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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Save the Dates for the 2017 Safety & Loss Control Workshops

The dates and locations have been announced for our 2017 Safety & Loss Control Workshops. These annual workshops offer training and information on a wide range of topics, with a focus on risk management for our member cities. 

Once again this year, we will be offering a police track during our morning sessions. More details will follow soon. Here is this year’s schedule:

March 29—Mahnomen
March 30—Alexandria
April 5—Morton
April 6—North Mankato
April 12—Rochester
April 18—St. Cloud
April 20—Brooklyn Park
April 25—Cohasset
April 27—St. Paul

Up next: High Tension Cable Median Barriers—Thankfully It Was There!

Stay safe,

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bloodborne Pathogens with Liz Tadsse

Time for some Q&A and a review on bloodborne pathogens with League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) Loss Control Consultant Liz Tadsse.

Q: Liz, what is the definition of a bloodborne pathogen?

A: Pathogenic microorganisms are present in human blood or other potentially infectious materials and can cause disease in humans.

Q: Which diseases are the most common? 

A: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Q: What constitutes an “exposure?” More specifically, does one of our first responders getting another person’s blood on their hand meet the criteria of an exposure?

A: It must involve skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may happen during the performance of an employee’s duties. Getting blood on your hand only becomes an exposure if you have a cut or open wound on your hand.

Q. What should a person do if they have a significant exposure to HIV or hepatitis?

A: Immediately report the incident to the employee’s supervisor and seek an immediate assessment and treatment from your employee health unit. If anti-HIV medication is indicated, it should be taken as soon as possible in order to reduce your risk of developing HIV.

Q. What preventative measures are appropriate? 

A. Preventative measures include using barriers such as gloves, gowns, and eye protection as appropriate. It is important to have safe handling procedures for needles and sharp instruments, as well as using devices with safety features if possible. Hepatitis B virus is largely preventable through vaccination.

For more information, here is a link to OSHA’s fact sheet on bloodborne pathogens.

Up next: A Quick Preview and Save the Date for the 2017 Spring Safety and Loss Control Workshops

Stay safe,

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The TSO Travels to Texas

Rob Boe helped EMS, fire, and police responders  work on
their safety briefings in Georgetown, Texas.
I recently traveled to Texas on behalf of the Training Safety Officer (TSO) program. The Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool (TMLIRP) hosted classes for their EMS, fire, and police membership at six locations around the state. The classes included a group project where the responders drafted and presented safety briefings to the class.

The safety briefing is core to the TSO program, as it lays out the training session’s safety controls, the EMS plan, required protective equipment, and outlines both acceptable and off-script behavior. The briefing also has a preventive effect on reducing training injuries and accidents since it requires thinking thoroughly through how to keep each trainee safe.

Using a checklist created by League of Minnesota Cities staff to draft their briefings, the attendees took the class to a high level and quickly volunteered to present to the class. A few expanded their briefings to include post-training safety points, including the clean-up to reduce lead exposure after being on the shooting range and many of elements of the firefighter cancer awareness program following live burns. There was some friendly “one-upmanship” as succeeding presentations built on the previous briefings, and a few responders even presented without using any notes.  

I thank the TMLIRP for their hospitality and for the opportunity to work with their membership.

If your department is interested in hosting a regional Train Safety Officer class, please contact me at (651) 281-1239 or

Up next: A Guest Blog by Loss Control Representative Liz Tadsse

Stay safe,

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mental Health First Aid and Keeping the Force Strong

 Mental Health First Aid
We want to thank Fairview Hospital systems and the Fairview Foundation for co-sponsoring the just-completed Mental Health First Aid classes for first responders. These nationally recognized courses brought first responders together for a full day of learning the facts and myths about mental illness. “This course saves lives” were the words of Fairview CEO David Murphy when he recently described the course. We thank all who attended—and a special thanks to all of the staff from Fairview and to our LMC training and conferences team who helped make this training happen.

Keeping the Force Strong
The St. Paul and Minneapolis Police Departments’ employee resource programs have once again teamed up with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to host an educational forum to address alcohol misuse by police officers. I attended the forum last year and highly recommend it. The presentations, panel discussions, and networking helps officers understand the science of addiction, approaches to treatment, and resources available. Register early, as last year’s forum was full!

