June is PTSD Awareness Month: Tell Your State Legislators to Support PTDS Care for Police and Firefighters!

June is PTSD Awareness Month.

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is a condition that impacts many military veterans and first responders, such as police and firefighters.

PTSD can occur when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.  This condition wasn’t always understood properly by the medical or military community. “Shell shock” and “battle fatigue” or “combat fatigue” were earlier attempts to define and understand the symptoms of PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and those who suffer from it were often maligned and stigmatized in popular culture after the Vietnam War, and many films and television shows featured antagonists or unsympathetic characters suffering from “Vietnam flashbacks” or other post-combat issues.

This misunderstanding of PTSD slowly began to change in 1980 when it was recognized as a specific condition with identifiable symptoms. As a result, since that time Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Today, the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are better understood, treatable, and recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a service-connected condition.

Now we are recognizing that because of the nature of their jobs, police and firefighters, like military combat veterans, are routinely exposed to traumatic events that can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For this reason, police and firefighters are twice as likely as the general population to experience PTSD.

Currently, however, it is often difficult for police and firefighters in California to receive the treatment that they need and deserve.

New legislation — SB 542 — would provide that in the case of certain state and local firefighting personnel and peace officers, the term “injury” also includes a mental health condition or mental disability that results in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder that develops or manifests itself during a period in which the firefighter or peace officer is in the service of the department or unit.

This new legislation recognizes that “Today, a firefighter’s and law enforcement officer’s occupational stress is heightened in the face of California’s ‘new normal’ in which wildland and wildland-urban interface fires continue to annually increase as hot, dry, and wind-whipped conditions persist” and that “Last year’s fire storms were a brutal reminder of the ferocity of wildfires and how all too often on-duty firefighters and law enforcement officers incur the stress of witnessing victims flee while worrying about whether their own homes, and the safety of their families and neighbors, are threatened. When on duty, firefighters and law enforcement officers endure the added pain of driving through wreckage, seeing destroyed homes, or worse, the skeletal remains of family, friends, and neighbors burned to ash while not being able to stop to provide assistance or comfort.”

The legislation further recognizes that “While the cumulative impacts of these aggressive, deadly events are taking their toll, our firefighters and law enforcement officers continue to stand up to human-caused devastation and nature’s fury, but they are physically and emotionally exhausted” and that “California has a responsibility to ensure that its fire and law enforcement agencies are equipped with the tools necessary to assist their personnel in mitigating the occupational stress experienced as a result of performing their job duties and protecting the public.”

For these reasons, the intent of the legislation to “recogniz[e] the hazards and resulting trauma of these occupations and provide treatment and support for these public servants through presumptive care to our firefighters and law enforcement officers.”

As the daughter of a police officer and the mother of a firefighter, I strongly support SB 542 and it’s goal of providing treatment for police and firefighters suffering from service-related PTSD.

I urge everyone in California to contact their representatives in both the State Senate and the State Assembly to urge them to Vote Yes on SB 542!

Wildfire Preparedness Week: Wildfire is Coming . . . Are You Ready?

As CAL FIRE, reminds us, Wildfire is coming . . . Are you ready?

This is Wildfire Preparedness Week.

Each year California highlights the importance of wildfire prevention and preparedness by declaring the first full week of May as “Wildfire Preparedness Week.”

This year during the week of May 5-11, CAL FIRE, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and fire departments across the state will remind residents of the dangers posed by wildfires and the simple steps that should be followed to prepare for and prevent them.

Despite getting some much-needed rain this winter, we’re expecting another dangerous fire season.

You can learn more about wildfire prevention at OCFA’s press conference on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. at Station 41, located at Fullerton Airport.  For more information, contact OCFA PIO at 714-357-7782.

One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire!

Approximately 95 percent of all wildfires are sparked by the activity of people, which means that almost all wildfires are preventable.

One of the leading causes of wildfires is outdoor powered equipment. Use powered equipment before 10 a.m. and never on hot and windy days. When clearing dead or dying grass don’t use a lawn mower or weed trimmer with a metal blade.

Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained with nothing dragging on the ground like trailer chains. All residents and vacationers need to be extra cautious outdoors because one less spark means one less wildfire.

Learn more by clicking here

Ready, Set, Go! 

With fire activity already above average, Californians should remember “Ready, Set, Go!

Ready: Protect your home ahead of time by taking steps to mitigate wildfire risk.

Set: Prepare for an emergency by assembling a bag of important items that you would need in the event of emergency. This includes clothes, medication and other personal items. Develop a family emergency plan that details escape routes and reunification plans.

