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First responder cell phone use on-duty

In this tip, risk management expert Gordon Graham encourages first responders to be smart about their use of cell phones while on duty

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol.

Today’s Tip is for all my public safety friends and it’s about cell phones. Yep, we all have them. And we use them all the time. In this day and age, we depend on them to get the job done. But what about public perception? How about policy considerations? Are we smart about how and when we use our cell phones while on duty?

I’ve traveled all over this great country and can’t count how many times I’ve seen public safety professionals at work in the field doing what they do best. Serving and protecting the public. Many times, these professionals are on their phones. Whether summoning additional resources or following-up on a critical concern, there’s no doubt cell phones make our jobs easier. In fact, we’ve become so reliant on these devices, we don’t even think about it when we grab one. It’s instinctive.

Often, we don’t consider how using cell phones looks from the outside or the inherent dangers that exist. Whether driving a 25-ton fire apparatus or a 2-ton patrol sedan, talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel adds another element of danger to an already dangerous job. Even in states where public safety personnel are exempt from hands free requirements, ask yourself whether the distraction is worth the risk. How about agency policy? There’s a good chance your policy restricts how and when you use these devices while on the job.

Texting is yet another concern. Common sense tells us that texting while driving is dangerous. Heck, 1 in 4 vehicle crashes in this country are a result of texting while driving. Public safety personnel carry the biggest burden when it comes to distracted driving. Don’t be a part of the problem. Be smart about how and when you text.

And this is not my focus today but please consider the legal issues involved in using your personal cell phone for departmental business.

As a risk manager, I’d be remiss if I didn’t preach a little bit about the impact divided attention has in the workplace. Distractions in any form are dangerous. As much as we try, human beings aren’t very good at multitasking. Yeah, I know what you’re saying. “Hey Gordon, I multitask all the time.” Sure you do. I get it. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t maintain focus when you’re on the phone. It’s a legitimate safety concern so please be careful. Follow agency policy. Follow your instinct and stay safe. And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Until next time, Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.