For more information and to register, visit:

Up next: The TSO Travels to Texas

Stay safe,

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Public safety personnel operate in a world of VUCA.
What is VUCA? VUCA is an acronym for describing situations that are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. The U.S. Army War College began to study how to lead and operate in VUCA environments in the 1990’s. Understanding VUCA is important to the military, the business world, and particularly public safety. VUCA is driven by multiple factors, but the main forces are the impacts of advancing technologies.

EMS responders, firefighters, and police officers work in VUCA environments all the time. They respond to chaotic and dangerous incidents by “working the problem” as they restore order, and bring calm and caring.

Public safety administrators and chiefs manage, plan, and lead in VUCA environments as they learn to deal with changes. Changes in their communities, in their workforce, in their call loads, and in the types of calls their staff handles all contribute to VUCA. And it is changes in technology that impact their equipment, their knowledge, and even the view that the world now has of many local public safety calls.

Learning to work in VUCA requires:

  • Situational Awareness - In both the long term and short term, VUCA fuels a need for information, risk identification, analysis, and monitoring. It’s knowing and working with your communities and your schools that will increase understanding of the changes. It is active fire inspection and prevention, community medic programs, and community policing. Increased situational awareness can bring clarity to VUCA environments.

  • Knowledge of Your Values - Both your organization’s values and your personal values are affected. VUCA environments are incredibly challenging places in which to operate. Leadership in these environments requires a strong vision—and a vision shared by the team members. In an article on VUCA, Russ Linden used this helpful phrase: “It’s keeping the main thing the main thing.”

  • Being Agile - Agility is closely linked to the above skills as you adjust to new information while keeping the compass on your values. It’s about watching, assessing, and adjusting. Agility requires having as many tools in the mental tool box as you can carry so that you have options.

  • Being Collaborative - This refers to listening to the views of team members and the community. Once again we see the importance of personal and professional relationships and in keeping people first. 

And it is about the phrase we have used in public safety for years: “We eat the elephant one bite at time.”

Up next: Some thoughts from the Mental Health First Aid Workshops

Stay safe,

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Waffle House Index

Craig Fuguate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been quoted as saying: “If you get to a town after a disaster and the Waffle House is closed, that’s really bad—that’s where you go to work.”

The Waffle House chain of restaurants are located in the southern portion of the U.S. and are subsequently impacted by hurricanes and tornadoes. The company has developed a risk management and disaster preparedness planning that allows them to stay open or quickly get reopen after a disaster strikes. The stories are legendary and come from hurricanes with names like Katrina and Irene, and the names of cities hit by tornados such as Moore, OK or Joplin, MO.

How do they do it? It is a mixture of situational awareness, a company culture, planning, and agility. For hurricanes the planning dictates that food supplies are increased and staged, and generators are moved into place. Tornadoes do not allow much warning time, and their response is more reactionary—including borrowing staff from stores in non-impacted areas, working with their suppliers, and the commitment of their employees to get the restaurant up and running.

FEMA has a color scale for their Waffle House Index:

Green—the restaurants are open and serving a full menu, which means they have power and the damage is limited.

Yellow—the restaurants are open and serving a limited menu, which means there may be no power or limited generator power, and food supplies may be low.

Red—the restaurant is closed, indicating severe damage in that area.

The Waffle House restaurants are equipped with disaster recovery plans that explain how to keep the business open in the event of a disaster, and because of that it is rare for the index to hit red.

The Waffle House experience shows how a company has learned to survive and thrive when things become Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex, and Ambiguous. It’s called VUCA, and it is the subject of the next blog.

Up next: More on VUCA

Stay safe,

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Social Media Assisted Career Suicide

Social Media Assisted Career Suicide: this phrase is credited to Dave Statter of It refers to employees who find themselves in hot water in the workplace as a result of posting their thoughts and opinions on their social media accounts.

I reached out to Joyce Hottinger and Laura Kushner from our Human Resources (HR) department for a Q&A on this timely topic. In addition to assisting LMC and LMCIT with our organizations’ questions, our HR team also provides information to our membership including EMS, fire, and police departments.

Here is our conversation:

Question: In your line of work, you’ve likely seen some otherwise smart folks become pretty stupid using social media and ruining their careers. Can you tell us the worst instance you’ve seen or heard about?

Answer: It’s so hard to choose, and “worst” is a relative term. Worst from whose perspective—the employee or the employer? But if I have to choose, how about the person who tweeted that she was just taking a job offer for the money because the work itself sounded dull and boring, then had the job offer rescinded because her new boss saw the tweet.

