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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Role Players: Active Shooter Exercises and Mock Crashes

The 2014 Safety and Loss Control Workshops have concluded. We thank all of the approximately 1,200 attendees for their active participation and feedback.

Role players are a valuable training tool, but they must be
managed—especially when in a school setting.
One of the topics mentioned in the Training Safety Officer (TSO) course was the need to supervise and closely monitor role players in active shooter exercises—particularly when the exercise is held at a school. The topic became the subject of a couple of after-class discussions, as firefighters and police officers recounted incidents of role players going “off script.” The stories included incidents of this behavior happening at mock crash enactments as well, which are also sometimes conducted at schools.

There are multiple reasons why role players go off script—including boredom, inexperience, and (in some cases) a chance to perform in front of an audience. The reality is that off-script behavior does occur, and it needs to be managed. 

We encourage all departments involved in mock crashes or active shooter exercises this spring to be diligent about the use of safety officers. The lead instructor and the safety officer need to conduct a risk assessment of the exercise well ahead of the event, and they need cover the operational rules during their safety briefing.

Active shooter exercises and mock crashes will
require multiple safety officers.
Role players—particularly student role players—need to be carefully coached before the exercise and closely monitored during it. Consider assigning multiple safety officers to ensure that the role players do not start improvising.

You can control the human actions, and you can provide a safe environment for these events. Failure to control these exercises may have long-lasting repercussions for your city and/or your school district. If you want more information on the TSO program, contact me at


Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…IPAD's Law Enforcement Data Workshop

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Discussions at the Workshops: “Smartphones, Social Media, and Digital Cameras”

Both the fire and police tracks discuss smartphones,
social media, and digital camera issues.
The Safety & Loss Control Workshops are off and running. Consistent themes of discussion in both the fire and police track classes has been on the subject of smartphones, social media, and digital photos. The topic is formally on the agenda in both tracks, and the interest and discussion has been continuing well after class.

Litigation and Claims Special Counsel Jack Hennen addresses the subjects in his fire track presentation, “Avoiding the Big Hurt.” The subjects are also part of our human resources department’s presentation, “Avoiding the Burn—Hot HR Topics for Fire Departments.” In the police track, these subjects are part of “Keeping the Horse In Front of the Cart,” which deals with rapidly changing technology.

While each of these topics is different, there are four common themes among them:

#1. If the technology is used while working, it is most likely gathering government data. Body cameras, helmet cams, photos, text messages, and phone calls are all subject to the law. It does not matter who owns the device—it is all about the data. If it is work-related, it is government data.

#2. Government data must be maintained pursuant to the requirements of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. That includes storage, classification, and retention. Failure to follow the Act can result in adverse consequences for both the individuals involved and the city.

Jack Hennen instructs "Avoiding the Big Hurt" in Duluth.
#3. Before there is a release, dissemination, or posting of any government data or images, the department should consult with their “responsible authority” as defined in the Act.

#4. “Just because you can does not mean you should.” New information technology has made it very easy and fast to capture data, send data, and post data. The phrase “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should” is an ethical reminder about gathering and handling data.

The League now has a model social media policy for fire departments. It is part of Jack’s presentation, and you can email me at if you would like a copy.

                                             Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…The Final Report for the 2014 Safety & Loss Control Workshops

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, April 7, 2014

The Conversation at Lunch: Body Armor on the Shooting Range

Shakopee officers put on body armor before heading
to the range at the SCALE Regional Training Center.
Does your police department require everyone on the shooting range to wear body armor? That was the conversation at lunch at one of the recent loss control workshops. The answer for a number of officers at the table was “no.”

“It’s crazy that we don’t,” was one of the remarks. Another officer added: “It’s the one day you know you are going to be around gunfire.” While range officers and safety officers do everything they can to prevent accidental discharges and they very rarely happen, they still do happen. We also have officers injured when a bullet strikes something in the backstop and pieces of it ricochet back at the officers. It happens.

The discussion began to focus on why? Some thought that because many of the officers are off duty and in civilian clothes, that somehow translates into the idea that they don’t need their vest. But body armor and shooting ranges go together, just like body armor and uniforms go together. 

Body armor needs to be mandatory for everyone at the range, and it needs to be a policy. If it is not department policy, make it your policy. On that we had complete agreement!


                                                    Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…More Conversation From the Workshops

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.