Helping Emergency Responders, Online

April 14, 2020

LSU’s National Center for Biomedical Research and Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorism, or NCBRT/ACE, is rapidly developing online trainings to help emergency responders stay safe, prepared, and resilient in the context of COVID-19.

June 5, 2020 Update: The roll call training mentioned in this article has now been downloaded by 3,800 police departments and reached an estimated 420,000 officers across the United States.

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A new animated training video to be released this week helps police officers use time, distance, and shielding to their own and others’ advantage in situations where anyone could be contagious.

The NCBRT/ACE builds on 30 years of experience in helping the emergency response community tackle new and evolving threats. In the past, they’ve helped local, national, and international partners prepare for challenges such as Ebola, anthrax, and complex coordinated attacks. Now, in the face of COVID-19, they’ve transformed what mostly has been an in-person, on-site operation—training law enforcement and first responders in the field—into an online powerhouse. Their most recent offering, a roll call training to help on-duty police protect themselves and others from coronavirus, is an 18-minute webinar that has reached an estimated 220,000 officers across the United States, with 75,000 confirmed views. To date, 2,200 police departments have downloaded the roll call training—up from 1,300 just last week.

“As you can understand, there are lots of new policy guidelines coming out,” said Jerry Monier, associate director for research and development. “These guidelines tell law enforcement what to do, but what we’re providing is the how to do, the actual mechanics of how to accomplish what the policy statements say we should be achieving. That’s our part; taking that info and making it operational. We help unique agencies answer the question, ‘So, how does this apply to us?’”

As part of the rollout of the new training, the NCBRT/ACE partnered with International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), National Sheriff’s Association, the Department of Homeland Security Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, National Environmental Health Association, Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, and local law enforcement agencies.

“A lot of officers are concerned about bringing COVID-19 home with them after work. With specific techniques, we’re helping them minimize the risk, which also decreases their overall burden of stress.”

Jason Krause

The NCBRT/ACE is also trying new formats. Last week, they released their first preparedness podcast, called “Law Enforcement Leadership Challenges and Solutions,” and this week, there will be a second podcast, “Pandemic Response: Law Enforcement Workforce Challenges.”

“Podcasts are for sharing information, while our webinars provide training,” Monier continued. “The advantage of static online trainings is that first responders can watch them anytime. They don’t have to wait until a specific time or date for us to send personnel out, and we’re trying to keep each of the trainings to under 30 minutes each. This way, we’re able to reach a lot of people fast.”

This week, the NCBRT/ACE is launching their first animated training video, specifically for law enforcement. It’s brief, just over three minutes, and focuses on how officers can use the elements or time, distance, and shielding to limit possible exposure to the virus and protect themselves and others—especially when making arrests.

“Let’s say you respond to a home and instead of going inside to talk with the person, you ask them to come out of their house,” Jason Krause, associate director of operations and plans, explained. “This is to reduce time spent indoors in a potentially contaminated environment. Also, if officers must engage and detain someone, they should try to put some form of protective mask on the detainee as quickly as possible.”

The NCBRT/ACE also offers trainings on how to handle contaminated evidence, donning and doffing (meaning, how to safely handle your uniform and equipment as you begin and end a shift), and a five-minute webinar, part of the roll call training, called “Safer at Home.”

“A lot of officers are concerned about bringing COVID-19 home with them after work,” Krause said. “With specific techniques, we’re helping them minimize the risk, which also decreases their overall burden of stress.”

“Even if we come out of COVID-19 in the next couple of months, we’re not ‘done.’ We continue to prepare for the future.”

Jeff Mayne

Stress is a growing issue the NCBRT/ACE hopes to address. They are now developing a new training about first responder mental health in the context of COVID-19.

“We didn’t exactly have these trainings ready to go,” Krause remarked. “We had to rapidly develop them and use our available staff in new ways.”

“Absolutely,” Monier added. “We continue to learn about resources among our staff we didn’t know they had. Before this, we only had one online course, about security in shopping centers for private security personnel and local law enforcement. But this is what we do—we respond to the evolving needs of the response community.”

Previous feedback on NCBRT/ACE biological training indicates that nine out of ten users say the training helped them to better understand the pandemic and feel more prepared to respond. They also say the concepts and skills they learned in the courses helped them do their jobs more effectively. NCBRT/ACE is currently conducting surveys on their new roll call training and, so far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

The NCBRT/ACE team, meanwhile, continues to look forward.

“We always think about the long term and try to pay attention to both gaps and successes,” Jeff Mayne, NCBRT/ACE director, concluded. “If or when this happens again, we need a long-term strategy. Even if we come out of COVID-19 in the next couple of months, we’re not ‘done.’ We continue to prepare for the future.”