Center, the fire was spreading to the wooden house.  A total of seven 911 communications specialists worked as a team to page out fire-rescue and dispatch the police department while keeping Cindy on the phone for updates on the intensifying fire.

Three Virginia police officers were first on the scene and found that the front of the house was completely engulfed. The officers went to the back door and entered. They found a disoriented woman on the main floor and began to assist her out of the house. She initially said she was alone. Two officers headed up to the second floor as the woman suddenly remembered her daughter was upstairs.

The entire team received awards at a St. Louis
County board meeting
The officers on the second floor forced open a locked door and found a frightened three-year-old child. They carried her down the stairs and got her outside. As the fire continued to grow, the woman abruptly told the officers there was one more child in the house—an infant. With the help of the woman, the officers found the infant and got her outside as well.

The Virginia Fire Department was on the scene in three minutes and aggressively attacked the fire, containing it to only the one house. The victims were treated and examined by Virginia Fire-Rescue. “It was close,” said fire chief Dan L’allier. Speaking of the police officers’ actions, he said, “They risked a lot to save a lot,” and then he added: “The real hero is Lauren.”

Sheriff Ross Litman recognized the entire team at a County Board meeting last month. He presented “911 Life Saver Awards” to the 911 center staff, the police officers and firefighters, Cindy Forseen, and last but not least…sharp-eyed 10-year-old Lauren Devich.


                                                 Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…More Updates

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013 Fall Police Workshops

Randy Means answers an officer's question.
The evaluations said “Very well done, A+.” “This was an excellent course for sergeants and up.” “Groups discussions were good, and the time was well spent.”

We want to thank all of you who attended the 2013 Police Workshops with Randy Means last week. This year we offered a one-day class in the original format in Fergus Falls. We also offered a two-day class that allowed for more group discussion and problem solving in Shakopee and White Bear Lake. 

It was interesting to watch as Means led the classes through a review of their priorities for officer safety. Interpersonal communication skills almost always came out on the top of the list, and firearms proficiency was toward the bottom of list. Police officer physical and mental fitness also was ranked near the top of the list every time.

Reviewing the risk management continuum.
Mr. Means addressed some familiar themes, including “minor misconduct unchecked leads to major misconduct” and “how to complain up the chain of command but not down.”  He instructed officers to review 4th amendment complaints with a focus on constitutional law, and stressed the importance of reviewing the “core transaction” that preceded the frisk, detention, or use of force. He teased the class with the question: “How much force can you use in a house that you are not legally inside?”

All of the classes filled, and we apologize to the officers on the waiting lists who were not able to attend. We anticipate bringing Randy Means back next fall.

Again, we thank all who attended and look forward to our 2014 Spring Loss Control Workshops this coming March and April.


                                                Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…The Rescue on the Range

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

ALIVE: Free, Effective Online Fire Training

ALIVE featured multimedia, online training
It is fast-paced, interactive, tactical, realistic fire training—and it’s online. This training is the result of research at New York University (NYU) Polytechnic Institute, in conjunction with the fire departments of New York and Chicago, as well as Bloomington, Eagan, and Eden Prairie. What? Yup…New York, Chicago, and three paid-on-call fire departments from Minnesota. Oh, and one more thing….it’s free!

ALIVE presents cutting-edge firefighting tactics directly to the firefighters. These tactics can be implemented immediately, and will reduce the risk of firefighter injury and death. This training, based on research conducted by NYU, will greatly enhance your knowledge of structure fires and their contents.

The online multimedia course is so good that the firefighters who take the class online have a higher level of retention and understanding than the firefighters who took the class in a traditional classroom setting. These courses will hold your interest.

Learning to fight fire in the modern way
ALIVE currently offers two courses: “Wind Driven High Rise Fires” and “Fires in Lightweight Residential Construction.” If you are thinking that fighting a high rise fire is not likely in your community, take the course anyway. Wind driven fires can happen anywhere, and this course lays the foundation for the research and for an understanding of what is happening when a building burns.

The module “Fires in Lightweight Residential Construction” uses NYU and Underwriter’s Laboratory research to demonstrate why these buildings burn so much faster. This course will frame a timeline for your fire attack and fire ground decision-making, including whether to position firefighters above the fire. A third module on Fire Dynamics is also in development.

The link for more information on the training and to enroll free can be found at: NYU can set up a portal for your department to facilitate your team getting the most out of the training.


                                         Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…A Report From the Road: The Police Workshop Series with Randy Means

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Why Do Joint Powers Organizations Need Insurance?

Imagine finding out late on Friday afternoon that your officers working on the multi-agency drug task force do not have liability insurance. That would make for a long weekend, right? Well, that is exactly what happened.

The cities and a county were involved in a multi-agency task force created by a joint powers agreement (JPA). The JPA created a separate “joint powers entity.” While each party had insurance for its normal operations, they presumed that their insurance coverage also applied to officers assigned to the task force.

The city’s League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) workers’ compensation insurance usually covers the officers if they are injured while working for the JPA. However, the cities’ liability insurance specifically excludes damages arising out of a “joint powers entity.” This exclusion is not unique to LMCIT. Almost all commercial insurance policies contain similar exclusions.