Question: Why is this not protected as a freedom under the first amendment?

Answer: Well, I’m not an attorney, but my understanding is that in some cases it is a protected freedom—but not in all cases. So, an employee might be protected if they are commenting on matters of public concern, just like any other taxpayer. For example, if an employee posts on social media that they are less than pleased about the use of tax dollars for a basket weaving class at the Community Center, that might be protected. Posting comments that your supervisor “wears clothes from the 1970’s and that’s just weird” is another story.

Public employees may also be protected when they are communicating their views on working conditions or their pay and benefits, particularly as part of a group activity involving coworkers. To delineate the issue: an employee’s comments on social media are probably not protected if they are mere gripes and not made in relation to group activity among employees.

Question: Can a first responder post information about a call they handled, even if they are not expressing an opinion?

Answer: Generally speaking, I’d say no because in most cases the employee would not have had access to the information unless it was obtained through the scope of their job duties. It’s also very likely that information is classified as non-public information under MN Data Practices, and in some cases it may also be considered Protected Health Information under HIPAA.

Overlaying all that is a major concern that social media posts about incidents that first responders are called to can damage the integrity and core values offered through city services. In many cases citizens are at their most vulnerable moments when calling for a first responder, and knowing those moments can be fodder for an employee’s later social media posts can greatly undermine the integrity and professionalism departments hold in such high value.

Several cities have implemented policies notifying first responder personnel that the images they come across in their duties are owned by the city—so they need to be passed along to the correct personnel if needed as part of an investigation, for example, and in no way are to be used for personal social media sites. While we are talking about policies, remember it’s not always enough to have the policy: training employees about what is expected and what’s not okay is equally important.

Question: Is this a case-by-case situation depending on the information posted?

Answer: Yes, you nailed it. Whoever is making the judgment call—be it an arbitrator, a court, a jury, a civil service commission, or the city manager—they will all have to balance the employee’s rights and freedoms against the city’s interest in delivering its services to residents. Again, very complex stuff.

Question: What guidelines do you recommend for EMS, fire, and police responders and their administrations?

Answer: First and foremost, develop a policy and follow it. (The League has a model social media policy and a model social media policy for fire departments and EMS, as well as helpful information on the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act in the Fire Department Management and Liability memo.) Next, educate your employees about what the policy says, and be prepared to get help when situations come up. I haven’t gotten a call yet at the League on a social media situation that wasn’t a little bit tricky. I nearly always get help from our attorneys on these issues.

Bottom line: employees should be thoughtful about what they put on social media. Don’t hit that “post” or “tweet” button until you’ve thought through any potential consequences. And supervisors should be careful about their reactions when it comes to social media—in other words: don’t react right away, take your time, and get some help.

A big thanks to Laura and Joyce for their contributions to this topic!

Up Next: The “Waffle House Index”

Stay safe,

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Body Camera Policy and Free Webinar

Law changes that became effective August 1st place several new requirements on police agencies implementing and administering a body-worn camera (BWC) policy. As a result, LMCIT has revised its guidance and model policy on BWCs. As with previous iterations, this policy was developed in conjunction with several Minnesota policing agencies and the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota Association of City Attorneys, Minnesota County Attorneys Association. A FAQ has also been created to help you understand the new law.

The League will be hosting a live webinar Tuesday, August 30 from 1-2 p.m. to go over how to handle data and public input under this new law. Whether your department has a current BWC policy or is considering implementing one, this webinar will cover key information, including:

  • Actions you need to take when adopting a BWC program, or administering a current one
  • The potential pitfalls in data retention and release
  • How your police department can address community concerns about data privacy and accountability
  • What kind of public input you need before purchasing or implementing a program

Find out more about and register for this webinar by 12 p.m. on August 30.

Up next: It's Called SMACS (Social Media-Assisted Career Suicide)

Stay safe,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fentanyl—Even More Dangerous Than You Think

For immediate review at your next roll call, shift briefing or training.

The words jump out at you. “Fentanyl can kill you. Fentanyl is being sold as heroin in virtually every corner of the country.” The words are from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warning issued June 10, 2016.

Here are more phrases from the warning:

“During the last two years, the distribution of clandestinely manufactured fentanyl has been linked to an unprecedented outbreak of overdoes and deaths.” 

