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DISCRIMINATORY HARASSMENT TOPS LIST OF
LEXIPOL’S 2018 FIREFIGHTER TRAINING TOPICS
Issues of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation have received increasing attention in the fire service in recent years. So it’s no surprise that discriminatory harassment was the top training topic represented in Lexipol’s Daily Training Bulletin (DTB) program for fire departments in 2018.
Departments using the DTB program had access to 120 unique firefighter training bulletins last year, providing nearly 4 hours of training. Lexipol strives to keep the training program closely associated with issues making headlines in the fire service.
An end-of-year summary from Lexipol organizes the training topics into 11 main categories and more than 100 subtopics. General Operations accounted for 26% of the DTBs, featuring subtopics such as fireground accountability, emergency driving and hazmat response. Personnel topics accounted for 21% of the DTBs issued. In addition to discriminatory harassment, this category includes subtopics such as modified duty assignments, promotions and transfers, and outside employment. Safety (9%) and Training (8%) were the third- and fourth-highest categories, respectively.
DTBs use a proven system of realistic and verifiable training to expose firefighters to their department’s policies and help them apply policy to real-world situations. The bulletins are authored by Lexipol’s Training Team and use scenarios to bring policy to life and enhance firefighter understanding of their policies.
“Our Training Team members are current and former fire department instructors, so we benefit from a wealth of practical knowledge relating to critical topics such as firefighter safety, technical rescue, and conduct and behavior,” says Don Weaver, Training Director for Lexipol. “We design our training bulletins to focus on a specific aspect of the department’s policy and present them in the form of scenarios because we know this helps enhance learning retention— the firefighters are being asked to consider how their policy works in the real world.” The DTB program also takes into consideration current events and emerging trends.
To access the complete listing of 2018 topics, click here.
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THE MOST CHALLENGING SHIFT YOU’LL WORK
Preparing for public safety retirement
By Shirl Tyner
Some people think about it from time to time. Some people dream about it. Some people can’t even imagine it. Some people already did it. What, you ask? Retirement. Are you ready?
After a career in public safety, you probably have an idea of the legacy you’ve built and the effect your departure will have on the agency. But have you thought about the impact leaving will have on you? Public safety agencies prepare for retirements though succession plans, but most do a very poor job preparing the actual retirees. And this matters, because retirement is not easy.
Dying for the Job
Perhaps public safety retirement is not easy because working in public safety itself is not easy. We lack good statistics about suicide among public safety personnel, but what we do know is alarming. Police and firefighters rank sixth on the Center for Disease Control’s list of occupations by suicide. One study showed firefighters are three times more likely to die from suicide than a line-of-duty death, and the number of firefighters lost to suicide has increased each year for the last five years. The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance has documented 175 firefighter retiree suicides—36 of whom took their lives in the first week of retirement.
It’s even worse for law enforcement. The occupational fatality rate of law enforcement officers is three to five times greater than the national average. As John Violanti documented in his 2014 book, Dying for the Job, male officers commit suicide at a rate 8.3 times greater than those who are murdered on the job, 3.1 times greater than those killed in work accidents, and 4 times greater than firefighters.
Contributing factors to suicide by public safety employees include:
- Shift work and sleep disorders. In addition to increasing your risk of arteriosclerosis, hypertension and cardiac problems, shift work has a recognized impact on psychological health. Officers working non-day shifts are 14 times more likely to sleep less than 6 hours per day and a 40-year-old study of suicide links shift work with suicidal ideation.
- Alcohol abuse. Although studies vary, some have shown as many as 25 percent of law enforcement officers in the United States abuse alcohol. Firefighters binge drink twice as often as the general population.
- PTSD and emotional trauma. Often, alcohol abuse among public safety personnel is an attempt to escape the emotional suffering of the job. None of us is immune to the stress caused by a career’s worth of emergency calls. For some, that stress becomes debilitating.
These contributing factors don’t disappear with retirement. In fact, they may get worse. In a way, retiring from public safety is much like a grieving process. We have made differences in people’s lives and when we retire it’s easy to lose that sense of purpose and believe our lives no longer have the same value. We feel like something has been taken from us and we lose our identity.
