Category Archives: Emergency Services

Police and Fire Pensions in Florida: A Comparison of Conditions After 10 Years

Source: Joseph Vonasek, Robert Lee, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, April 5, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article is an analysis of 31 defined benefit police and fire pension plans of 20 municipalities in Florida. The authors conducted a similar assessment of these same plans ten years earlier to determine the fiscal impact of these plans due to state mandates that accompany state funding for each of these plans. The current study analyzes key measures of fiscal health over the last ten years for these same plans to ascertain whether the fiscal condition of these plans remained constant, that is, whether underfunded plans continued to be questionably managed and whether well-funded plans continued to be fiscally stable considering economic trends and the lessening of state mandates on the use of state funding for these plans. The findings show that the overwhelming majority of the plans neither significantly changed their financial condition nor their general ranking among the plans evaluated.

Tensions in State–Local Intergovernmental Response to Emergencies: The Case of COVID-19

Source: Bruce D. McDonald, III, Christopher B. Goodman, Megan E. Hatch, State and Local Government Review, OnlineFirst Published December 29, 2020
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From the abstract:
The current outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19), has spurred a large governmental response from all levels of the U.S. intergovernmental system. The emergency and disaster response system of the United States is designed to be bottom-up, meaning responses are intended to begin at the local level with state and federal governments stepping in to assist with resources and oversight as needed (Rubin and Barbee 1985; Schneider 1995, 2008). The response to the current outbreak, however, has been something else entirely, as each level of government competes with the others over dwindling resources and the authority to respond to the crisis.

We examine how the U.S. intergovernmental system of emergency response is designed, how state and local governments have responded to the COVID-19 crisis thus far, and how this crisis has further exposed tensions in the state-local intergovernmental system. We use the National League of Cities’ (2020) COVID-19 Local Action Tracker to examine city and state responses to the pandemic. We argue state-local intergovernmental response is associated with many issues related to intergovernmental relations broadly, particularly conflict about the “best” emergency services provider. This leads some states to prefer a local response with state support and other states to prefer a more uniform, state-mandated response enabled by state preemption of local actions. The latter has revealed an often-dormant means of state preemption of local ordinances: the executive order preemption. Accessible through the emergency powers afforded to U.S. governors, this type of preemption is uncommon because it is overshadowed by legislative and judicial preemptions. This article seeks to explore descriptively the prevalence of executive order preemptions and discuss the implications of these preemptions in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These preemptions vary in their content, with some representing policy minimums, others maximums, and some a combination of the two. Yet all types of preemption have substantial effects on what local government administrators can do to respond to their constituency’s needs. Such constraints, when out of alignment with local needs, can be challenging in normal times but are potentially catastrophic in emergencies. Administrators will need to be creative in balancing responsiveness to their constituents within such a limiting policy environment.

Should public safety shift workers be allowed to nap while on duty?

Source: P. Daniel Patterson, Matthew D. Weaver, Francis X. Guyette, Christian Martin‐Gill, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 63, No. 10, October 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Fatigue and sleep deficiency among public safety personnel are threats to wellness, public and personal safety, and workforce retention. Napping strategies may reduce work‐related fatigue, improve safety and health, yet in some public safety organizations it is discouraged or prohibited. Our aim with this commentary is to define intra‐shift napping, summarize arguments for and against it, and to outline potential applications of this important fatigue mitigation strategy supported by evidence. We focus our discussion on emergency medical services (EMS); a key component of the public safety system, which is comprised of police, fire, and EMS. The personnel who work in EMS stand to benefit from intra‐shift napping due to frequent use of extended duration shifts, a high prevalence of personnel working multiple jobs, and evidence showing that greater than half of EMS personnel report severe fatigue, poor sleep quality, inadequate inter‐shift recovery, and excessive daytime sleepiness. The benefits of intra‐shift napping include decreased sleepiness and fatigue, improved recovery between shifts, decreased anxiety, and reduced feelings of burnout. Intra‐shift napping also mitigates alterations in clinician blood pressure associated with disturbed sleep and shift work. The negative consequences of napping include negative public perception, acute performance deficits stemming from sleep inertia, and the potential costs associated with reduced performance. While there are valid arguments against intra‐shift napping, we believe that the available scientific evidence favors it as a key component of fatigue mitigation and workplace wellness. We further believe that these arguments extend beyond EMS to all sectors of public safety.

An Introduction to Police and Fire Pensions

Source: Jean-Pierre Aubry and Kevin Wandrei, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, SLP#69, February 2020

The brief’s key findings are:

  • Pension and retiree health benefits for public safety workers are more expensive than those of other local government workers, largely due to earlier retirement ages.
  • Perhaps surprisingly, though, their retirement benefits make up only a very small share of total local government spending.
  • Some evidence suggests that public safety workers could work longer, which may have implications for plans’ retirement age.
  • However, raising retirement ages would have little impact on government finances, particularly since it might involve higher wages to maintain a quality workforce.

