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Blog Archive: December 2015

Toss the Same Old New Year's Resolutions Out the Window and Focus on Safety Instead

December 31, 2015
It’s New Year’s Eve. Many people at some point today will come to the same realization. “Great. Time for another New Year’s resolution. I didn’t even finish/stick to/attempt the resolution I made one year ago. Here we go again. It’s now or never.”
If you’re like most people, you’ll pick one of these resolutions:
  • Lose weight and get fit.
  • Quit smoking. 
  • Learn something new.
  • Eat healthier and diet.
Unfortunately, many people fall off the wagon and give up by Feb. 1. Don’t shoot the messenger. We’re just telling you the facts.
Researchers say there are plenty of reasons people backslide, none of which have to do with being weak-willed or lazy. Apparently most people make resolutions but are not really ready to commit. They’re not mentally prepared to change their bad habits. Makes sense.
Photo: Don't text while driving. Put your phone away.​
So before you toss out all your New Year’s resolutions, consider some you are more likely to keep. They could save a life — maybe even your own — in 2016.
1. Put away the distractions while driving. Phones. Food. Makeup. Whatever takes your eyes off the road needs to go. Have your family and friends hold you accountable and do the same for them when they are behind the wheel so we can make our roads safer.
2. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every month — and change the batteries twice a year. These devices save lives — but only if they work.
3. Make an emergency kit for your family. These kits — for your car and for your home — are easy to make and can be a life-saver in an emergency.
4. Line up a sober ride. If your celebration involves alcohol, make sure you have a safe way home whether it’s a friend, family member, cab or public transit. If you don’t drink, offer to be someone else’s sober ride.
5. Stay in the kitchen while you’re cooking. It’s easy to get distracted and wander away from that grilled cheese sandwich frying in the pan. Turn off the burner if you leave the room. Unattended cooking is the No. 1 cause of structure fires in Minnesota.

Crazy Dash Cam Footage is Anything But for First Responders

Move Over: It’s the Law in Minnesota

December 28, 2015
File this dash cam footage under the “you have to see it to believe it” category.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse for the troopers and crash victims in this video from the Montana Highway Patrol, it does.
State Trooper holding a sign that says move over its the law in Minnesota
​Photo: it’s the law to move over or slow down
when you see those flashing lights.
Drivers lose control and careen into parked squads and other cars. One woman is ejected from a vehicle across two lanes of traffic. Lying on the side of the icy highway, the woman regains consciousness only to be narrowly missed by cars zipping along. The footage will make you gasp. More importantly, we hope it also makes you think twice. 
The dramatic dash cam footage is unbelievable yet all too real for law enforcement. This video might be shocking to you but first responders deal every day with the three problems that caused these stressful and dangerous situations: 
1. People not moving over when they see flashing lights.
2. People not driving the correct speed for road conditions.
3. People not paying attention.
And it happens here in Minnesota, where it’s the law to move over or slow down — and we mean way down —when you see those flashing lights. If you have ever hit an icy patch or felt your tires struggling to keep contact with the road on a rainy day then you know that you can be on your way to the grocery store one minute and upside down in a ditch the next.
That is scary enough. Now imagine you’re the trooper or paramedic or tow truck driver helping another a woman deliver a baby or giving a teen a hand with a flat tire. You’re doing your job one second then literally running — or jumping — for your life the next. You’re having a baby on the side of the road and then suddenly you’re staring down the grill of an out-of-control minivan. 
Overdramatic? Watch those dash cam videos before you answer that question.
Move over. It could save a life — maybe even your own.

Our Tips Will Put You Safely Atop Santa's Nice List This Holiday Season

December 24, 2015
Santa’s infamous naughty list: Kids fear it (a lump of coal? No, thanks). Adults love it (what better way to get the kids to behave?). And no matter your age, you want to stay off it.
Avoiding the naughty list as a child usually meant completing your chores in a timely fashion without pouting and eating all of your vegetables at dinnertime. As Christmas Day crept closer, mom and dad would use the naughty list as a threat for every temper tantrum, wrong look or mean word.
Bottom line: You don’t want your name on that list.
​Photo: Unattended cooking is the No. 1 cause of
structure fires in Minnesota.
We are dedicated to prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, enforcement and education at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. What does that mean? Well, in part — in large part, actually — it means we want you to be safe.
So here’s our gift to you this holiday season: Five (safe) ways you can avoid the naughty list and find yourself on the list with all the nice boys and girls.
  1. Drive sober or line up a sober ride. Holiday cheer means different things to different people. For some, alcohol is involved. Think about your sober ride before you start to drink. And if your holiday celebration doesn’t involve spiked egg nog, offer to drive someone else home. Extra DWI enforcement is out in full force weekends through Jan. 2.
  2. Stay and look while you cook. The kitchen is the heart of the home — and that is even truer over the holidays. Problem is, the kitchen is also where more than 40 percent of structure fires began last year. Never leave anything cooking on the stove unattended. If you want to watch Timmy open his presents, turn off the burner and deal with dinner later. 
  3. Slow down, pay attention and buckle up. A white Christmas is not in the cards this year (thanks, El Niño). That doesn’t mean you should throw your safe driving habits out the window. Slow down, pay attention and buckle up and you’ll make it over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house.
  4. Deck the halls — but not near any open flames. Decorations help intensify our holiday spirit. But flames and things like dry Christmas trees, tinsel, stockings and wrapping paper don’t mix. Keep anything flammable at least three feet from the fireplace, candles, space heaters, etc.