“Fentanyl is not only dangerous to the drug’s users but for law enforcement, public health workers, and first responders who could unknowingly come into contact with it in its different forms.” 

“Fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin…and is up to 50 times more potent than heroin.”

The DEA has prepared a video that I urge you to view at your next roll call, shift briefing, department training, and safety committee. The video is titled the “DEA Fentanyl Roll Call Video,” and it is critical that all law enforcement, EMS, and fire first responders view this important information:

You may also find additional information on the DEA website at

Up next: It’s Called SMACS (Social Media Assisted Career Suicide)

Stay safe,

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mental Health First Aid Workshops Available for Police and EMS First Responders

Registration is open for our upcoming Mental Health First Aid Workshops!

Mental Health First Aid* is a public education program that introduces you to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and reviews appropriate supports.

During this hands-on training, you’ll use role playing and simulations to discover how to offer initial help in a mental health crisis and connect people to the appropriate professional, peer, social, and self-help care. You will also explore common risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, substance use, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.

Like CPR, this workshop will prepare you to interact with a person in crisis and will give you answers to questions such as, “What do I do?” and “Where can someone find help?” You will learn a five-step action plan (spelled out below via an acronym known as ALGEE) to support someone developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or experiencing an emotional crisis:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm 
  • Listen nonjudgmentally 
  • Give reassurance and information 
  • Encourage appropriate professional help 
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Workshops will be held:

Sept. 21—Burnsville
Sept. 28—Eden Prairie
Oct. 4—New Brighton
Oct. 11—Milaca
Oct. 17—Hibbing

Read more about and register for this workshop!

Up next: Fentanyl—Even More Dangerous Than You Think

Stay safe,

*This workshop is being done in partnership with Fairview Health Services and the Fairview Foundation, and will be presented by Fairview's certified Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructors. Improving the health of the communities they serve is the cornerstone of Fairview Health Services non-profit mission. To better understand the needs of those communities, in 2015 Fairview conducted Community Health Needs Assessments for all six Fairview hospitals. Results of these assessments showed that concerns about mental health and well-being topped the list of prioritized community health needs at all six hospitals. Their commitment to the Mental Health First Aid program is one way they are responding to our local communities in response to these concerns. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Training Safety Officer (TSO) Program Goes to Kentucky

The Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Center for Criminal Justice Training (CCJT) recently hosted a Training Safety Officer (TSO) class in Richmond, Kentucky. The new commissioner for the CCJT academy is Mark Filburn, who was previously the law enforcement coordinator for the Kentucky League. Mark is a believer in the TSO program and plans to implement it in all of their active training sessions.

The 60-65 students who attended were from the academy staff, as well as certified instructors from area police departments and sheriffs’ offices. After the classroom portion of the training, they worked in small groups to conduct a risk assessment of training sessions and of their training sites. Using that information, they prepared a safety briefing and a few were selected to present their briefing to the class.

We have learned that the safety briefing is the foundation for reducing and preventing injuries in law enforcement training. As with past classes, the briefings got better and better as they incorporated ideas from other presentations.

We have information on the program on our website at: If your region would like to schedule a class—or if you would like more information—contact me at (651) 281-1238 or

Up next: Registration Information on the Mental Health Fire Aid Classes for police Officers and EMS First Responders

Stay safe,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Fire Truck with a History

The LeSueur Fire Department had a problem. Their 1979 ladder truck was out of date and was costing them a good deal of money every time it went through its yearly inspection, as parts were failing and those parts had to be replaced to keep the truck in service. And like many departments, there was no money in the budget to replace it, as a new ladder truck can easily cost over $1 million.

Fire Chief Tom Obele turned to the department’s “truck guys” who worked together scouring the internet for a suitable used truck that would fit in to their fire station. They found four trucks that looked like they might work and continued doing their research until they had it down to one. They settled on a 1993 Simon Duplex with a 100-foot LTI platform. The truck was in Somerset, Pennsylvania and the price was $75,000.

Now it gets interesting.

Chief Obele was beginning a campaign to raise money from the city’s businesses to buy the truck. He was going to focus on the businesses that would potentially benefit from the city having a truck that could handle fire and rescue responses to their buildings. LeSueur, Inc. is a multi-generational family foundry business in the city of LeSueur, and they agreed to donate the money to pay for the truck and cover the expenses for a group of firefighters to pick it up and drive it back.