Note: Among all these statistics about firefighters and law enforcement officers, what is missing? If you said civilian employees, volunteers, support staff, EMTs, nurses, etc., you’re right! The number of people affected goes way up when you include—as we should—all members of public safety.
The Next Big Change
When we think about retirement, we think about the things we look forward to doing—travel, reading, sports, time with friends, church, volunteering and maybe even a part-time job. These are all wonderful ideas, but for public safety employees, retirement can be extremely difficult. Many public safety employees cannot even picture themselves outside the job. This isn’t what we do but who we are.
So when you retire, what will you miss? For starters, the people. This is a family, your family, one you’ve never been without and never want to be without. You’ll miss your partners, those you have worked beside and counted on, vented to, protected and leaned on, the ones who always had your back. There’s also the activity—the sights, smells, touches and tastes. Let’s not forget that adrenaline rush, hearing the dispatcher over the radio and the rush of getting to the call. And being part of something so great, something you never imagined being without.
Retirement is the next great adventure after all this. But it’s a mistake to look at your life and see a clear dividing line between your life in public safety and your life after public safety. In fact, retirement is another in a series of changes you’ve been experiencing your entire life.
Believe it or not, you have changed during your career. And I’m not just talking about your physique! You have changed physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Maybe you’ve put on a few pounds. Have you grown more sluggish or more alert over the years? Has your faith become deeper and more personal, or has it waned? How do you deal with emotional turmoil now compared to 20 or 30 years ago?
Remember when you promoted? You probably asked your friends and family to not ever let you forget where you came from. You wanted to promote and be the best supervisor you could be, but you never wanted to be “one of them.” Now is a good time to remind yourself of that.
When you look at retirement as another in a series of changes, it’s possible to be as excited about retiring as you were about entering public safety when you were younger. Knowing that you have changed, believe that you can and will change again—mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. You are no longer part of your job even though the job is a huge part of who you have become. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Retirement requires preparation. The more you plan, the smoother this transition will go. Here are just a few considerations:
- Think about how you’ll spend your free time. Maybe it’s a second career, additional education or time with the grandkids. When you retire, you no longer answer to the clock or the phone. You have more free time than ever before. You have more time for that “honey do” list, and more time to spend with family and friends. And while free time is nice, it can also be terrifying to face an endless series of days with nothing you have to do.
- Discuss your schedule change with your family. Sure, they have always wished you didn’t work at night or on the holidays and they want you home more often. But when you retire you must fit into their schedules. Their schedules didn’t change, yours did. Do you fit or are you interfering?
- Prepare for a change in income. Even with a pension, retirement requires a clear-eyed look at your finances. You may need to see a financial counselor and develop a budget that accounts for expenses such as travel and healthcare.
- Expect a hard hit. If you’re lucky, you won’t experience an emotional toll, but it’s best to be prepared for the loss of friends, loneliness, the feeling you’ve been forgotten and the concern that you didn’t leave the legacy you strived for. Exercise self-care and seek help if you see warning signs, such as emotional detachment, depression, spending too much alone time, abusing alcohol or drugs, or trying to stay involved in the job when you no longer have a place there.
Make sure you are ready to retire and don’t give in to outside influences. Go when you know the time is right for you! Don’t make a rushed, emotional decision. You’ve always controlled your career, now you must control your retirement—and your preparation for it.
Make It Count
It is easy to forget how much we love being needed until we no longer are. Watching the lights and hearing the sirens go somewhere without you is a bittersweet experience. Curiosity about the call, memories of past calls, and the desire to help all flood in.
Now, those of you who can’t wait to retire and don’t have to worry about any of this, I say hallelujah and lucky you! For the rest of us, attitude is everything. It is the key to understanding you are not who you were, that you earned this retirement and that you deserve to enjoy it. So, make it count! You love what you do or you would not be doing it. You were born with a servant’s heart. How can you put that to work in your retirement? After all, it’s retirement, not death!
