December 11, 2006

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Betsy Brantner Smith Survival Insights
with Betsy Brantner Smith

Time to winterize yourself

Since global warming probably won’t make you safe this winter, it is time to take matters into your own hands. Winter presents law enforcement with unique challenges from getting to a crisis in a hurry on slippery roadways to putting everyone, including would-be assailants, in heavy coats.

First, make sure you pay attention to the details before you hit it the streets. Are you ready for an extended exposure to severe cold? Have you got gloves that both protect you from the cold and allow you to use your equipment properly and effectively; especially those tools that keep you alive? There are so many remarkable fabrics out there today that you really have no excuse to suffer as you face the temperature swings very common in many parts of the US and Canada.

I recently tried some of these new fabrics while deer hunting in the snow and cold of Northern Illinois and even though I was hiking in deep drifts (yet sweating!) one minute and hunkered down watching a trail the next I was never too hot or cold. In past, sweating always lead to chills and the inability to dry off and warm up, but with the “wicking” materials now available (such as Under Armor) you can work up a sweat and still stay comfortable.

Second, don’t forget your head and ears. Years ago, when the Chicago-area wind chill reached 60 below, several of Betsy’s fellow patrol officers were taken to the emergency room with severe frostbite of the ears following a footchase through a neighborhood. (when the K-9 refused to get out of the car and join the pursuit, the human cops should have taken the hint) Just like a flashlight, make sure you have head and ear cover with you at all times.

Third, don’t underestimate the importance of proper footwear. Start with a good pair of cold-weather socks layered under a pair of boots that allow movement but keep your feet warm. Keep a set of chemical, single-use foot and hand warmers to drop in the toes of your boots (or in the palm of your gloves) for that incident that gives you unexpected and lengthy exposure to the elements.

Good winter boots also offer you better traction. Traction is one of things you take for granted until you don’t have it and find yourself airborne going backward in a parking lot, sidewalk, roadway…doesn’t matter where, give yourself the best soles for the winter that you possibly can. Countless broken wrists, ankles, and dislocated elbows have ruined the holidays for crime fighters.

I know many reading this are thinking that since they live in San Diego, Miami, or Phoenix this is a moot point, it isn’t. In fact, those of you living in warmer climes will often have only a few days of ice and snow and still have to wear all the aforementioned equipment. The problem is, you might skip the last step in the law enforcement “Winterizing” process…training.

Put on all the heavy weather gear you might ever need and the go to range and practice drawing and shooting. Get on the mat and practice ground fighting or whatever you defensive tactics are. Make sure you can get to your Taser, cuffs, flashlight, OC, baton, magazines, and even your knife by actually practicing it in full cold weather gear. This is something that should be done before Winter actually arrives, but if you haven’t done it yet it is time to get going.

Finally, Winter brings other special threats as foul weather spreads throughout the Northern Hemisphere; obscuring our vision with fog, rain, snow, and icy windshields we sometimes don’t take time to clear properly. It is a time of longer nights and shorter days, a lot more darkness and a lot less light. The frequent threat of rain and snow also makes the chances of slippery roadways greater, increasing not only our risks while driving but also while we are out of our vehicles at accident scenes, traffic stops, or traffic control points. It is always a good idea to remember that accidental deaths, just like deaths by assaults, are often avoided by simply taking the most basic steps to protect ourselves against the threat at hand.

Stay safe.

About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter





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