As they prepared for the trip, they learned that their “new” fire truck had been at the scene of September 11 United Airlines Flight 93 plane crash in nearby Shanksville Pennsylvania. The truck and the crew from Somerset had been assigned to “decon”—the decontamination of people and equipment at the site. It’s one of those important jobs that somebody has to do and is usually done in a restricted area.

When they arrived to pick up the truck, they said “it was loaded.” Fire departments usually remove the portable equipment off a truck when it is sold, and that was what the LeSueur firefighters had expected. However, Somerset had the truck turnkey ready and they included extra ladders, nozzles, hoses, pike poles, and hand tools.

It is interesting how it came together. The internet search, the generous gift from LeSueur Inc., the truck full of equipment, and the truck’s role at one of our nation’s historic and tragic events.

Up next: The TSO Class in Kentucky

Stay safe,

Monday, May 16, 2016

New LMCIT Public Safety Resources Online

The League of Minnesota Cites now has two new informative documents online—one a model policy for police departments with in-car camera systems, and the other a memo packed with tips on keeping your city’s computers safe:

LMCIT Model In-Car Cameras Policy

For police departments with in-car camera systems, we have a new model policy available. It is similar to the officer-worn camera policy in its format and allows police departments to customize the document to fit their needs and equipment. The model policy is marked with comments on the different approaches set forth:

LMC Computer and Network Loss Control Memo

There is also a new information memo on computer safety. Learn some of the risks in storing and sharing city data on computers—including portable devices. Find out how to protect your city from common risks such as data breaches, virus contamination, hacker attacks, and computer misuse by employees. Understand issues presented by social media such as Facebook, blogs, and Twitter, and get links to a model employee computer use policy:

Up Next: A Fire Truck with a History

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Hearing Protection

“Final check for ears and eyes!” The firearms instructor shouts those directions as she verifies that all of the officers on the shooting range have their hearing and eye protection in place. A nod from the safety officer confirms that everyone has their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on. Only after that confirmation does the instructor move on to the day’s firearms training or qualification. That ritual is so routine that most officers do not even think about it—it’s automatic.

But what about the safety check for PPE before an officer shoots an injured animal such as a deer that has been hit by car? Often those same officers forget or don’t think about using their safety equipment when they are not at the range. Why? Are they in a hurry, or do they not have the equipment with them in the squad car?

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) officer injury statistics don’t tell us why, but they do tell us that many officers report hearing injures on these calls when hearing protection was not used. In addition to the officer shooting, it is sometimes an officer standing nearby that reports being injured.

The solution:

  • Make sure every officer has quick access to hearing and eye protection. Whether it is part of the squad car’s standard equipment or individually issued to the officer, this safety equipment has uses beyond the firearms range.
  • Follow the same procedures and use the exact same words used at the shooting range when shooting an animal. “Final check for ears and eyes” should be loudly announced so all officers can get their safety equipment on and prepare for the shot.
  • Designate an officer to be the safety officer to verify everyone has their PPE in place and to watch over the entire scene. It is very easy to be focusing on the animal with no one watching the big picture, including the perimeter or traffic.
Repeating the same words used at the range and having access to the proper PPE can reduce these unnecessary injuries. Eye and hearing protection is not limited only to one location.

Up Next: New Online LMCIT Public Safety Resources

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Medical Cannabis and Minnesota Police Officers

The Office of Medical Cannabis is a division
of the Minnesota Department of Public Health.
The Minnesota Medical Cannabis Act creates some issues for cities as employers—including police departments. The law contains some broad and important legal protections for employees who are approved by the state to use medical cannabis. Medical cannabis may be used to treat a variety of health conditions under certain controlled conditions, including Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, intractable pain, and more.

While state law allows the use of medical cannabis, police officers are still regulated by a few special provisions under federal law. Public safety employees who carry a firearm cannot lawfully use medical cannabis under federal law. In addition, federal law prohibits cities from providing firearms or ammunition to employees it knows or has reason to know are using cannabis.

This new area of the law can be difficult for police department managers to navigate. LMCIT has put together a memo entitled “City Employment Issues and Medical Cannabis in Minnesota” that covers all employees broadly—and police employees specifically. The memo can be found at this link:

It is important for employers to note that Minnesota’s medical cannabis law is unique from other state laws in the depth and breadth of its protections. As a result, non-Minnesota specific guidance on the issue can be misleading.