There are a variety of reasons for this. One of the most important is that the liability for a joint powers entity is consolidated with the entity pursuant to one insurance policy. Plaintiffs frequently name all member cities of the JPA in their lawsuit. Consolidating coverage under the JPA avoids the expenses and inefficiencies of defending each city individually, and it prevents “finger pointing” when cities are being pitted against each other.

LMCIT has two helpful memos on our website that explain the details, provides a definition of what constitutes a “joint powers entity,” and outlines the differences between a mutual aid agreement, a contract for service, and a JPA. Links to those memos are listed below.

Liability Coverage for Joint Powers Agreements

Ten Things to Watch Out For When Entering Into Joint Powers Agreements

I also encourage you to contact LMCIT Risk Management Attorney Chris Smith with your JPA questions, or for contract review. Chris has both a wealth of information and the ability to explain the legal aspects of these agreements in manner that even I can understand. There is no fee for this service for LMCIT members. Chris can be reached at (651) 281-1269 or

                                              Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…ALIVE Training for Firefighters: It’s Online, It’s Amazing, and It’s Free

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, September 9, 2013

A Few Updates

Randy Means
Randy Means

The upcoming workshops with Randy Means are filling quickly. The sessions in Shakopee have filled. The sessions in White Bear Lake and Fergus Falls have a few spaces open. 

This is a chance to hear one of the leading law enforcement national speakers. The course is being underwritten so we can offer the workshop for only $15 per day, which includes a working lunch.
This is the type of training that an officer will remember their entire career.

For more information on the training in Fergus Falls go to:

For more information on the training in White Bear Lake go to:

Great Online Resource

The California POST Board website continues to offer valuable resources on their safe driving webpage. Here is the link to their “Relevant Articles and Studies” page.

Minnesota Chiefs of Police 4th District Meeting

I thank the 4th district police chiefs—and specifically Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten—for the opportunity to attend their recent meeting. I presented a snapshot of the current police loss control issues, and we had a good dialogue. As is typical of these types of meetings, the “around-the-table” discussions revealed many common issues and trends. I was also struck by the high level of professionalism and the true concern for improving how the officers can serve their communities. I thank Chief Eggebraaten for the invitation.


Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…Why “Joint Powers” Organizations and Task Forces Need Insurance

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It All Starts Here – 911

Dispatchers work on up to seven data screens.
The room seemed quiet. A large number of the “boat lights” were on, and the frequently changing colors indicated that things were busier than they appeared. (“Boat lights” is a dispatcher’s term for the colored lights at each dispatch position that indicates if the console is occupied, if they are talking on the radio, or if they are on the telephone.)

This is where it all starts. The public knows to call 911 to report an emergency—it is automatic. However, it is up to the proficient staff (and layers of technology) to make sense out of what they are being told and to get the correct responders to the correct location. It is a very tough job.

I was at the Dakota Communication Center (the DCC) to meet with Director Diane Lind.  The DCC is a joint powers entity that handles the 911 needs of Dakota County. That means they dispatch for 12 fire departments, 12 police departments, and three fire EMS services. Last year they handled 184,118 calls to 911 and 144,152 non-emergency calls for service.

What is the most difficult type of call?

Diane immediately said it is the calls that involve weapons: “The information on those calls changes so quickly.” By the time the staff hears and then broadcasts the information to the responders, the situation has changed.

In addition, some people “over-report” what is happening and some “under- report.” Diane reflected on some elderly callers who waited a long time—perhaps too long—to call 911 for help, as they didn’t want to bother anybody.

911 phone information and data is broadcast
Has technology made dispatch easier?

Adding to the difficulty is that most callers do not have all the information, some even confuse perception with reality, and many 911 cell phone callers don’t know exactly where they are. The technology can help, but the accuracy varies and the phone GPS data won’t tell the responders which floor to go to, or the unit number of the apartment building that needs help. It doesn’t provide “vertical data.”

Can a person text a 911 call? No. The cell/wireless providers are starting to provide a return message to anyone who texts 911 telling them to use their phone and verbally call 911.

What about the internet phone services? The Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calls now make up almost 7% of the 911 calls at the DCC. Subscribers to these systems need to keep their 911registrations current with their provider and remember to update that information it if they move. Unfortunately some do not. These calls go to the internet provider who forwards it to the 911 center for the most recent address listed.

What about the future?

Diane reflected on the ongoing technology and workforce changes. Fortunately, she said the newly hired staff is able to pass on their keyboard and technology skills to the veterans. The veterans in turn are passing on their communication skills, composure, and experience.

As I headed out the door, I looked back and again noted how calm and quiet the room appeared—but the boat lights told a different story.


                                           Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…Why “Joint Powers” Organizations and Task Forces Need Insurance

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, August 5, 2013

“America Burning”: A Look Back

Savage Fire Department's community outreach

This past May marked the 40th anniversary of the release of “America Burning.” The report took two years to complete and was the result of Congress and two presidents taking action on what was termed “America’s fire problem.” It was a statistical review and analysis of the nation’s fire losses and put hard numbers to what many firefighters knew was happening. The data in the report became a documented foundation for change and for understanding.