Go: Leave early in the event of an emergency. Avoid traffic congestion and other complications by evacuating at the earliest opportunity. In the event of evacuation, all City of Irvine emergency shelters will have options available for pets.

Learn more by clicking here.

Be Prepared and Take Action!

As climate changes, and as home-building expands ever closer to more areas subject to wildfire, the danger to our lives and property increases.

Watch an OCFA video on wildfire preparedness by clicking here.

Please learn what you should do to help our firefighters keep your family safe!

 

Operation “Southern Wind” — Our First Responders Train for a “Dirty Bomb” Terrorist Attack

This week, as a board member of the Orange County Fire Authority, I had the amazing opportunity to observe the 2019 Urban Search and Rescue Multi-Task Force Mobilization Exercise “Southern Wind” at the Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic, California, in which our first responders trained to deal with a “dirty bomb” terrorist attack.

The scenario was that a vehicle containing a “dirty bomb” had exploded, spreading radioactive contamination and toxic smoke across a wide area and demolishing a mall and a hospital, with many fatalities and injured victims, as well as many people trapped in the rubble.

The participating agencies included the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), Cal Trans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Branch, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), California US&R Task Force 5 (CA-TF5) from OCFA, California US&R Task Force 6 (CA-TF6) from the Riverside Fire Department, California US&R Task Force 8 from the San Diego Fire Department, and the HazMat Task Force from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The goal of the exercise was to demonstrate the ability of Southern California-based local, state, and federal US&R Task Forces to meet FEMA Operational Readiness Exercise Evaluation Program requirements, and demonstrate Multi-Task Force cooperation in response to an incident involving a Radiological Dispersal Device.

The overall Incident Commander, and most of the section commanders, were with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Among the actions taken were decontamination and securing of the area, searching for victims (including using search dogs), and extraction of victims from the rubble (including using cranes to lift debris and motor vehicles).

Due to the danger of exposure to radiation, the crews needed to rotate frequently.

My very helpful and patient “guide” during the exercise was OCFA US&R Coordinator Captain Richard Ventura.

Also taking time to keep me informed was OCFA Captain Wendy Norwood, whose normal duty station is OCFA Fire Station 27 in Portola Springs.

I was tremendously impressed by the smoothness and thoroughness of the operation, the coordination and cooperation among the different agencies, the amazing level of skills demonstrated, and the dedication of all the participants.

I was also extremely proud of the leadership role taken by our own Orange County Fire Authority.

Thank you to all our dedicated first responders for continually training to keep us safe!

Here are some more of the photos and videos I took during the exercise:

 

 

 

 

Irvine Returns to the Orange County Fire Authority and I am Returning to the OCFA Board of Directors

I want to thank Irvine Mayor Christina Shea and my colleagues on the Irvine City Council for their decision to re-appoint me to the Board of Directors of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA).

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox on the scene of a structure fire in Irvine.

For many years, there has been a dispute between the City of Irvine and OCFA over Irvine’s disproportionately large financial contribution to the fire service.

Because of these concerns, last June, the City of Irvine notified OCFA that it intended to withdraw from the agency in 2020.

In the months that followed, the City of Irvine and OCFA engaged in intensive negotiations with the purpose of finding a way to resolve our differences, particularly the disparity between Irvine’s financial contributions and the services we receive.

Happily, the result of these negotiations was an agreement under which Irvine will receive substantial benefits and considerations in returning to OCFA.

OCFA will contribute $20.5 million to a police-fire training facility in Irvine that will be utilized by the Irvine Police Department and OCFA to meet both separate and joint training needs.

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox with OCFA Fire Chief Brian Fennessy.

Also, OCFA will establish a drone program as part of the agreement that allows monitoring of Irvine’s open space areas with the objective of quickly detecting, assessing, and preventing fires and other hazards.

Significantly, the agreement also includes a pension pay-down, under which OCFA will pay $2 million per year for a total of $22 million over 11 years into an irrevocable pension trust that can be used only for payment of employee pension liability. Approximately 58% of those funds will be earmarked to pay down any portion of OCFA’s unfunded pension liability that is attributed to Irvine.

You can read the full agreement and the Irvine staff report online here.

As Irvine’s representative on the OCFA Board, I am delighted to work again with the dedicated professionals of the Orange County Fire Authority.

I am honored to serve the residents of Irvine and Orange County in this crucial role and pledge to ensure that OCFA continues to provide the very best in fire protection, fire suppression, and emergency services.

In today’s heightened, year-round, wildfire season, having a well-trained, well-equipped and well-led fire service has never been more important.