Up Next: Hearing Protection and Injured Animals

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Off-Duty Rescue

Pictured L to R: Officer Metcalf, Chief Stark, and
Ambulance Director John Fox
The headline in the Winona Daily News tells part of the story: “Wabasha police officer helps save life at basketball game.” Police officers save lives with some frequency, but it is exemplary when they do it while they are off duty.

On the afternoon of Friday, February 19, Wabasha Police Officer Dan Metcalf was getting ready to referee a game at the Wabasha Kellogg High School. He is the school liaison officer, and he also referees basketball games. As the game was about to begin, Dan heard fans in the stands calling his name and trying to get his attention. Wabasha Police Chief Joe Stark said, “It’s a small town, and everyone knows him.”

Metcalf went up into the stands and found a 64-year-old woman had collapsed and did not have a pulse. Metcalf and some of the people in the crowd carried the woman down to the gym floor. Metcalf requested that someone call 911 and get an AED (automated external defribillator).

Metcalf began CPR until one of the students arrived with the AED. He applied the AED and delivered one shock. It had no apparent effect. He continued CPR, and about a minute later the moment you always hope for happened. The woman gasped. She was regaining consciousness, and her heart had started working.

Metcalf stayed with her until the ambulance arrived. The woman was taken to the local hospital and then flown by helicopter to St. Mary’s in Rochester. She is doing well and has returned to work.

Dan received a lifesaving award from the city and from the ambulance service. The woman he saved attended the ceremony, and Ambulance Director John Fox used the moment to stress the importance of starting CPR immediately upon determining that a person is in cardiac arrest—as well as the quick application of an AED.

And yes, after the ambulance left, Metcalf went back to the gym and refereed the game.

Up Next: Medical Cannabis and The Workplace

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ransomware Protection

A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted the issues of ransomware for cities and their police departments. Below is a guest blog by Greg Van Wormer, LMC’s Assistant Technology Services Director, on how to protect your department and city from ransomware.

It doesn’t seem like we can go a day without hearing about another entity hit by ransomware. A type of malware that restricts access to the infected computer system in some way, ransomware demands that the user pay a ransom to the malware operators to remove the restriction.

Lately it appears many public agencies, such as law enforcement, are targets of ransomware attacks. Protecting computers and networks from ransomware is pretty much the same as protecting from viruses and malware in general. Below is a brief list of steps you should take to help protect your computers and network.

  1. Back up your systems on a daily basis. This includes cloud-based services. Make sure you can restore data if a system is compromised.
  2. Install updates as soon as possible. On end user equipment, critical updates should be installed as they’re released.
  3. Limit people’s access to their computers. Don’t allow end users to have local administrative rights. This means end users and a large number of viruses are unable to install software without first gaining administrative access.
    Greg Van Wormer
  4. Limit data access to only what users need to do their job. If a user only needs to view data and not change it, make sure they can only view the data. Ransomware can only encrypt or take hostage data if change or write rights are granted.
  5. Filter email for executable code and other malicious attachments. If you’re using online services like Office 365 or Google Apps, this is usually part of their service.
  6. Use firewalls, both on your network and on local computers.
  7. Use anti-virus.
  8. Separate any public wireless network from the network used for city business. (And avoid using wireless networks whenever possible.)
  9. Educate employees to not click on unknown links, download unknown documents, and be cautious with email.

For more information on keeping city computer networks safe, please see our memo on Computer and Network Loss Control, or join us for the Technology Track at our 2016 Safety & Loss Control Workshops.

Up Next: The Off-Duty Rescue

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Police Liability Surveys

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”—Abraham Lincoln.

That well known quote speaks volumes about public safety work: It’s all about being ready, prepared, and having the tools to do the job. It’s about doing work ahead of time to ensure the task can be managed.

The LMCIT Police Liability Surveys are free and
only take 90 minutes to complete.
Well, the same is true for police liability; you need to be sure your risk management strategies have a solid foundation. LMCIT has a new tool for police departments that will help them gauge their readiness. The Police Liability Surveys have just been released as a tool for police administrators to assess their liability, and it offers advice in areas that need improvement.

AND it’s free.

The surveys were developed by Tracy Stille, a public safety specialist from our loss control staff. These surveys actually consist of three separate surveys administered over a period of several years. The first survey deals with police operations liability, the second survey with police employment liability, and the third survey covers workplace injuries and safety.