“America Burning” contained 90 detailed recommendations and was a recognition that firefighting occurs at a local level.  As a result, the National Fire Academy and U.S. Fire Administration were created to support local departments. Many of the current federal grant programs—such as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants—were the result of the reports directive to improve firefighter training and upgrade the level of response and staffing.

The timing of the report could not have been better, as it coincided with the new technology and development of the affordable home smoke detectors. In addition to recommending smoke detectors for all homes, there were recommendations for sprinkler systems, clothing, and mattress flammability standards, and for public education including educational programs in the schools. I remember departments increasing their public outreach and targeting every school for education on home fire drills and “Stop, Drop, and Roll.”
Savage Fire Department public education in schools

The report also called for the better tracking of fires nationally. The National Fire Incident Reporting System came on line in 1977, and the Minnesota Fire Incident Reporting System data that your crews complete is fed to the national system through the State Fire Marshal’s office. 

Many of the periodicals and articles that have reflected on the importance of the report also note the new challenges facing the fire services, including: the threat from wildfires, the high number of automated false alarms, and the use of faster burning materials in current lightweight construction.

“America Burning” is credited with the decline in fire deaths, injuries, and overall reduction in fires. It called for a coordinated multi-point approach with a focus on prevention and suppression of fire that has been successful. It is important to know how we got where we are as we prepare to face the challenges ahead.


                                                Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…It All Starts Here - 911

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

League of Minnesota Cities’ New Law Summaries

The League of Minnesota Cities’ Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) Department has compiled the 2013 New Law Summaries for the 2013 legislative session. The online summary is a convenient way to see the new laws that were enacted, including some that have already taken effect. Here are just a few that impact public safety…
  • Effective August 1, there are new laws regarding criminal conduct related to the placing of an emergency call (found on page 4 of the Law Summaries document). Included in the law are new penalties and an expansion of the definition of an “emergency call.” There are also changes to domestic abuse statutes that include: Orders for Protections (OFPs), Harassment Restraining Orders (HROs), and Domestic Abuse No Contact Orders (DANCOs).
  • There is an interesting change in the underage and consumption of alcohol statute 340A.503 (found on page 8 of the Law Summaries document). If a person contacts a 911 operator to report that the person or another person is in need of medical assistance for an immediate health or safety concern, the person is not subject to prosecution under this law. The statute lists the other elements of the case that must be met for the immunity to apply.

  • It is now a gross misdemeanor to assault a transit driver.

  • Under 609.2231, it is now a gross misdemeanor to assault a transit operator or to throw bodily fluids on to that operator (found on page 8 of the Law Summaries document).
  • There were six changes to Emergency Medical Services laws, including the requirements for staffing advanced life support units and additional training requirements for the community paramedic program (found on page 19 of the Law Summaries document).
  • The Pension and Retirement section contains changes to the PERA retirement system and changes to the volunteer firefighter retirement programs (found on page 38 of the Law Summaries document).
  • The Public Safety section of the summary has new ATV laws (found on page 46 of the Law Summaries document) as well as the funding of the BCA (page 42), State Fire Marshal’s office (page 42), ARMER radio system (page 43), local 911 public safety answering points (page 42), and the reinstatement of the School Safety Center (page 41).
  • New statutes apply to vehicles using bike lanes.

  • The transportation bill had a fair amount of new legislation regarding vehicles in bicycle lanes (found on page 73 of the Law Summaries document) and a new restriction on school bus drivers (page 74). School bus drivers are now prohibited from cell phone usage while in traffic. It amends a prohibition on using a cell phone for personal reasons when operating a school bus to include times when the vehicle is part of the flow of traffic (such as at a stoplight). This is also effective August 1, 2013.
Toward the end of the summary is an interesting section on the bills that did not become law (found on page 76 of the Law Summaries document). Many experienced Capitol watchers look to this area for an idea of what will be coming up in the next session. I noted the “photo cop” bill (page 80) and laws regarding “mini trucks” (page 82) made the list this year.

The summary also contains a complete list of our IGR staff, their contact information, and their areas of expertise.

You can find more information and the summary on our website at: 


                                                Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next..."America Burning: A Look Back 40 Years"

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, July 8, 2013

It’s NOT Just Part of The Job

This chart illustrates the cause of fire scene injuries as a proportion of total incurred costs.
The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) has a team of field consultants assigned to every member city and every insured department. The consultants have territories around the state and are the front line of LMCIT’s loss control and accident prevention program.

Cheryl Brennan, the field services manager, coordinates this staff of risk and safety professionals. I recently ran some questions by Cheryl concerning the slips, trips, and falls that occur frequently in public safety.

Q. Public safety responders view themselves as different since they work in a very unpredictable environment, their world is very dynamic, and at times they have limited control of what is happening. Can these accidents really be prevented, or is it just part of the job?

