Keeping stable during unstable times

By Sam DiGiovanna

As I write this the National Weather Service is predicting strong winds for Monday, Jan. 18th lasting through Jan. 19th  Not only is this a wildfire threat, winds alone can cause widespread damage and power outages.  As firefighters, we have a responsibility to advise and warn the public of these dangers along with holiday, heat related, Covid – 19, 4th of July, swimming pool safety etc . Any danger that our communities are exposed to, it is our responsibility to advise them.

I felt it is important to revisit not only for our personal safety, but for the communities we serve as well. We have a deeply divided nation and a Presidential inauguration planned this week. Like the forecasted Santa Ana Winds, sometimes they come to fruition, sometimes they do not. Nonetheless, preparedness is key!

In addition, while we are on the front lines during these times, it is equally important for you to know what to do while off duty, but also to ensure your family’s safety while you are at work, so you have peace of mind and can perform your duties.

Here are some tips:

Before hitting the road, keep informed on conditions through news and your own agency.  If you become aware of a demonstration avoid the area.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you come across a demonstration, don't be a “lookie- loo.’”  We see and understand the impact when we are working incidents, so just leave the area and find another route to where you are headed. If possible, travel with someone, not alone.

If you see fire/police personnel, working an incident during civil unrest, move on and let them do their job.  They may not be able to identify you and you may wind up in trouble.

Caught in the crossfire: If you find yourself caught up in the middle of a protest or riot the perimeter is safest. Try not to be identified as one of the demonstrators. At the first chance, move carefully away from the incident and seek refuge until the crowd passes. Do not run as this will draw attention to you.

If by chance you are mistaken as a demonstrator and arrested, do not resist. Go along peacefully.

If you are caught up in the crowd, stay clear of glass window fronts. If pushed to the ground, try to get against a wall and roll yourself into a tight ball and cover your head with your hands until the crowd passes. Remember to keep calm – the crowd should sweep past in a short space of time. If you hear gun shots, drop to the ground and cover your head and neck, and lie as flat as you can.

If you are at home or on vacation do not leave or go into the street. Do not be tempted to watch the activity from your window. Draw the curtains or blinds to prevent shards of broken glass entering. If you are in premises that have doors or windows opening on to the roadside of the property, ensure that all windows and external doors are closed and locked. Sleep in an inside room which will provide greater protection from gunfire, rocks or other projectiles.

If you are driving, never drive through a crowd. If you find yourself in the path of a crowd, turn down the nearest side road, reverse or turn around and drive away calmly. If you cannot drive away, park the car, lock it and leave it, taking shelter in a side street or doorway. If you do not have time for this, stop and turn the engine off. Lock the doors and remain calm. Be sure not to show hostility or anger.

When the dust settles and things appear to be calming down, stay indoors as a secondary wave may re-occur. If it is unsafe to stay where you are, seek a place of safety in a less volatile area. If you have suffered injury, seek medical assistance. Report any loss or damage to your property to the police. Report your situation or whereabouts to family/friends/business associates.

Where applicable, report and claim on insurance.

Situational awareness is always important!

Source: Worldwide/World Nomads: Phil Sylvester

Sam DiGiovanna is a 35-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale. He also is a consultant for