Enough is Enough: Victims, Offenders and Law Enforcement ask Motorists to Drive Sober

Posted December 22, 2015
Imagine a 12-year-old girl standing outside after basketball practice. It’s January in Minnesota. She waits in the frigid cold for a warm car driven by her mother to pull up and take her home.
As the girl stands there, she has no idea a stranger’s terrible decision has changed her life. The girl waits. And waits. And waits. Her mother never arrives. She has been killed by a drunk driver.
Fast forward 14 years. Instead of standing on a sidewalk waiting for her mom, Courtney Pogones is standing in front of a group of reporters next to the man who killed her mother all those years ago. Through tears, the two share a message they hope you’ll take seriously: Enough is enough. Drive sober.

The Department of Public Safety news conference last month was emotional. It was hard to watch because, well, we could relate. As Courtney spoke about her mother Nancy Robling and Craig Barnd told dozens of people he had driven drunk literally hundreds of times, we thought about our families, our friends, our loved ones. We thought about what we would do if this happened to us — and were thankful it hasn’t. 
Most of us make the right decisions behind the wheel. We choose to drive sober. We line up a sober ride. Not everyone does — and we share the road with these motorists.
That’s why troopers, deputies and police officers statewide are spending time away from their families this holiday season. Instead of picking their daughters up from basketball practice or shopping for stocking stuffers, they are working overtime and cracking down on drunk drivers every weekend through Jan. 2.
These law enforcement officials have interrupted holidays to deliver the same news that Courtney Pogones received in January 2002.
They stand with Courtney and Craig and say enough is enough. Drive sober or line up a sober ride. If you don’t, you could leave a child waiting for a parent who will never return. 

This is the Story of Fire in Minnesota

Posted December 7, 2015
The 2014 edition of Fire in Minnesota has just come out. The book is 64 pages long, and its creation required a whole year of data reported by 772 fire departments. (That’s all but 10 of the departments in Minnesota.) The DPS State Fire Marshal Division (SFMD) publishes the book every year because it provides firefighters, chiefs, municipal governments, public educators, fire-code writers, industry personnel and everyone interested in fire safety with a realistic snapshot of the fire problem in Minnesota.
Let’s start by establishing that there is a problem. On page 43, the list of Fire Runs, Dollar Losses and Deaths by County concludes with a “Totals” row. It shows a total of 44 deaths from fires in our state last year, and close to $226 million in property loss.
firefighter battling a blaze
​Photo: Seventy-five percent of fire deaths in
2014 took place in homes.
The overall trend in fire deaths, however, is downward. On page 31, a pie chart illustrates the number of fire deaths in Minnesota since 1990 (36 percent in the metro area; 64 percent in greater Minnesota) and explains the trend. As our population has grown from 3.8 million to 5.5 million since 1990, fire deaths have decreased. The SFMD attributes improvements to better fire-service training and equipment, and advancements in fire protection technology like smoke alarms and fire sprinkler systems. New fire codes, inspection programs and code enforcement policies that target hotels, motels, schools, and health and daycare facilities have made a dent, too.
On the other hand, the bad news remains consistent. Seventy-five percent of fire deaths in 2014 (and the majority in previous years) took place where people feel safest — at home. Of the 44 deaths in 2014, 33 occurred in single- or multi-family dwellings. That tells us that personal responsibility for fire safety is our best preventative tool.
So what causes all these home fires? Go to Page 16. Cooking, as usual, is number one. Heating fires, mostly involving fireplaces and chimneys, are number two. And as State Fire Marshal Bruce West says in his letter included in the report, “It wasn’t the fault of the frying food, or the gas grill or the smoldering cigarette. In most cases, the fault lies with men, women or children. We know that despite our prevention efforts, advances in technology and safety education messages, people will be careless.”
The good news, though, is that fires are mostly caused by human behavior, and behavior can be changed. By taking a look at Fire in Minnesota online, you can learn about the major problems. You can teach your children about fire safety, too. The SFMD is dedicated to driving the numbers down as far as possible, but your cooperation is the ultimate tool in that effort.
So read up, please — and share the word. Fire prevention is everyone’s fight.