Fire Fighters

First responder assaults – the shocking stats

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We must question the sanity of the world we live in. First responders – police, fire and ambulance – are generally people trying to save the community from danger by putting themselves in harm’s way. Yet the incidence of assaults against them has grown to shocking levels around the world. These are not exhaustive stats (this will come in a more comprehensive piece) but this piece paints a picture of what is going on and why we shouldn’t be surprised at the growing incidences of PTSD suffered by first responders. Something must be done. The next journey for CM is to provide a solution.

By branch:

POLICE

The FBI noted in 2016 that 57,180 (c.10% of all) US police officers were assaulted while performing their duties. 28.9% were injured (enough to enforce time away from work). The largest percentage of victim officers (32.2%) were assaulted while responding to disturbance calls (domestic violence, family disputes, pub fights).

Assailants used hands, fists or feet in 78% of the incidents, firearms in 4.2% of incidents, and knives or other cutting instruments in 1.9% of the assaults. Other types of dangerous weapons were used in 16% of assaults. Assaults on police in the US are up 17% in the past two years. 

In NSW, Australia some 2,343 (13.3%) police officers out of 16,500 have been at the receiving end of assault in 2017. That’s 6 per day. With regard to official statistics, the NSW Police Force indicated that over a three year period from 2013 to 2015, an average of 2,236 police officers per year were assaulted during the course of their duties. Around 7% of officers actually end up physically injured. 

 AMBULANCE/EMS

In the US health care professionals experience the highest rate of workplace violence (WPV) compared to all other industries, with the majority of violent injuries committed by their patients according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Studies show EMS responders were three times higher than the national average for all other occupations to suffer WPV. In regards to occupational fatalities, the rate among paramedics is more than twice the national average for all occupations and is comparable to those of police and firefighters at 12.7 per 100,000 workers per year.

The rate of nonfatal injuries among US paramedics was 34.6 per 100 full-time workers per year — a rate more than 5x higher than the national average for all workers.  In regard to fatal injuries, a retrospective cohort study of nationally registered emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in the U.S. found that 8% of fatalities were due to assaults. 

Males have been reported as the most frequent perpetrators of violence however, a separate study found female patients of the mean age of 32.5 years +/- 8.1 years to be the most frequent perpetrators. 

In the NSW Ambulance Service, approximately 51% of assault incidents were attributed to mental illness, 22% to alcohol, 15% to drugs. Similarly, statistics provided by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) concerning violence against Police from July 2006 to June 2016 suggest alcohol is a factor in many incidents.  Assaults on ambos in NSW are up 8-fold since 2001. Median lost hours for those EMS crew assaulted is around 8.6 weeks.

FIRE FIGHTERS

In what world do people shoot fireys? Here are 3 specific incidents in 2016 of attacks on fire fighters in the US. 

April 15, 2016: Firefighter fatally shot, second wounded in Prince George’s, Baltimore, Maryland

Jan. 22, 2016: Ark. firefighter shot, killed on EMS call, Pulaski County, Arkansas,

Jan. 20, 2016: Denver fire chief stabbed near station, Denver, Colorado,

Fire and Rescue NSW indicated its officers do not have the sort of violence prevention training of police and paramedics better able to protect their crew’s health and safety, including in respect of violent incidents. At the Parliamentary Committee’s hearing on 14 November 2016, Fire and Rescue NSW witnesses provided the following evidence:

Basically, when a crew arrives at an incident, you have a station officer and a station commander in charge of the crew and the…truck. That person undergoes promotional programs to get to that position. Part of that is understanding how the legislation is applied in reality from a practical point of view. Also, during that experience – we are talking probably eight to 10 years for that to occur …The promotional programs…cover the responsibilities of the officer and advise around the standard operational guidelines of when to withdraw and ask for police support and what is safe or not safe.

…If we look overseas for experiences and tried to align our experience to that, you would have to say that the civil unrest that is happening in the United States probably would not occur here to that degree. However, there is also an underlying issue in the United States where emergency service is seen as part of an arm of government and there is, hopefully, a small growing trend where emergency service ambushes are occurring…random shooters are calling emergency services to locations to make a point. We hope that never crosses to this country here, but we would always have an eye on what happens in other jurisdictions…because it is quite possible someone would pick that up as a possibility in this jurisdiction….”