A. I agree that when public safety responders are on the scene of an emergency, their environment is often unfamiliar and chaotic. And one would expect that is where we see the most significant loss patterns, but that just isn’t the case. The numbers tell us a different story. Many slip, trip, and fall injuries happen during training, working around the fire station and during non-enforcement activities. These are areas where some basic safety interventions can help. I know, Rob, you’ve worked with some of the loss control field consultants and several of our member entities to identify patterns in losses for public safety employees.

Q. How big of a concern is it?

A. LMCIT is concerned enough about slips, trips, and falls to start a focused loss control initiative to reduce these kinds of injuries for both fire and police professionals. The seriousness of this issue comes to light when we take a look at the numbers. Let’s take a quick look at some information gathered by our data analyst.

Slips and falls are a significant concern for the fire service. These kinds of injuries represent about 17 percent of workers’ compensation (WC) claims and nearly 30 percent of WC claim costs for firefighters over the past decade. To get some perspective, these 594 claims represent nearly $7.4 million dollars in losses during that period of time. That’s a big number. 

Slips and falls are the second most common and expensive type of injury for fire fighters. The average firefighter injury costs about $7,400 while the average slip/fall injury to a firefighter costs about $12,612. The cost of the injury reflects the seriousness of the injury.  We’re not talking just numbers here; we’re talking people and the impact on their quality of life when a serious injury occurs. There’s also the impact on the department as a whole when someone cannot work or is working a lighter duty job.

The same can be said about police officers. Over that same decade, there were 648 injuries worth about $5.5 million for police. That represents about 11 percent of WC claims and about 12 percent of WC claim costs. An average fall/slip injury for police costs $8,545. Slips and falls are the third most common injury for police and the fourth most expensive type of injury for police

Q. What do you recommend?

A. Just as you’ve done, Rob—with injuries that happen during training, we can do something about the frequency of the slips/trips/falls that happen in these two departments. LMCIT has an evaluation tool to help departments assess their risk for these types of injuries, and the League has field consultants to work with members on loss areas. The consultants will be contacting departments in the relatively near future to meet with the chiefs to discuss this problem. Members can make it a priority to meet with the consultants and consider any recommendations they might make.


                                               Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next...The New LMC Law Summaries: What Became Law and What Didn’t

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Below 100/Emergency Driving

I watched the police car navigating through traffic with its lights and siren on. There were no “near misses” and no screeching brakes. The siren pitch changed as the squad car approached the multi-lane intersection and slowed almost to a stop. I could see the officer “clearing the lanes” as he verified that all the traffic had stopped. I noted the officer signaled his turn and was wearing his seat belt. The squad car passed through the intersection, increased its speed, and the siren pitch changed back to wail. The same process was repeated at the next intersection. It was smooth, deliberate, and professional.

The scene could have been used as a training video for the “Below 100” program. Below 100 is an initiative to get the number of police officer line-of-duty deaths to below 100 per year. The five tenets to the program are: Wear Your Vest, Wear Your Seat Belt, Watch Your Speed, WIN (What’s Important Now), and Complacency Kills.

Police driving is at the heart of four of the five tenets. Captain Travis Yates of the Tulsa Oklahoma police department is a Below 100 spokesman. Captain Yates connects the management of squad car speed with the need to treat each intersection as “an environmental change.” He says: “You better adjust to them (the traffic) because they are NOT going to adjust to you.” and “There is no room for error; you cannot make a mistake at an intersection!” Crashes at intersections often result in side-impact collisions, and that type of crash kills citizens and cops.

He pokes fun at citizens texting and using their smartphones while driving and then roars back at the cops about talking on their cell phones and typing on their computers while driving. “Our computers are even bigger!” he says. Yates ties the themes of invincibility and complacency together, punctuates his message by showing in-squad video recordings that leaves groups of experienced officers stone-cold silent, and then asks “So What’s Important Now?”

The message aligns with LMCIT loss control efforts and with our experience. Talk about the Below 100 initiative at your next roll call or training. More information on Below 100 can be found at

In our last blog we mentioned the California POST Board Safe Driving Campaign video series “Did You Know?” On June 15 one of their training videos entitled “Code 97” won an Emmy Award last week from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Congratulations to the team working on the venture.


                                                Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next...It’s Not Part of the Job: Slips, Trips, and Falls in Public Safety

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Lots of Links

Periodically we want to provide you with online training resources, including some multimedia. Many of the videos below would work well for roll call trainings. 

Here is our first edition of “Lots of Links”:

Driving Emergency Vehicles
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s “Firefighter Life Safety Learning Media Center Archive” is an online line resource for fire and EMS instructors. Their presentation entitled “Driving Emergency Vehicles” echoes many of the points that League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) defense attorney Jack Hennen used in the spring loss control workshops, particularly in the area of intersection dynamics. The link to this training is at:

Roll Call Safe Driving Videos
The California POST Board has posted four short “Did You Know?” video clips focused on police driving. They are perfect for roll call training. Two are humorous, two are not, and all four get their message across. They can be viewed online or downloaded:

IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) “Is Today Your Day?”
Many instructors are using the IACP 23-minute video entitled “Is Today Your Day?” which can be found at:

Vaccinations and Infectious Disease Testing Coverage
LMCIT has posted a new memo that lays out the vaccination and disease testing coverage and requirements for first responders. The link to the information is at:

Tuberculosis Screening for Correctional and Emergency Medical Workers
This area continues to generate many inquiries and questions from correctional workers and EMS, fire, and police that respond to medical emergencies. A new LMCIT memo will address many of those questions and provides contact information for additional questions. The link is at:

IPAD Training
This is probably not what you think it is. The Minnesota Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) of the Department of Administration is hosting a second workshop for law enforcement officials. The June Law Enforcement Data Workshop filled up very quickly, so IPAD will offer a second date in September. The second workshop will be on Wednesday, September 25, 2013, from 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. in St. Paul.

