Each year sometime between March 1st and April 30th, depending on when some flowers bloom I think, my wife decides it's time for us to do our spring cleaning. For her that means I get to climb up into the attic and dig out what we haven't seen since last spring and decide whether or not we need to keep it another year. As far as I can tell there is no logic to the process, but I've learned not to argue. That also means thoroughly cleaning the house (every piece of furniture gets moved), all the appliances, the garage and the shed. Of course, I don't mind cleaning out the shed: it's kind of my domain anyway and it's where all of the camping and fishing gear is stored.
But I have to wonder how many of us apply this same tactic or approach to the items we so often depend on to keep us alive?
I know many of you don't have assigned vehicles - that you work out of a pool car that can be different with every shift you work - but if you DO have an assigned patrol vehicle, when was the last time you gave it a thorough cleaning out? I don't just mean washing it bumper to bumper, or cleaning up the trash off the floor on the passenger side. I mean when was the last time you took every piece of anything that isn't permanently mounted in your patrol vehicle OUT, checked it for function, cleaned it, tested it and (if you still need it) put it back in properly?
If you're not sure when you did this last, then you need to do it.
If you can't say, for certain, what's under the spare tire in your trunk, then you need to do it.
If you can't identify that smell coming from your trunk, then you need to do it.
If you don't know when your fire extinguisher expires (expired?), then you need to do it.
If you don't know what you do or don't have in your first-aid kit (or where it is?), then you need to do it.
If you haven't checked and maintained your Immediate Response kit/gear in the past 30 days, then you need to do it.
If you don't know the expiration on the filters for your protective mask, then you need to do it.
Are you getting the message? If you haven't done it, DO IT.
We depend on our cars to perform properly. That means we have to take care of them, and not just mechanically. That means we have to be intimately familiar with what is or isn't in our vehicle, where it's located, how long it will take us to access it, etc. So check your gear and update it as necessary. (If you need first-aid items, many firehouses will help you out; all you have to do is ask in most cases.)
This same strategy applies to your more personal gear. What's the expiration date on your ballistic vest? Don't know? You'd better. It's only your life we're talking about.
When was the last time you cleaned your rifle? shotgun? handgun?
When was the last time you rotated your ammo or emptied out your magazines? If you don't know then I'd be willing to bet you've got green crud growing someplace you don't want it.
When was the last time you inspected your gunbelt? The buckle, snaps, pouches, holster, etc.?
Here's a good one: when was the last time you cleaned your handcuffs? Yes... they need maintenance too.
Use this time to inspect your uniforms too. Look for worn or frayed patches that detract from your professional image. Strip the excess wax off your boots or shoes and take the time to give them a new spit shine. How much sole is left on them? Is the tread worn? Do you need new ones? Have you polished your brass lately? Badge? Name tag? other pins?
Here is one of my favorites: if you have an assigned radio with an identifier pack and an emergency switch, when was the last time you tested it? DO IT. Call your dispatch center and while you're on the phone with them, hit tha switch. CONFIRM IT WORKS - because your life might depend on it sooner than you think.
This is all common sense stuff, folks, but all too often we get lazy about it. We can't afford to. Our lives can depend on the funcationality of our gear. It is entirely up to us, personally, to inspect, update, maintain, repair or replace our gear. Keep this in mind as "spring cleaning" happens at home. Make it happen for your "office" - that vehicle you patrol in and everything that goes in it or that you carry.
Don't wait past the end of April and if you can't remember when the last time was that you did this stuff, don't let April Fool's Day arrive without having done it.