 

 

Congratulations to Chief Greg McKeown on His Retirement! Wishing Chief McKeown and His Family All the Best in the Future!

Congratulations to Orange County Fire Authority Division 2 Chief Greg McKeown on your retirement.

He will be greatly missed.

Chief McKeown is a life-long resident of Orange County who started his career with the Orange County Fire Authority in 1989. Serving the OCFA for nearly thirty years, Chief McKeown has held many positions within the fire service.

Moving up through the ranks, he has held the position of Firefighter, Paramedic, Fire Captain, Battalion Chief, and Division Chief. Chief McKeown’s most recent position has been leading Division 2, serving the City of Irvine and John Wayne Airport.

Chief McKeown has been very active in the ensuring the safety of our Irvine community, serving as the city’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) representative and instructor; as well as coordinating a comprehensive drowning prevention plan.

I will miss Chief McKeown’s day-to-day leadership and I am grateful for his decades of service, especially his stalwart leadership of Orange County Fire Authority Division 2.

During the worst fires in our region, I knew that our fire service was under the leadership of the best of the best.

From myself, the residents of Irvine, and all of us in Orange County, I wish Chief McKeown and his family all in best in the future!

Remembering Traffic Victims — and Preventing Them in Irvine

Sunday, November 18, 2018, is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

This day is dedicated to remembering those killed or injured in road crashes, as well as to pay tribute to the dedicated emergency crews, police, fire and medical professionals who daily deal with the traumatic aftermath of road death and injury.

Unfortunately, this Day of Remembrance has increasing significance for the City of Irvine.

At our most recent City Council meeting, residents told us about witnessing extremely dangerous driving behavior and very close calls involving their children.

I am sure you also witnessed close calls or have heard similar frightening stories from your neighbors.

I am very concerned — as are others — that we will see an increase in serious injuries and deaths in Irvine because a motorist did not obey a stop sign, respect a pedestrian’s right of way, or pay attention.

I have set a meeting with our Chief of Police to step up traffic enforcement and to make sure that our police have every resource they need to ensure that our city is safe for children, other pedestrians, and bicycle riders.

I will be discussing numerous ways to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety, especially for children, including stepped-up enforcement, more illumination of crosswalks, and better lighting and visibility at stop signs. Your suggestions are invited.

The truth is, we can greatly improve the safety of our streets simply by being better and more respectful drivers, and by all of us — drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians — following the rules of the road.

The most common cause of vehicular accidents is driver behavior, especially distracted driving.  In fact, distracted driving accounts for an astonishing 95 percent of all auto collisions.  According to the National Safety Council,  using a mobile phone while driving now the most prevalent cause of a traffic collisions.

Globally, road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged 15-29 and claim more than 1.25 million lives each year. In the United States, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of accidental death among teenagers, representing over one-third of all teenager deaths.

As I have said, Irvine is world-famous as a safe place to live and raise our families, but it won’t stay that way unless Irvine motorists make a conscious decision to reject distracted driving, obey stop signs, and respect pedestrians’ right-of-way.

It’s not just our reputation as America’s safest city that is on the line.  Our lives, and the lives of our children, are at stake.

Learn How to Keep Your Family and Your Community Ready for Wildfires!

Do you know how to protect against wildfire?  Are you prepared for an emergency?

On Monday, November 5, 2018, you can learn how to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe at a free informational meeting on wildfire preparedness from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Fire Station 27, located at 12400 Portola Springs, Irvine CA 92618.

A plane drops fire retardant in the Cleveland National Forest behind homes along Crystal Ridge Court in Lake Elsinore as the Holy fire burned near homes on Wednesday afternoon, August 8, 2018. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The outreach focuses on the Ready, Set, Go strategy championed by OCFA and will include a Question and Answer Session.

The wildfire outreach campaign emphasizes these key messages:

Ready: Protect your home ahead of time by taking steps to mitigate wildfire risk.

Set: Prepare for an emergency by assembling a bag of important items that you would need in the event of emergency. This includes clothes, medication and other personal items. Develop a family emergency plan that details escape routes and reunification plans.

Go: Leave early in the event of an emergency. Avoid traffic congestion and other complications by evacuating at the earliest opportunity. In the event of evacuation, all City of Irvine emergency shelters will have options available for pets.

Irvine neighborhoods most at risk of wildfire include Turtle Rock, Shady Canyon, Quail Hill, Orchard Hills and Portola Springs.

Irvine residents are further encouraged to sign up to receive emergency notifications at AlertOC.org.

Visit cityofirvine.org or ocfa.org/rsg for more information on wildfire preparedness.

You can visit the Facebook event page here.