Distribution: Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS and Dispatch personnel – September 11, 2018
As always, I want to give another thank you to all who forward this message to your departments and staff. You trust me enough to share my message to others, and I strive to not make you regret that decision. To all my readers, I hope to improve your lives, at least in some small way. If you are reading this, then I think you might hope for that too. Trust me when I say, it isn’t something I take lightly.
As members of the public safety profession, we took a job that can be physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally demanding. September 11th continues to show us that seventeen years later. We are still loosing people from events that happened that day. For those that follow ODMP or the USFA we still see Line of Duty deaths tied to that date. That date still also continues to have emotional ramifications for us.
So what are we to do? You know as well as I do, we are never going to outrun tragedy. It will find us, and when it does, how will we make it to the “other side” or to the “new normal” that we tell people about? I think a key in doing that is something I heard in a training class I attended a few years back. OPOTA hosted an Active Shooter Introduction session. One line the instructor said that stuck with me was this: “You have to train your mind to go where your body may one day need to go.” While he was taking about response, I think it is a principle that applies to a lot of our lives.
We may not know when or what degree tragedy will visit us. What we know is it WILL visit us, and we owe it to ourselves, our families and the people we love to be ready for that day. What are some ways to do that? Here are a few (and yes, some we have heard before!) that can help us prepare.
1) Get sufficient rest. (Yes, go ahead and roll your eyes). This bit of advise is almost like people telling us to “eat your vegetables” or “get regular exercise” (Spoiler alert, also on the list), but it is definitely true. If you are deprived of sleep, your mind is not as sharp, our decisions are slower and not as well designed. There is even information from the National Institute of Heath that “Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.” 1
2) Work on better eating habits. This is one of the things that I need work on too. It goes beyond the getting and staying physically healthy. Also notice the word “better”. Drastic changes usually don’t stick so as long as we are improving and moving towards the target that is much more sustainable.
3) Work on better exercise habits. Again, notice the word “better”. Drastic changes usually don’t stick so as long as we are improving and moving towards the target that is much more sustainable. And this is beyond working out. There are countless benefits of activity that gives us oxygen and helps us ward off stress.
4) Train. I had an instructor say that “No one gets smarter under stress.” We all know people who have done something and we ask (or think) “Why in the world did you do THAT?” This also goes beyond our job functions. Do we have a family emergency plan in place? If we do, does it work? If my wife can not reach me, does she know who to call? If we are out in public and tragedy decides to pay us a visit, does our family know what to do?
5) Take a vacation. This does not have to be elaborate, productive or cost a lot. Rest, relax, re-focus, and spend time with family and friends…where work can not find us. Maybe it’s at the lake, the beach, fishing in Colorado, at a cabin in the woods or a long hiking trail. Just go. Sometimes you have to take a break to “Sharpen the saw”. 2
6) Get/Keep affairs in order. This one may not be near as fun as the vacation, but still as important. Updated wills, information on life insurance policy, department funeral policies, benefit information, etc are all very important things to have available BEFORE bad happens. Who calls your job if something happens off duty, and who do they call? Don’t make your loved ones guess.
7) Give affirmation to people every chance you get.
That’s just a few thoughts. And maybe this can be somewhat interactive. Are you doing things that work well for you? Share that information! Tell your friends, (even let me know via email or you can also put comments on my blog under this topic).
In closing, as always, thank you so much for who you are, and all you do. I’ve said it before and will say it again: You all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.