The liability surveys are designed to identify best practices and aid cities/police departments in loss control prevention strategies and best practices currently in place and/or absent within law enforcement agencies in order to help reduce exposure to police liability and workplace injuries.

To schedule a survey, contact Tracy Stille
at or 
(651) 215-4051.
The survey takes about 90 minutes to complete. If you would like more information, or if you would like to schedule a police liability survey, contact Tracy Stille at the League of MN Cities Insurance Trust at or (651) 215-4051.

Up Next: Ransomware Protection

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Firefighter Recruitment and Background Checks

A Guest Blog by LMCIT Field Consultant Troy Walsh

Recruiting firefighters should be an
everyday task.
With the number of firefighters decreasing, and continued services increasing, fire departments are always looking for new firefighters. Many municipalities across the state are looking and actively recruiting firefighters to fill open positions and looking toward the future when our 20-30 years-of-service members retire.

How are you recruiting members? And what are you doing to make sure that you’re getting the best qualified applicants?

Firefighter recruitment is a top
There are a variety of ways to recruit members, such as social media, newspaper, fliers, banners, or even adding “Now Recruiting Firefighters” magnets to your fire trucks. Part of the message is that you need to recruit every day, on every call, and at every event. Whatever your process is, hopefully you are getting eager applicants that are going to be positive and ready to serve their communities.

Background Checks 
When we think of new firefighters, we budget for their training and to equip them with the proper turnout gear and PPE. We instruct them on the department’s policies and procedures for responding to calls. But how many of you are completing a criminal background check on your new applicants?

Troy Walsh
State Statute 299F.035 requires background checks on every firefighter recruit. When you are recruiting and hiring firefighters it is important to use a formal application process, and don’t forget that prior to hiring there needs to be a background check. Adding background checks to your application process, and having a written application process, will greatly reduce the risk of hiring an individual with a criminal history and opening up the city for liability claims. To read the statute, visit

Up Next: The New Police Liability Survey

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Mental Health First Aid

Guest blog by LMCIT Public Safety Specialist Tracy Stille

Would you be able to recognize the signs of someone having a mental or emotional crisis? Would you stop to assist this person, or would you consider behavioral health issues too personal for your intervention? What does depression or a panic attack look like? What would you say to someone who says they are thinking about suicide?

It’s somewhat easy to tell when someone is having a heart attack or is choking—and you may know CPR and the Heimlich maneuver—but can you administer first aid in a mental health crisis?

All of these are good questions when dealing with someone who is suffering a mental or emotional crisis, as one in five Americans has a mental illness—and many are reluctant to seek help, or might not know where to turn for care. As a society, we largely remain ignorant about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, and we ignore our role as responsible community members and public safety professionals to help people experiencing these illnesses.

With the goal of making mental health first aid training as familiar as CPR first aid training, half a million people across the country (including me) have taken the new training, “Mental Health First Aid.” Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour training course that teaches you how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.
Tracy Stille

I completed the training and three-year certification this past October at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina. I went into the training with a general knowledge of mental health issues, but I walked away much more informed and aware of these issues that affect many people every day. One clear message that was delivered was that Mental Health First Aid helps first responders gain awareness and is a public education program that can help individuals across the community to understand mental illnesses, support timely intervention, and save lives.

Mental Health First Aid Training

In 2008, the National Council for Behavioral Health brought Mental Health First Aid to community members and business leaders, health and human services staff, police officers, first responders, corrections officers, and other public safety professionals to help them better understand mental illnesses and addictions, and provide them with effective response options to deescalate incidents without compromising safety. If you are interested in having some of your public safety officers (police and fire) attend this training—or perhaps receive training as an instructor—here is the link to their website:

If you are interested in the free training currently being offered at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, MN, contact Tiffany Utke at (612) 706-4566 or A waiting list is currently being established for the next training class, which is scheduled for February 22, 2016 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you have any questions or comments for me, please reach out to or (651) 215-4051.