The workshop features:
  • Discussion of legal requirements related to law enforcement data, juvenile justice data, traffic accident data, background investigations, and criminal expungement
  • Real-life problem solving scenarios based on actual inquiries to IPAD
  • Question and answer sessions
For more information about the workshop and to register, visit

If you have questions or comments, please contact or (651) 296-6733.

Free PATROL Course – Ethical Use of Databases
The free PATROL (Police Accredited Training Online) web-based course on the ethical use of databases is now live and is getting rave reviews. For more information, read my May 20 blog entry or contact the program administrator, Laura Honeck at (651) 281-1280 or


                                                     Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next...Emergency Driving, High Frequency, and High Risk.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Police Fall Workshops Announced: Randy Means is Back!

Randy Means presents at the 2012 LMCIT police workshops.
The 2013 League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) fall police workshops will again feature Randy Means. Mr. Means presented last fall, and we are delighted to have him committed for additional workshops this October. Our staff continues to receive compliments about this training even now.

Mr. Means will be presenting “Police Leadership in the New Normal – Part 1”, on Monday, October 7 at the Big Woods Conference Center in Fergus Falls. This will be the same course Mr. Means presented last fall in White Bear Lake and Bloomington. It will be a one-day class with a focus on leadership, supervision, discipline, and risk management. 

“Police Leadership in the New Normal - Part II” will be presented on October 8 and 9 at the White Bear Lake PD and on October 10 and 11 at Shakopee PD. These two-day courses will include hands-on problem solving and will build on the themes from his workshops last fall. This is a stand-alone course, and the first course is not a prerequisite.

Lunch will be included for all of the workshops, and the training will be submitted for POST continuing education credits.

Watch for registration information.


Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next...Some helpful links.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Ethical Use of Databases - Free Web-Based Training

The LMCIT PATROL (Police Accredited Training Online) course on the “Ethical Use of Databases” will be made available to all Minnesota law enforcement officers at no charge. The course was initially released in the spring of 2012 to officers and departments enrolled in the PATROL online training program.

The course is approved for one POST credit and will provide officers with the information necessary for properly using computers and law enforcement databases in full compliance with state and federal laws, as well as with department polices. It will follow the traditional PATROL online learning format, which uses periodic “check for understanding” quizzes—and officers will be required to pass a test upon completion of the module in order to obtain the certificate of completion.

The course will be available beginning June 1, 2013. For questions, contact Laura Honeck at or (651) 281-1280.


                                                  Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next...The dates and locations for the fall police workshops—Randy Means is back!

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Roadway Responder Safety: “Communication, Coordination, Cooperation”

Apple Valley responders work at a crash scene.
Minnesota’s first responders have made progress in the area of increased safety while working at crash scenes on the roadways. Vehicle crashes scenes are complicated, as they bring together a variety of responders—it is often a combination of local police, county deputies, state troopers, local fire departments, local EMS, ambulances, medical transport units or even a medical transport helicopter that respond to the scene. MnDOT, county highway departments, and private towing companies are also part of this “dance” of equipment and people. The scenes are dynamic in that units arrive one at a time, crews deploy to complete their tasks, some units leave before others, and all of this is occurring on roadways and highways that are often open to traffic.

Recently Judy Thill, chief of the Inver Grove Fire Department, said “great steps” have been made to improve crash scene safety and noted that it’s “communication, coordination, and cooperation” that makes these scenes safe. Chief Thill and MnDOT Freeway Supervisor John McClellan have trained hundreds of first responders in how to do this in the Roadway Responder Safety training. Whether watching the news or driving our highways, it is evident that the training has taken hold and is being implemented. It is becoming rare to see emergency scenes that are not protected by the proper positioning of squad cars or fire rescue apparatus, or to see a responder not wearing a high visibility garment.

During a recent snowstorm, I came upon a crash on I-94. The road information sign on I-94 advised the line of slow-moving cars that there was a crash ahead. I spotted a State Patrol car protecting the scene, and I could not miss the trooper wearing his high-visibility jacket.
The Avon Fire Department arrives at the scene of a crash.

Weeks later, I was stopped during the evening rush hour traffic on MN-13 due to a multi-car crash that had wrecked cars and injured drivers in both the eastbound and westbound lanes.  What a mess. The responding Savage police officers used their cars to protect the scenes, and their high-visibility vests were put on in one motion as the officers stepped out of their cars and began caring for the injured.