“Felony assault should stick:” Assaulted EMS responders’ frustration and dissatisfaction with the legal system

Source: Jasmine Y. Wright, Andrea L. Davis, Sherry Brandt‐Rauf, Jennifer A. Taylor, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: August 16, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Introduction:
The prevalence of violence to first responders is reported in ranges of approximately 40% to 90%. Pennsylvania has a felonious assault statute to address such violence, but the prosecutorial process has been noted to cause first‐responder dissatisfaction.

Methods:
An exploratory qualitative study using individual interviews with snowball sampling was conducted with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office to understand the prosecutorial process when a first responder is assaulted and injured in a line of duty. The Philadelphia Fire Department provided a list of first responders who sustained a work‐related injury from a patient or bystander assault so that particular cases could be discussed during the interviews.

Results:
Emergent themes fell into two categories: factors that lead to a charge (prosecutorial merit, intent, and victim investment), and the judge’s discretion in sentencing (“part of the job” mentality, concern for the defendant, and the justice system’s offender focus). Immediately actionable tertiary prevention recommendations for fire departments, labor unions, and district attorney’s offices were developed.

Conclusion:
Violence against fire‐based emergency medical service (EMS) responders is a persistent and preventable workplace hazard. While felonious assault statutes express society’s value that it is unacceptable to harm a first responder, this study found that such statutes failed to provide satisfaction to victims and that support when going through the court process is lacking. Assaulted EMS responders, their employers, and labor unions would benefit from the recommendations provided herein to help them extract a stronger sense of procedural justice from the legal process.

The Economics of Puerto Rico’s Post-Maria Recovery

Source: Bernard Yaros, Regional Financial Review, Vol. 29 no. 1, September 2018
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A year has passed since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. In many respects, the economy is still reeling in its wake. This article looks back at the economic loss during and after the storm and also considers the road ahead for the island’s economic recovery under different policy scenarios.

Workers’ compensation injury claims among workers in the private ambulance services industry—Ohio, 2001–2011

Source: Audrey A. Reichard, Ibraheem S. Al‐Tarawneh, Srinivas Konda, Chia Wei, Steven J. Wurzelbacher, Alysha R. Meyers, Stephen J. Bertke, P. Timothy Bushnell, Chih‐Yu Tseng, Michael P. Lampl, David C. Robins, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 61 Issue 12, December 2018

From the abstract:
Background:
Ambulance service workers frequently transfer and transport patients. These tasks involve occupational injury risks such as heavy lifting, awkward postures, and frequent motor vehicle travel.

Methods:
We examined Ohio workers’ compensation injury claims among state‐insured ambulance service workers working for private employers from 2001 to 2011. Injury claim counts and rates are presented by claim types, diagnoses, and injury events; only counts are available by worker characteristics.

Results:
We analyzed a total of 5882 claims. The majority were medical‐only (<8 days away from work). The overall injury claim rate for medical‐only and lost‐time cases was 12.1 per 100 full‐time equivalents. Sprains and strains accounted for 60% of all injury claims. Overexertion from patient handling was the leading injury event, followed by motor vehicle roadway incidents. Conclusions: Study results can guide the development or improvement of injury prevention strategies. Focused efforts related to patient handling and vehicle incidents are needed.

Fentanyls and the safety of first responders: Science and recommendations

Source: John Howard, Jennifer Hornsby‐Myers, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: 25 June 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Opioids have many beneficial uses in medicine, but, taken inappropriately, they can cause life‐threatening health effects. The increasing use of physician‐prescribed and illicit opioids, including highly potent fentanyl and its analogs, have contributed to a significant increase in opioid‐related drug overdoses in the United States, leading to a public health emergency. There have been a number of reports describing adverse health effects experienced by police officers, fire‐fighter emergency medical services providers, and private sector ambulance personnel when responding to drug overdose incidents. Several sets of exposure prevention recommendations for first responders are available from government and the private sector. Understanding the scientific basis for these recommendations, increasing awareness by responders of the potential risks associated with opioid exposure during a response, and educating responders about safe work practices when exposure to opioids is suspected or confirmed are all critical prevention measures that can keep first responders safe.

Violence against emergency medical services personnel: A systematic review of the literature

Source: Brian J. Maguire, Peter O’Meara, Barbara. O’Neill, and Richard Brightwell, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, November 27, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background
Violence against emergency medical services (EMS) personnel is a growing concern. The aim of this systematic review is to synthesize the current literature on violence against EMS personnel.

Methods
We examined literature from 2000 to 2016. Eligibility criteria included English-language, peer-reviewed studies of EMS personnel that described violence or assaults. Sixteen searches identified 2655 studies; 25 studies from nine countries met the inclusion criteria.

Results
The evidence from this review demonstrates that violence is a common risk for EMS personnel. We identified three critical topic areas: changes in risk over time, economic impact of violence and, outcomes of risk-reduction interventions. There is a lack of peer reviewed research of interventions, with the result that current intervention programs have no reliable evidence base.

Conclusions
EMS leaders and personnel should work together with researchers to design, implement, evaluate and publish intervention studies designed to mitigate risks of violence to EMS personnel.