As Charles Swindoll said, life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it. We may not be able to stop retirement from coming, but we can choose how we react to it.
So here’s to a happy, healthy retirement—and on to the greatest adventure of all!
Shirl Tyner is a Management Services Representative for Lexipol and has 25 years of law enforcement experience as a civilian (non-sworn) employee, serving with the Oceanside (CA) Police Department and the Tustin (CA) Police Department. Shirl has experience as a Trauma Intervention Volunteer and has been heavily involved in peer support, with a special focus on PTSD. A graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Leadership Institute, she has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Graduate Certificate in Forensics and Crime Scene Investigations and is currently working on a master’s degree in Forensic Science. Shirl teaches Criminal Justice and Forensic courses at both the high school and college levels.
Responding to Fentanyl Incidents:
First Responder Safety Considerations
Article provided by Lexipol- Strategic Partner of IAFC-SW Division
Written by Sean W. Stumbaugh, Battalion Chief (Retired)
The use of mind-altering substances by humans is nothing new. Since the first person left a bowl of grain out in the rain, and then the sun and wild yeast did their thing, humans have had access to beer. Additional intoxicating substances followed through different methods of discovery. How people figured out that the milky substance contained in the un-ripened seed pod of the poppy flower is a powerful drug is beyond me. This drug is opium.
Opium use in America is also nothing new. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a substance called laudanum was very popular. This product was a mixture of 10 percent opium and alcohol. Laudanum was available as an over-the-counter drug. It was basically the aspirin of its time and was recommended for pain relief for many common ailments and for serious diseases such as tuberculosis. The problem with laudanum is that it is highly addictive due to the opium content. As more and more people began to develop addictions, doctors began to discourage its use; government regulations restricting access to opioids soon followed.
Today, opium comes in many natural and synthetic forms. Modern pharmaceutical companies have created synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl, Dilaudid, Norco), which are much more powerful than their natural cousin. These medications were created to reduce pain and suffering for patients after injury or surgery and for those living with chronic pain. The problem is that humans tend to abuse these medications and can become addicted; take away the prescribed medications and some addicts will turn to street drugs out of desperation. Four in five new heroin users start out misusing prescription painkillers. Opioid abuse in the U.S. has become epidemic and many people are dying as a result.
I’m not going to get into the current debate on how fentanyl and related substances arrive on our streets; I am more concerned with their impact on first responders. We have seen numerous reports in the past several weeks of police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel being exposed to highly toxic opioids. These exposures have come through casual contact such as searching a car for drugs, brushing off a small amount of white powder (following a search in which the officer had used gloves and mask), touching a patient with a synthetic opioid on their person, or inhaling a drug after it was aerosolized from a flash/bang device. These recent events lead me to believe it might be time for a training refresher.
Risk from the Patient and the Material
A patient overdosing on opioids presents inherent risks to first responders. These drugs cause respiratory depression and we often find patients who aren’t breathing. Our first treatment options are to provide ventilation for the patient and administer Narcan (naloxone) if it is available. Naloxone will reverse the effects of the drug. Sometimes, when the patient becomes conscious, they are very agitated and can become violent. Also, they may have residue or greater amounts of the drug on their person. We need to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate precautions.
Hazardous Materials Refresher
First responders need to start approaching these incidents with a hazardous materials (hazmat) response mindset. I know it’s not practical for all responders to show up in Level A suits; that’s not what I’m talking about. We are taught from the beginning of our careers that hazmat calls are uniquely dangerous. Our first responsibility in these situations is to isolate the area and deny further entry of responders or civilians.
Many of the recent events where police officers and firefighters have been exposed to and become ill from fentanyl and other opiates have occurred through patient contact or contact with the drug by touching a contaminated object. If this happened at a hazmat call we would all say a policy or procedure had been violated. I’m not blaming the victim here but I am asking us to rethink our approach. We need to re-evaluate our mindset about responding to calls involving illicit drugs. We might need to start viewing them as hazmat calls.