I also spotted media photos of the Apple Valley Fire Department working at the scene of a crash. In this scene, the roadway was closed and every responder had their vest on!

And during a recent meeting with fire chiefs and trainers in Stearns County, I complimented the Avon Fire Department on the high-visibility chevron striping on the back of their trucks. They told me their last truck had just received the stripes and showed me photos of a recent crash scene on the freeway.  Again, vests were on, and the scene was protected by their trucks.

If you would like to know more about the Roadway Responder Safety training, you can contact either:

Chief Judy Thill at (651) 450-2495 or
John McClellan (651) 234-7025 or


                                                  Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…”PATROL Course on the Ethical Use of Data Bases Will Be Available Statewide—And At No Charge”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, April 8, 2013

“Excellent classes. Relevant, informational, and interesting.” Chief Tim Motherway, Crookston Police Department

LMC Sr. Staff Attorney Jack Hennen
presents "What’s Really Driving Police Crashes"

The evaluations and comments from the 2013 workshops have been gratifying. The sessions in the police track are connecting well with the officers.

Chief Kim Murphy from Thief River Falls told us: “The HR session for police was very well done, timely, and long overdue as a topic. I hope that next year this training will again be a full day with HR issues included.” That class—taught by the League’s HR staff—includes a Skype session with a police psychologist, and the staff is fielding many questions during and after the class.

The League’s litigation attorneys are teaching the data practices class. Their presentation—combined with the written materials and some real-world sample problems for the class to solve—allow officers to apply the statutes to real situations and problems.

Lt. Andy Everhart presents to attendees via Skype.

The driving session never leaves the classroom, but officers leave with roll-call-packaged training sessions, including a video of Lieutenant Andy Everhart. Lieutenant Everhart takes the class back through the last ten years of his life as he recounts his squad car accident where the people in the other car were critically injured. The focus of this class is on the officer’s decision-making while driving—particularly with regard to speed, and in treating each intersection as an “environmental change.”

Another attendee—Chief Mike Hedlund of the East Grand Forks Police Department—reflected: “The entire police track was well presented and valuable. All topics could probably have used more time. Good classes.”

If you would still like to register for a workshop this year, go to


                                                Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next……”Roadway Responder Safety: Communication, Coordination, Cooperation”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

An EMS Trend That Isn’t Slowing Down: What it Means for Public Safety

Mary Zappetillo at the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board (EMSRB) provided us with Minnesota’s EMS “run numbers” for the years 2004-2012. The number of EMS calls in the state continues to increase at an average rate of 3.3% per year. The yearly totals jumped from 459,934 to 600,765 during this 8-year period, and this trend is expected to continue as Minnesota ages. The state demographer predicts that by 2020, Minnesota will have more people over the age of 65 than it has in K-12 schools.

More emergency runs mean more opportunities for injury. The LMCIT Loss Control team continues to see “patient handling” injuries on medical and accident calls as one area where responders get hurt. Unfortunately many of these injuries are the result of not only lifting, but lifting and twisting—and the resulting injuries (often to the lower back) are serious. Patients are seldom found on a level, flat surface or where they can be easily moved. And it may be anecdotal, but most of our first responders believe that their patients are not getting any smaller in size.

The Rescue Lift in action.
New Brighton Public Safety recently sent us a few lines from their overnight briefing.  An officer handling a call of a “lift assist” used their portable “Rescue Lift” to safely lift a 300-pound man who had fallen in the bathroom. The officer got the man back on his feet with no injuries to anyone. The Rescue Lift is designed for lift assists even when the patient is between the toilet and the bathtub. It is portable, and it is made in Minnesota.
Here is a link to additional information on the Rescue Lift:

We are interested in hearing what your service or department is doing to prevent and reduce injuries during patient handling, and while helping your citizens on lift assists. Please call or send me an email with your comments or thoughts.


                                          Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “More From This Year's Safety & Loss Control Workshops”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, March 22, 2013

The Training You Asked For—Brought to Your Door—And More!

We'll be in Mankato on April 4.
The annual League of Minnesota Cities (LMCIT) Loss Control Workshops start on March 26. The nine workshops will be offered at locations around Minnesota and include a full-day police track, although officers may attend just a half day. All of the classes are approved for POST continuing education credit.

We have listened to your comments, read your surveys, and know that human resources (HR) is one of your toughest issues. The League’s HR department will present the first “HR Boot Camp for Law Enforcement.” In addition, the HR staff will be available before and after the session to answer your questions.

The morning session starts at 8:30 a.m. with: “Things That Get Police in Trouble.” That is followed by: “What’s Really Driving Police Crashes?” and “Data Practices and Law Enforcement Data.” It will be a full day of useful and practical risk management training.
We'll be in Duluth on April 10.

For the first time this year, attendees to the police track will be receiving a Train the Trainer DVD in addition to the printed course materials in the traditional binder. The materials on the DVD includes videos, links, photographs, and discussion points to facilitate officers taking the materials back to their departments for “roll call” or in-service training.