                                       Remember:  Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up Next: Firefighter Retention, Recruitment and Background Checks

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, February 1, 2016

PATROL DWI Special Bulletin

From time to time, we provide the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust’s PATROL online peace officer training membership with a “Special Bulletin” involving recent case-law decisions immediately impacting law enforcement. Recently, the issues of DWI testing laws and test refusal charges have surfaced. We encourage you to review the following Special Bulletin on this issue (you can also find it in the online PATROL Library):

This Bulletin includes more information about the U.S. Supreme Court’s review of a breath test refusal case from Minnesota, and the Minnesota Supreme Court’s consideration of a blood test refusal decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals. These reviews are pending, which means we're in an environment of legal uncertainty, but we've provided some general practice tips for dealing with the many unknowns.

As always, we urge you to talk with your prosecutors about what you should be doing in your own jurisdiction.

Up next: Mental Health First Aid

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Drones—What’s Up

The technology and regulation related to drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), continues to be a moving target. League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) research attorney Quinn O’Reilly continues to follow the changes and recently published this article:

Quinn’s Update—Public vs. Private Use of Drones
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced a new online registration system for recreational Unmanned Aircraft Systems, often called “drones.” Information on the program can be found here: Though city residents using drones for hobby uses will likely need to register using this website, drones used by cities for public purposes may not be registered using the new site.

Any city interested in utilizing a drone for any public use must follow the procedures the FAA has established, which can be reviewed here: While there is a registration process for government-owned drones, the registration can only be done in paper form and not using the new online system.
Quinn O'Reilly

Drones are a new and exciting area of the law, but regulations are quickly changing. The FAA has been tasked with working to incorporate drones safely into U.S. airspace. The new registration requirement for hobbyist users is one of the methods the FAA is utilizing to ensure safety in the skies, as well as the safety of individuals on the ground. The registration will assist the FAA in its task to ensure those piloting drones are following the rule of law and are flying safely.

If you have any questions regarding drones or the FAA’s regulations, please contact Quinn O’Reilly at, or the FAA office in Minneapolis at (612) 253-4400.

Drone Guidance for Law Enforcement
On January 8, the FAA released UAS Guidance for Law Enforcement. The document reads: “State and local police are often in the best position to immediately investigate unauthorized UAS operations and, as appropriate, to stop them. The document explains how first responders and others can provide invaluable assistance to the FAA by:
  • Identifying potential witnesses and conducting initial interviews
  • Contacting the suspected operators of the UAS or model aircraft
  • Viewing and recording the location of the event
  • Collecting evidence
  • Identifying if the UAS operation was in a sensitive location, event, or activity
  • Notifying one of the FAA’s Regional Operation Centers about the operation as soon as possible”
The contact information for the FAA Regional Center for Minnesota is (817) 222-5006 and

More information, the full guidance document, information about sporting events, and frequently asked questions can be found here:

Up next: Mental Health First Aid

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Stretch ‘N Bend Program for Police: 2015 IACP CONFERENCE

LMCIT Public Safety Specialist Tracy Stille,
pictured at the 2015 IACP Conference.
Guest blog by LMCIT Public Safety Specialist Tracy Stille

I was invited to attend the 2015 IACP Conference in Chicago, Illinois this past October and walked away with many ideas after having countless conversations for improving the health and wellness of sworn police officers, as well as non-sworn police staff.

I presented in the IACP Wellness Zone on the Stretch ‘N Bend Program for Police. This is a program that is being promoted by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) and was created to reduce worker injuries. It is modeled after the Stretch ‘N Bend program of Mortenson Construction.

With the help of a roll-call PowerPoint presentation showing how to complete the exercises, the Stretch ‘N Bend is an onsite stretching program that encourages all employees to participate. With a goal to reduce—if not eliminate—worker injuries, the exercise program has been requested by many police and fire departments, and the feedback has been positive.

It is recommended that the Stretch ‘N Bend program be conducted during the shift briefings that most police and fire departments hold. These stretching programs typically do not last longer than 10 minutes and are led by a designated volunteer or shift supervisor. 

Some of the benefits of taking the time to stretch your muscles are that stretching prepares your body for work activities, increases your flexibility, promotes better blood circulation, improves your range of motion, enhances muscle coordination and body awareness, delays muscle fatigue, reduces the incidence and severity of injury, and increases team morale.

Free Stretch ‘N Bend Program PowerPoint

Would you be interested in learning more about this Stretch ‘N Bend program for everyday use within your police or fire department? Please email me, and I will send you a free PowerPoint template that outlines the exercise program and can be personalized for your agency’s use.

You can send your requests, questions, or comments to or (651) 215-4051.

                                     Remember: Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up Next: Drones, What’s Up?

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.