PRISON GUARDS

The UK HMPS note that there were 7,159 assaults on staff in the year to March 2017 up 32%YoY. Serious assaults were up 25%YoY to 805 incidents. The National Tactical Response Group (NTRG) which is only called under extreme levels of prisoner violence  surged from 120 in 2010 to an annualized 630 by the end of 2016.  

THE PTSD IMPACT

This was the fascinating part of the research. It isn’t that the job isn’t hard enough already, it’s the lack of resources to support first responders when waiting for incidents. Lots of idle time to ponder.

US FEMA note stress has not only been categorized by exposure to traumatic incidents, but also the monotonous operational characteristics of EMS organizations, such as paperwork, lack of administrative support, low wages, long hours, irregular shifts, and cynical societal attitudes toward public safety officers.

Cumulative stress associated with the monotonous duties or low acuity calls has led to feelings of desensitization for patients, and their job as a whole. Concerns have also been raised regarding sleep quality and fatigue and the impact it has not only on the provider, but also job performance and patient  outcomes. Some research has posited that organizational stress often contributes more to the development of PTSD than traumatic events.

Also noteworthy is the notion that paramedics are often the source for a lot of criticisms by society for the decisions they make in determining life or death situations for patients and themselves. This can affect EMS providers in many ways and may contribute to the slow decline in provider morale.

Burnout (emotional exhaustion) is one of many organizational outcomes that may arise as a result of violence experienced by EMS responders. The question of whether or not violence would eventually lead to burnout was first raised in the early 1990s . Exposures to violence were noted as a reason many EMTs, especially volunteers, left the profession. In an early study from 1998, 7% of survey respondents within one urban fire department considered leaving EMS as a direct result of an abusive situation they encountered while on the job. Knowing how to emotionally cope following a tough incident can help to reduce anxiety and burnout.  

Mixed methods studies conducted in the U.S. and Sweden found that violent encounters altered the patient-provider relationship. Yet, some in the industry feel that exposures to violence do not cause stress or negatively impact providers. This lack of effect has been attributed to the internalization of the mentality that violence is a part of the job.  It has been posited that years of experience may be a protective factor that allows more experienced responders to experience less stress and anxiety after violent events. 

Evidence weighing the social and economic costs associated with increased violence and burnout is based mostly upon anecdotal evidence, with no assessments conducted on monetary value. Some suggest that, as violence increases, the need for police backup also increases, thereby increasing response time and delaying potentially critical care to a patient in need. 

Other concerns include altered operations for the private sector of EMS. Intent to leave the profession is also a concern. As more EMS responders leave the profession, numerous organizational and patient impacts have been hypothesized, including increased costs for training new EMTs and paramedics, greater numbers of inexperienced paramedics serving at any one point in time, and increased error rates committed by new and inexperienced paramedics. EMS responders also report seeking a job change away from their ambulance role. In some cases, responders stated they lost interest in fieldwork and tried to get off the road and into desk positions. 

What’s clear is that not enough is being done to help first responders cope with occupational hazards and handling the stress that comes from it. That is going to change very soon. Stay  posted!

While you’re at it, why not thank those first responders randomly in the street for the great work they do. It goes a long way! They need you just as much as you will need them when you’re in a bind!

69 bushfires in NSW today

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While a bushfire in Dobroyd Point, Sydney looked terrible it was classified as a scheduled burn-off. Looking at the NSW Rural Fire Service, there were 69 fire incidents across the state today. So for those that were concerned about the Sydney fire, you can keep tabs here.

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Double Dipper Dan

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Social Justice Warrior and Victorian Premier Dan Andrews is in hot water after 21 of his Labor MPs have been embroiled in a “Rorts for Votes” scheme investigated by the Ombudsman which breached parliamentary guidelines. It found Labor misused almost $388,000 during the 2014 election campaign. Labor spent $1,000,000 of taxpayers dime over two years trying to stop the Ombudsman investigating them. While the money has reportedly been repayed, Andrews & Co are pleading honest mistakes with regards to probably the most basic and well understood laws of election campaigning. Were someone to rob a bank, invest the proceeds to make a big return then return the original funds, would the justice system turn a blind eye? Andrews would seem to think that there should be no consequences.

Dan Andrews is the first to point the finger at everyone else for morals and ethics. How quick he is to virtue signal on social media at his amazing feats for the state of Victoria which put the rest of the country to shame. To belt neighboring states inferior unemployment rates when his government has been creating New Deal type tax spending programmes to fund new jobs.