For more information, locations, dates and to register go to


                                             Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “Changing Demographics Mean Increasing Medical Runs for Minnesota Responders”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

New Technology Being Used to Get Ahead of the “Suspense File”

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) has a new tool to assist in preventing cases from going into suspense. The new Fingerprint Lookup feature to the e-charging program automatically queries complaints and citations for felony, gross misdemeanor, and targeted misdemeanor cases requiring fingerprints. It also alerts users when it detects mismatching key identifier information such as name, date of birth, originating agency case number, or controlling agency ORI (the national agency identifier made up of numbers and letters.)

The BCA is the repository for these records, and it has historically been the lack of the defendant’s fingerprints which are needed to unequivocally match an individual with a specific criminal conviction that causes the problem. But it can also be a spelling error, a mistake in recording a birthdate or all those other numbers that need to be entered. Without all of the correct data, the conviction is not on the criminal history and is kept in “suspense.”

BCA manager Suzanne Cellettee said the new software catches the needed items as soon as the complaint is filed via the e-charging. “It is so hard for departments to go back and get the needed information later,” she said. The new Fingerprint Lookup Feature keeps departments ahead of the problem, will increase the accuracy of the criminal history files, and keep criminal histories accurate. That is good risk management.

The BCA has asked us to help get the word out on Fingerprint Lookup. For more information, contact Carla Duellman at (651) 793-2424 or Suzanne Cellettee at (651) 793-2606.

Up next time: Some quick updates

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, March 4, 2013

They Gathered Only Twice: The Team of People Who Saved Two Lives

The script read at the awards ceremony started out: “Amidst a severe winter storm on December 9, 2012, Richfield emergency personnel responded to an unknown 911 call in the 7300 block of Garfield.” The call began when Richfield dispatcher Lynn Werner began receiving multiple 911 calls from emotional callers. She remained calm as she “filtered” out the information, determined what was happening, and got the location. She was also immediately dispatching the responders. That is what people like Lynn do well.
The reunion - first responders, citizens, and the children they all saved
The first to arrive was Sergeant David Kromschroeder. Kromie, as his partners call him, was met by citizens Brianna Rheinhart and Brian Newkirk, who told him there was a child drowning in the in-ground pool in the backyard of the residence. The three worked together to break down a six-foot privacy fence that surrounded the pool and observed not one but two children in the pool! The award ceremony described what they saw as, “An 8-year-old boy struggling to stay above the surface of the water in the shallow end, and a 6-year-old girl unconscious in the deep end.”

Sgt. Kromschroeder and Newkirk jumped into the water and worked with Rheinhart to get the boy out of the pool. Kromschroeder headed to the deep end of the pool to rescue the girl. He slipped and was suddenly submerged in the icy 32-degree water. He found the girl and—again with the help of Rheinhart and Newkirk—got her out of the water. The citation reads: “At poolside, in blizzard conditions, Sgt. Kromschroeder immediately began to administer CPR to the unconscious child.” 

A thank you note from the girl who was saved.

Officer Greg Peterson was the next to arrive. He assisted Kromschroeder until they were relieved by Richfield firefighters and HCMC medics. The council citation reads, “The children were transported to HCMC, where the boy was treated for hypothermia and the girl remained in critical condition in the pediatric intensive care unit for more than a week.” Both of the children have made a full recovery with no long-term health concerns.

Recently this exemplary group of people gathered a second time to receive awards at a Richfield City Council meeting. Everyone was there, including the survivors. Sgt. Kromschroeder’s remarks were focused on the bravery of the citizens and the victims. On that day in December, they were all links in a chain that brought together values, commitment, training, and professionalism in an environment filled with danger and stress. And together, they saved two lives.

Congratulations to the citizens and all of the responders. We also salute the City of Richfield for taking the time to acknowledge what they did on that snowy day in December.


                                         Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “Working on the Suspense Files—The Black Hole of Criminal Records”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Traditional Firefighter Helmet Meets The Jetsons

A new, European-designed fire helmet.
It is not uncommon to hear the phrase, “The American fire service is 200 years of tradition not impeded by progress.” The line normally brings a few chuckles and nods of affirmation. One example and symbol of that tradition has been the firefighters’ helmet. Historically it has had the long brim in back and usually a high crown in front, often with a leather shield or emblem to identify the firefighter, station, or unit number.

Recently, a few Minnesota fire departments have started to transition to a “European-designed” fire helmet that is similar to a motorcycle helmet. White Bear Fire Chief Tim Vadnais said he had noticed his firefighters taking off their helmets when working at the scene of car accidents: “The helmet was in the way when they needed to get into the car to care for the victim and during extrication,” he said.
The new helmets perform better at highway scenes.

But on the highway, working in traffic in a wrecked car was not the time to be taking off their helmets, the chief said. Vadnais said the new helmets are more balanced, more comfortable, and provide added safety for the firefighter’s head and eyes. The helmet has two built-in face shields that can be pulled down for protection. White Bear has 25 of these helmets in service and is about to place an order for more.

