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Leadership and Officer Safety

One of the things that good leaders do is protect their staff. More often now our officers are responding to complaints involving bio-hazards, animals and/or agricultural events. Some cases could be as simple as animal hoarders which present several issues for safety.  Working serious crime scenes or death investigation can both conjure up several officer safety and health issues. So where are we going wrong and what can we do? The last thing I want is for you to write up a draconian policy. How about common sense training instead?  First of all, let me tell you that the fire fighters are doing a far better job than we are. This should get your attention! Their firehouse traditions have been to wash the equipment down before backing it into the station. Why? Years ago they used horse drawn apparatus and during the call it was very possible that the undercarriage of the apparatus got some horse manure splashed up on it. They did not want this smell and stuff in their house. Now, their tradition continues because when they go to a fire the hazardous materials from the run are washed off, just like yesteryear. This tradition saves lives.

Let’s start off with an example. Look at your boots. Today’s boots seem to have a sole that is capable of climbing Mt.Everest. They are great for traction and superior for tracking crap in and around the station. Don’t believe me, step in some mud and watch the magical process begin. You will be leaving little dirt bits around for all to share. Step in something stinky, jump in the patrol car and drive around for a while. Your boots can create a biological soup attached to you. What have you walked through? Where have you been? Now with this ooze on your soles you drop by the house to grab a snack and walk across the carpet your kids play on? You have now become a fomite. This is any mechanical or inanimate object or substance capable of carrying infectious organisms and hence transferring them from one individual to another. Think of your tires, boots or equipment. Wash footwear thoroughly and disinfect them, for the safety and less aromatic comments.

Additionally, should you go to a toxic call, who washes your uniforms? If you have a dry cleaner, let them do it and tell them so they can handle them safely. I do not recommend you wash your uniforms from a toxic call in your home washer! This is the same washer that your family uses, think!

Another item that will gain your attention is the braided tactical wrist bracelets that are so popular. Most all of us have some for tacticool fashion flair. Stop and closely look at yours. If there was any organic material, blood, or other crime scene ooze that got into the braids, can it be decontaminated? When was the last time you thoroughly washed it?  My other concern about these is could they snag or encumber your draw if it is worn on the weapon hand wrist? Anything that snags the deployment of your weapon or equipment, I have reservations. No, I am not against these bracelets, got a few myself. It is their care and use that requires thought. Now before you say, wait you wear a wrist watch, so what’s the difference? I have always worn a certified diver’s watch. For those who know me, I don’t swim. But my watch can be submerged and washed without ill effects. Plus it is on my weak side and snug. Think and decon your exposed equipment.

Another talking point here is don’t become a vector. This is an insect or any living carrier that transmits an infectious agent. Vectors are mechanisms by which infections are transmitted from one host to another. Most commonly known vectors consist of arthropods, domestic animals, or mammals that assist in transmitting parasitic organisms to humans or other mammals. These can be insects, animals, or You! With all of the various influenzas, colds and other heebie-geebies that we are subjected to, don’t risk it. Using fleet cars and common work areas is often like working in a petri dish. Remember to use decon wipes on microphones, telephones and wipe down the inside of the patrol car cockpit area. Who knows if the officer before you just went home with the creeping crud and no telling how long his/her germs are still jumping around. Think to wash hands with soap and water first, this removes any organic/living materials first, then give them a quick dab of alcohol gel.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) begins with each officer having proper gloves (don’t skimp, get the better grade), personal and station house dispensers of alcohol gel. Consider getting slipover booties to prevent cross-contamination. The most important thing is for the first line supervisors and peers to remind all, safety for you and even your family begins with you. My medical advisors also recommend that you take the annual flu shot, get your Hepatitis immunizations and don’t forget the tetanus shot. If you are allergic to eggs, ask for the alternative ones. Equip, train and remind your officers that we are in this Petri dish environment, let’s stay safe for each other and our loved ones.