Here is a list of just five of the shocking lapses in ethics and morals his government can lay claim to:

1) Andrews handed over $500mn in taxpayer funds to contractors for the backflip on the East-West link. He said during the election campaign he would honour those contracts but said after becoming Premier that “Be very clear about this: there will be no compensation paid.” Then still burnt the funds.

2) He told Victorians that the closure of the Hazelwood coal fired power station would hit electricity bills by 85c/week for the sake of the environment. This turned out to be an average of $278/year because of the over reliance on wholesale electricity markets. Despite all of his hair brained renewables schemes, to make up for the shortfall of closing Hazelwood 100MW of dirty diesel generators were secured to offset any shortfalls in baseload. He also spoke of how many green jobs would be created. Facts show that green job creation has been on a long term downtrend

3) Was instrumental in forcing rural fire-fighting volunteers (those who do it from the heart) against their will to come under the control of the fireman’s union who helped him get elected.

4)  To indoctrinate diversity the Vic Police practiced segregation in police recruiting seminars as the blueprint to reach nirvana in terms of the type of open mindedness and multi-cultural society we should strive for. If they truly wanted to teach the virtues of diversity why don’t they just have a come one come all seminar which didn’t base it on gender, religious or sexual orientation. Victoria has more cops per capita than any other state yet home invasions, carjackings and other crime rates are soaring.

5) The Andrews’s government wants to allow girls as young as 11 to get access to the contraceptive pill without consent from the parents. Most parents worry about their kids. What they eat and what they put in their bodies. Some kids may only want it to reduce pain during their menstrual cycle but to have a government provide a service which deliberately allows kids to bypass parental approval is downright wrong.

While Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has hardly helped his cause by having dinner with a member of the underworld in August 2017 in what was dubbed ‘Mobster-Lobster-gate’ this should hopefully wake up socialist Victoria to the crooked nature of the incumbents.

Truly sickening US Public Pensions data

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Following on from the earlier post and our 2016 report on the black hole in US state public pension unfunded liabilities, we have updated the figures to 2016. It is hard to know where to start without chills. The current state of US public pension funds represents the love child of Kathy Bates in Misery and Freddie Krueger. Actuarial accounting allows for pension funds to appear far prettier than they are in reality. For instance the actuarial deficit in public pension funds is a ‘mere’ $1.47 trillion. However using realistic returns data (marking-to-market(M-2-M)) that explodes to $6.74 trillion, 4.6-fold higher.  This is a traffic accident waiting to happen. US Pension Tracker illustrates the changes in the charts presented.

Before we get stuck in, we note that the gross pension deficits do not arrive at once. Naturally it is a balance of contributions from existing employees and achieving long term growth rates that can fund retirees while sustaining future obligations. CM notes that the problems could well get worse with such huge unfunded liabilities coinciding with bubbles in most asset classes. Unlike private sector pension funds, the states have an unwritten obligation to step up and fill the gap. However as we will soon see, M-2-M unfunded liabilities outstrip state government expenditures by huge amounts.

From a layman’s perspective, either taxes go up, public services get culled or pensioners are asked politely to take a substantial haircut to their retirement. Apart from the drastic changes that would be required in lifestyles, the economic slowdown that would ensue would have knock on effects with state revenue collection further exacerbating a terrible situation.

CM will use California as the benchmark. Our studies compare 2016 with 2008.

The chart above shows the M-2-M 2016 unfunded liability per household. In California’s case, the 2016 figure is $122,121. In 2008 this figure was only $36,159. In 8 years the gap has ballooned 3.38x. Every single state in America with the exception of Arizona has seen a deterioration.

The following chart shows the growth rate in M-2-M pension liabilities to total state expenditure. In California’s case that equates to 3.2x in those 8 years.

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Sadly it gets worse when we look at the impact on current total state expenditures these deficits comprise. For California the gap is c.6x what the state spends on constituents.

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Then taking it further,  in the last 8 years California has seen a 2.62-fold jump in the gap between liabilities and state total expenditures.

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This is a ticking time bomb. Moreover it is only the pensions for the public sector. We have already seen raids on particular state pension funds with some looking to retire early merely to cash out before there is nothing left. Take this example in Illinois.