Eagan Fire Chief Mike Scott was likewise concerned that their traditional helmets were being removed at highway scenes. The Eagan department had also seen their traditional helmets as a detriment while performing their self-rescue drills. The helmet would get caught in the sheetrock and wiring as the firefighters broke through walls while training on this critical lifesaving skill in the “tangle maze” prop.

The helmets have two face shields to protect firefighters.

The new helmet is smooth and round, and “goes right through.” Eagan now has 30 of the helmets in service and is planning on ordering more. Most of the firefighters love them, he said. They come in a range of colors, and include an option for an LED light on the front of the helmet. Chief Scott said in addition to providing light, they allow firefighters to locate each other even in heavy smoke.

The new helmets cost about $100 more than the average helmets currently in service, and are cheaper than some of the leather helmets. Most of the Eagan helmets were paid for by donations. Chief Scott said they acquired one helmet to test prior to placing their order. The young firefighter who was assigned the helmet quickly picked up the name “Rosie.” I asked if that was because the helmet was made by Rosenbauer International. “No,” Chief Scott said. “It was because the other firefighters thought he looked like the character Rosie the Maid from the cartoon show ‘The Jetsons.’”

I guess not all firehouse traditions are changing.


                                               Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “They Gathered Only Twice: The Team of People Who Saved Two Lives”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

What Did You Do Last Weekend? A Look at the 2013 Fire Officer School

The general assembly listens to Fire Chief Nyle Zikmund.
On a recent snowy weekend, 211 firefighters from around the state gathered at the Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria for the Minnesota State Fire Chief’s Association Fire Officer School. By 8 a.m. on Saturday, the place was buzzing. The general session had started, announcements were made, and students and instructors were quickly connected and headed to their classrooms.

The school, now in its second year, offered ten tracks of education. Walking down the hallway, I could hear Chief Seal from Bloomington saying, “Watch what happens when this window is taken out.” A packed room of firefighters watched the video of a structure fire and observed how the fire changed with the increased ventilation resulting from the broken window. Chief Seal’s presentation, “The First Five Minutes,” had their full attention.

Around the corner, the next classroom was noisy as firefighters worked in teams to manage multiple emergency scenes using a simulated city and “toy firetrucks.” The class focused on the critical operational decision-making that occurs on the fire ground. The school offered classes in leadership and management, fire service management, special responses, wildfire training, customer service, and a certification review and testing. There was also a track on the operations and resources of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. I presented one of numerous modules in a class entitled “The New Fire Officers Primer.” The class was facilitated by Bruce West, and there was no downtime.

The Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria hosted the training.

Many of the firefighters brought their families with them. Once classes started, the spouses and kids headed to the indoor water park, the ice rink, sliding hill, fitness center, and the spa. The Tennis Center had been converted to accommodate the large assemblies and contained a vendor area and even a “Sparky the Fire Dog” jumping house for the kids.

Congratulations to the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs’ Association, Mark Hovland from Fergus Falls, and Bill Thoennes from Alexandria for hosting a very special event. It was high-quality training in a family-friendly environment. Great job, guys!


                                                 Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “A New Look for the Fire Service (New Helmets)”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Normalization of Deviance (If It Can Happen to NASA, It Can Happen to You)

The space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986.
Many of you remember where you were when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off in January of 1986. I remember where I was, and that I felt sick to my stomach. The cause of the catastrophe was determined to be the failure of the O-ring gaskets on one of the solid rocket boosters. In her book, The Challenger Launch Decision, sociologist Dr. Diane Vaughan examines why NASA allowed the launch to occur when they had overwhelming information that this was exactly what was going to happen. It is called the normalization of deviance, and it is deadly.

The normalization of deviance is defined as: “The gradual process through which unacceptable practice or standards become acceptable. As the deviant behavior is repeated without catastrophic results, it becomes the social norm for the organization.” Seven years after Dr. Vaughan’s book was published, it struck again. The shuttle Columbia came apart due to damage in its heat shield as it was re-entering the earth’s atmosphere, and seven more astronauts died. NASA had fallen prey to the normalization of deviance for a second time. Shuttles returning with damaged heat shields had become the norm.

Columbia is another example of the "normalization of deviance."

It’s not just NASA. It is the BP oil spill, the Upper Big Branch Coal mine, and it is in the health care system. It is in public safety too. It is when our first responders go for speed and efficiency, and they give up safety and accuracy. And the deviation slowly begins. It is when the shortcut gradually becomes the norm. We have all seen this in our organizations, and frequently we are lucky. But then luck runs out (or there are one or two complicating factors), people get hurt, and we wonder how “they” got that far off track. If it happened to NASA, it can happen to you.

The normalization of deviance will be a component of the all-day police track for the 2013 Loss Control Workshops. These workshops will be offered on the following dates and locations: March 26 in Mahnomen, March 27 in Alexandria, April 3 in Marshall, April 4 in Mankato, April 10 in Duluth, April 16 in Rochester, April 18 in Brooklyn Park, April 23 in St. Cloud, and April 25 in St. Paul. For registration and workshop information, visit


                                            Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next time: “A Report From the Minnesota Fire Chief’s Association Fire Officers School”

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.