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Thursday, November 19, 2015

“I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me” / “It Happened So Fast” / “I Wish I Could Do It Over”

Statues of "The Protectors"
Those three lines: “I never thought it would happen to me, it happened so fast, and I wish I could do it over” were woven throughout a presentation by Brian Devlin. Mr. Devlin is a physical therapist and a vice president for Illinois Risk Management Services. He has worked with hundreds of public safety employees who have been injured on the job. “They all say it,” he said as he reflected on his patients speaking about what has happened to them. Why?

“I never thought it would happen to me” may be admitting that there was a denial of the hazards first responders face. When high-risk calls become routine, the recognition of the dangers can start to diminish. In his book Working Fire, The Making of a Fireman, author Zac Unger writes about a structure fire where everything went wrong, and his crew was trying to figure out what happened. A veteran firefighter told the crew that they would never master firefighting when he said, “There is no black belt in this job.”

“It happened so fast” may be the post-accident realization that when things start to go wrong, they can go wrong at a speed that cannot be reversed. There was no time to react or escape. Was it a loss of situational awareness? Or has this happened before, only more slowly—perhaps it was a near miss, and no one got hurt?

“I wish I could do it over” has a ring of sadness to it. It may be the realization that the accident has changed things forever, and they can’t go back. Injuries change people physically, personally, and professionally. They change organizations as well, and you can’t go back.

At an upcoming safety committee meeting, put these three statements on the agenda and have your committee members discuss their thoughts as to what they mean. Mr. Devlin sums it up this way: these are “real-life statements of regret after an injury.”

Up Next: The Training Safety Officer Program goes to Georgia.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Friday, November 6, 2015

The Motorcycle in the Lobby

Police station lobbies are interesting places: often they are occupied by people under stress due to a traffic ticket, an impounded car, or a jailed relative. When you add in worried parents, scared victims, insurance adjusters, families with custody disputes, and lawyers, then you have more anxiety than most reality TV shows. Many departments try to soften their station lobbies with old photos, or equipment that tell the history of the department and show a human side to police work.

The motorcycle, along with its story, tower over the lobby.
The Alexandria police station has all of that, plus a motorcycle in their lobby. Or perhaps over their lobby would be a better description. The story board next to it provides the background with its large font heading of “Blast From The Past: The Story Behind The Wheels”.

The cycle is a cream-white, mid 1970’s Honda 450 in absolutely perfect condition. It has the classic 1970’s design, and is complete with red lights, a mechanical siren, and the ability to bring a smile to people’s faces.

In its hey-day, the motorcycle was mainly used for parades
and funeral escorts.
In the mid 1970’s, Alexandria residents Jerry and Margaret VanKampen brought the motorcycle back from a Honda trade show in Japan. The VanKampen’s owned the local Honda dealership and leased the motorcycle to the department. It was mostly used for parades and funeral escorts, and it became a fixture of the community—so much so that the city eventually bought the motorcycle and designed a special spot when they built a new station in 2011.

Alexandria has done a nice job of putting their history on display in their station lobby. There are photos of the former police chiefs, as well as an assortment of old photos and equipment. And they have that beautiful cream-white motorcycle that towers over the lobby and makes people smile.

Up Next: I can’t believe it happened. It happened fast. I wish I could do it over.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Nothing Touches the Truck

I recently heard United Parcel Service (UPS) Supervisor Jonathon Veseley addressing a risk management conference. His theme was building a culture of safety, and he talked about integrating safety throughout an organization—starting with new employee orientation and daily safety messages, to mentoring and safety audits.

Nothing Touches the Truck
One of his themes was “nothing touches the truck.” The phrase represents a visual image for UPS drivers when they drive and park their trucks on their routes. The full message was: the only thing that can touch the outside of the truck are the driver’s hands and feet, and the back bumper when it touches the UPS loading dock. No cars, trucks, people, tree branches, or other objects should touch the truck. They want their drivers to drive defensively and protect the space around the truck, as well as the truck. It reminded me of the National Safety Council’s driving program that stresses maintaining a “cushion of safety” around your vehicle. And the concept works.

Avoidable vs. Fault
Mr. Veseley was asked about avoidable accidents. He said UPS looks at who was at fault in a traffic accident—and even more importantly, they investigate if the accident was preventable. They have investigated accidents where their driver was not at fault, but they determined the accident was preventable. He used an example of a UPS truck that was legally parked on a residential street but had parked opposite a neighbor’s driveway. Murphy’s Law took over as that neighbor backed out of the driveway and struck and damaged the truck. The neighbor was at fault, but it was an avoidable accident for UPS.

Both of these ideas are relevant to our public safety community and might be a good topic for your next safety committee meeting.


                                       Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next: The Motorcycle in The Lobby—The Alexandria Police Station

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.