Sadly the Illinois Police Pension is rapidly approaching the point of being unable to service its pension members and a taxpayer bailout looks unlikely given the State of Illinois’ mulling bankruptcy. Local Government Information Services (LGIS) writes, At the end of 2020, LGIS estimates that the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago will have less than $150 million in assets to pay $928 million promised to 14,133 retirees the following yearFund assets will fall from $3.2 billion at the end of 2015 to $1.4 billion at the end of 2018, $751 million at the end of 2019, and $143 million at the end of 2020, according to LGIS…LGIS analyzed 12 years of the fund’s mandated financial filings with the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI), which regulates public pension funds. It found that– without taxpayer subsidies and the ability to use active employee contributions to pay current retirees, a practice that is illegal in the private sector– the fund would have already run completely dry, in 2015…The Chicago police pension fund held $3.2 billion in assets in 2003. It shelled out $3.8 billion more in benefits to retired police officers than it generated in investment returns between 2003 and 2015…Over that span, the fund paid out $6.9 billion and earned $3.0 billion, paying an additional $134 million in fees to investment managers.”

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To highlight the pressure such states/cities could face, this is a frightening example of how the tax base can evaporate before one’s eyes putting even more pressure on bail outs.

This problem is going to get catastrophically worse with the state of bloated asset markets with puny returns. Looking at how it has been handled in the past Detroit, Michigan gives some flavor. It declared bankruptcy around this time three years ago. Its pension and healthcare obligations total north of US$10bn or 4x its annual budget. Accumulated deficits are 7x larger than collections. Dr. Wayne Winegarden of George Mason University wrote that in 2011 half of those occupying the city’s 305,000 properties didn’t pay tax. Almost 80,000 were unoccupied meaning no revenue in the door. Over the three years post the GFC Detroit’s population plunged from 1.8mn to 700,000 putting even more pressure on the shrinking tax base.

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Throw these dill pickles out of Hamburg

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What is it with protestors these days? Hate the outcome of the US presidential election all you wish but ask yourself does trashing innocent businesses in Hamburg which have zero relationship to Trump achieve anything other than show your utter contempt for democracy? Tiger Copenhagen is a peace loving Danish purveyor of colourful homewares. Anyone would struggle to find a Tiger connection with US foreign or domestic policy. I’ve actually met the management (owners) when they set up in Japan and you’d struggle to find nicer people. Still such behaviour shouldn’t surprise. After all, post Trump’s victory on Nov 8, similar buffoons were trashing Starbucks, perhaps the most virtue signaling corporate and supporter of their causes on the planet.

One of the worst things about these protestors is that none of them are prepared to own it. Masked in the hope they don’t get caught carrying out willful destruction of private property and violence on others. Hopefully many that are arrested have the book thrown at them. Sadly in Merkel’s Germany I would wager it will be buried like most other activity of the sort. The stats are telling of the rise in left and right wing violence.

In Berlin, radical left anarchists are burning cars and smashing bank buildings in retaliation for what they claim is police brutality. Far-left activists in Berlin warned that they would exact €1m in revenge for any police raids on their squats and other ‘projects’ in the capital Dozens of cars were burned.

The police have reported a significant increase in far-left violence nationwide in 2015, with politically motivated left-wing crimes jumping 18 percent to 9,600. The refugee influx is a root cause with far-right groups have reacting violently and far-left groups attacking them in response. In January this year 211 far-right extremists were arrested for hosting an anti-refugee rally in Leipzig complaining Chancellor Merkel is ruining their homeland after the cover up after the new year sexual assaults in Cologne.

The Interior Ministry revealed that 39,000 (+19%YoY) politically motivated crimes were committed in 2015, with 23,000 having a far right motive. Crimes against refugees have soared from 199 in 2014 to over 1,000 in 2015.

Expect the 2017 figures to be even worse.

Tsunami Tales pt.1: Remember the selfless bravery of Miki Endo in Minamisanriku

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On March 11, 2011 Miki Endo (24) kept announcing to the 17,700 citizens of her hometown Mimamisanriku to seek higher ground as the tsunami approached. As the tidal wave engulfed the town, Miki tragically lost her life as the three story building wasn’t high enough to escape. Despite the huge rebuild in Minamisanriku today, the skeleton of the building will be preserved as a memory of that fateful day.

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This is what it looked like 6 years ago. Miki had been clinging to the tip of the radio mast but  it wasn’t high enough.

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Here are the pictures I took of Minamisanriku over 5 years ago.

This is what it looks like today

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The rebuilding of the town will take at least another 5 years. It is hard to know what to think. So much reclaimed land, huge mounds of dirt and lots of temporary buildings which mostly house convenience stores. When the workers go, will there be a Minamisanriku to call home? It just looks temporary. Nothing should take away the bravery of Miki Endo.