Hazmat is defined as “A material or substance that poses a danger to life, property, or the environment if improperly stored, shipped or handled.” Based on the evidence I believe opioids fit this definition.
Routes of Exposure
There are four routes of exposure for a hazmat:
- Absorption (through your skin)
- Inhalation (through your lungs)
- Ingestion (though your mouth)
- Injection (by an object like a needle or through force such as liquid under pressure)
All four of these exposure routes are in play when it comes to illicit drugs. It is easy to understand that if you touched a drug with your finger, and then stuck your finger in your mouth, you would suffer an exposure to the drug. Or, if you were stuck by a hypodermic needle that was contaminated, you could be exposed to the drug. What about inhalation? Well, users often snort these materials through a straw, so exposure from breathing in the powder makes sense.
The most surprising exposure route, as noted by recent exposures to fentanyl, is absorption. The fact that just touching the material, or accidentally getting it on your skin, can cause you to become ill or intoxicated, and even overdose, is what is shocking to me. We need to take this issue seriously and protect ourselves from all routes of exposure.
How can we protect ourselves in a practical way when we encounter overdose calls daily? We need to have a “me first” attitude and use good decision-making, proper procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE).
I joined the fire service in the early 1980s—a time of discovery for bloodborne pathogens. As we encountered new communicable diseases, we realized we were potentially exposed when treating patients. We began training on and using the concepts of Universal Precautions.
Universal Precautions basically means “treat all blood and body fluids as if they were infectious.” We protected our hands with medical exam gloves, our eyes with protective eyewear, and our mouths and noses with medical masks. We didn’t wear masks for every call but we did use them when performing invasive procedures (e.g., intubating a patient’s airway). Many paramedics learned to wear a mask the hard way: by experiencing exposure to blood and other bodily fluids when performing these tasks.
We need to consider approaching drug overdoses, and drug investigations, with these principles in mind. What does this look like?
- If you suspect opioid use, ask safety-related questions about what substances may be present.
- Use hand protection (minimum and mandatory) at all potential overdose/drug investigation calls. To be sure you’re getting the maximum protection, use nitrile gloves rather than latex. One coroner’s office has indicated that latex gloves may allow absorption of synthetic opioids into the wearer’s skin.
- When encountering unknown substances, consider the use of N-95 masks, eye protection and paper covers for clothes and shoes.
- Handle patients and objects as if they were contaminated.
- Avoid (better yet, prohibit) cross-contamination. Only touch items with protected hands. Following the call, don’t touch anything until you have followed proper decontamination procedures
- If applicable under your EMS protocols, carry and be prepared to administer naloxone to patients and first responders who may become exposed.
If these steps sound burdensome, consider that they are common practices in settings such as dental offices.
For more guidance, access “Fentanyl: A Briefing Guide for First Responders,” recently released by the DEA.
Protect Yourself So You Can Protect Them
When we encounter new hazards in the workplace we need to evaluate the risk and develop new engineering and work practice controls to protect ourselves and our employees. The new threat of very powerful synthetic opioids, and the severe harm they cause, must be addressed in this manner. It’s difficult and maybe even impractical to avoid these hazards altogether; however, we need to try. If we can approach opioid overdose calls with a hazardous materials mindset, practice Universal Precautions, and slow down when there is discretionary time, we can reduce the risks and hopefully avoid any further injury.
It’s really about doing our jobs well, serving those we swore to protect—but still going home healthy at the end of the shift. Take care of yourselves and each other out there!
Sean Stumbaugh is a management services representative for Lexipol. He retired in 2015 after 32 years in the American fire service, serving as battalion chief for the Cosumnes Fire Department in Elk Grove, Calif., as well as the El Dorado Hills (Calif.) Fire Department and the Freedom (Calif.) Fire District. Sean has a master’s degree in Leadership and Disaster Preparedness from Grand Canyon University, a bachelor’s degree in Fire Science from Columbia Southern University, and an associate degree from Cabrillo College in Fire Protection Technology. In addition to his formal education, he is a Certified Fire Officer, Chief Officer, and Instructor III in the California State Fire Training certification program. Sean has taught numerous state fire training courses and has been an adjunct professor with Cosumnes River College in Sacramento. Sean is now continuing his career by serving as the volunteer Para-Chaplain for the Daisy Mountain Fire District in New River, AZ.
Lexipol’s Fire Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies to enhance the safety of firefighters in all areas of department operations, including emergency medical services. Contact us today to find out more.
This article is provided by Lexipol
By Sean W. Stumbaugh, Battalion Chief (Retired)
When I was a supervisor in the fire department, my crews had a nickname for me: The Red Man. I embraced the moniker to some degree and I would joke with them, “Don’t make me take out the Red Man.” This was a term of endearment (at least that’s what I liked to believe) in many cases, but I knew it was born from numerous times that I led with anger. In hindsight this is not a great way to lead.
So, what was really going on here? I hadn’t been brought up in some military academy where I learned to be a drill sergeant when things didn’t go my way. Was there something else at work? Something I couldn’t really put my finger on? After retirement, I realized some of this behavior was born out of stress I was feeling, at work and at home.
I was confident retirement would fix this issue and my life would be a breeze. I soon found out that retirement was something I wasn’t fully prepared for. I went through a two-year transition that was more difficult than being at work. Fortunately, I had some support mechanisms that helped see me through
This experience made me want to know more about the stress we face as firefighters. So I reached out to an expert in the field, Jeff Dill, founder and CEO of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA). In this article, I’ll share some insights Jeff opened my eyes to, with the hopes that they might be eyeopening for you, too. And in my next article, I’ll share three steps all fire service professionals can take to combat the negative effects of work-related stress.
1,100 and Counting One of my goals when I was a training chief was to design training programs that reduced the risk of line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) by targeting the root causes of LODDs. We commonly use the number 100 to explain how many of us die on the job each year. This number is an average, and the actual figure fluctuates, but unfortunately the deviation is small.
Jeff Dill stresses an entirely different number: 1,102—the number of confirmed firefighter and EMS suicides he has validated since he began studying the issue. “These are not merely numbers, they are the names and faces of brothers and sisters who have left us behind,” Jeff says. “That’s always been our message at the FBHA. We never want to forget them.” Jeff now dedicates his professional life to helping reduce this growing number.
Call It By Name So, what is it we are struggling with? We can—and should—call it Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) or PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We’re hardly alone in being at risk for PTS; military personnel, police officers and other first responders face it too—not to mention anyone who experiences a traumatic experience, such as being assaulted or witnessing death or abuse.
He has presented his “Reset the Clock” program over 1,100 times to more than 26,000 leaders at employer facilities across North America. He has presented the HR Professional version of this program for SHRM Chapters across the country, annually for Dallas HR.
In conjunction with various employer, industry and professional associations, he has conducted live TV broadcasts, webinars and on-line employee relations programs, in addition to presenting at their regional and national conferences.
Balance Employee and Employer Rights
- Concerns about job security, responding to
- Generalized disparaging comments, how to address
- Personality and attitude problems, how to handle
- Discriminatory comments, disassociating yourself from
Minimize The Risks of Day-To-Day Management
- Employee complaints, proper responses to
- Problematic job interview situations, how to handle
- Erratic performance, how to address
- Disabilities, responding to a request for an accommodation
Maximize The Effectiveness of Your Policies
- Open discrimination charges, responding to a request to discuss
- Sexual harassment complaint, proper initial response to
- Substance abuse, confrontation in obvious impairment situations
- Violence, responding to threats of
Key Concepts for Staying Free of Legal Challenges
- Serious misconduct, proper initial response
- Previously unaddressed misbehavior, how to address
- Corrective action meetings, how to prepare for and conduct
- Discharge meetings, how to prepare for and conduct
Eliminate Your Personal Liability
- Potential sexual harassment, proper reaction to
- Serious off-the-job misconduct, how to respond to
- Reference checks, how to handle
- Disclosure of Medical Conditions, How to React to
IN 2013 MIKE WAS INDUCTED INTO THE HRSWC HALL OF FAME!