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A New Effort to Bring Care to First Responders in Need

1stAlliance seeks to ensure those who need care get they care they need

Article re-printed by with permission from the authorAdobeStock_102706188

By Karen Solomon

More than 240 million calls are placed to 911 each year in the United States alone: 240 million instances in which a first responder can be emotionally and/or physically injured. It happens more often than people realize. Once a first responder is traumatized by what he or she experiences, where do they turn to heal their wounds? Should they be burned in a fire or struck by a bullet or knife, what happens next? It’s a question they often ask themselves.

In my experience too many of injured and traumatized first responders will sit alone in front of a computer looking for someone to help them. They will seek someone who understands and won’t look upon them as if they are weak, who knows how to get them what they need without broadcasting it over the radio. It’s not an easy task. When they are in crisis, it becomes frustrating to the point that some will give up. Some will commit suicide.

Firefighters, peace officers, emergency medical technicians, corrections officers and dispatchers too often find themselves standing over an abyss of turmoil from which they can’t walk away. We’re going to change that. We’re going to find them the help they need. It’s a simple concept: A central database that doesn’t store any of their information and can point each and every one in the right direction.

What We’re Doing

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputies Steven Hough and Jeffrey McGill know what it’s like to experience a critical incident and find themselves without the proper assistance to recover. They longed for a collaboration of the first responder resources scattered around their country, and a way to reach the people who need those resources. I joined them to form 1stAlliance, and from there a database was born.

Thanks to a collaboration with another injured officer, Bourne Massachusetts Officer Jared P. MacDonald, 1stAlliance is a 501(c)3 charitable organization whose sole mission is to provide a way for first responders to find their way out of the darkness.

On June 1 of this year will be launched: a free, confidential way for first responders to find emotional, financial and spiritual assistance. If they’re in immediate crisis, they’ll be provided with a 24/7 resource to call. If they’re not in immediate crisis, they’ll be able to enter some basic criteria and be matched with resources that match their needs. They can take their time selecting the best fit. But, most importantly, they’ll have a starting point.

This endeavor is not a short-term bandage. We have partnered with Avatar Computing and plan to develop this into a free, downloadable app over the next six months. Avatar has been incredibly generous and will be redesigning both sites, logos and assisting with the long-term development of the organization. We’re also collecting suicide statistics, and we have a five-year plan to provide baseline data that can tell us a story about what’s happening to our first responders.

We also want to hear about the PTSD experiences of first responders. Those stories help us understand where we should focus our efforts. Our goal is to find out what first responders need most, identify those resources, and present them in a simple, confidential manner. No judgement. No fear of reprisal.


It’s important to note that we aren’t competing with the established organizations. We are instead providing a vehicle for more people to find them. We have nearly 100 vetted resources in the United States, Canada, and Australia that are trained to assist first responders. What became a quiet national project is blossoming into a global endeavor. Through the chat forums that will be installed this summer, providers can collaborate best practices and ideas on a global scale, all with an eye to improving the quality of life of those that serve us.

If you’d like more information, please feel free to visit our website or contact me at This project has been funded to date through private donations and we continue to seek long-term corporate partners.

We are also providing free informational cards to any individual or department that would like to hand them out to their members. These cards bear our logo and the website and are a handy reminder that you are never alone. Simply visit our website and we’ll find you a safer outlook.

Do you provide services to first responders? Register for inclusion in the database here. If you’re a first responder, bookmark our site, share your PTSD story with us or let us know when someone completes suicide. Our success is your success.

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Bishop PD: Local Youth Helps BPD Foil Possible School Shooting

This article was taken from Bishop Police Department’s Facebook Page on August 29th, 2014

Local Youth Helps Bishop Police Foil Possible School ShootingOn the afternoon of August 27, 2014, a 14 year old male resident of Bishop contacted the Police Department regarding information he had received about a possible planned school shooting.

The young man was playing an on-line game through his X-Box. Players on the game can participate from various locations and have the ability to text or chat with each other during the game. While playing the game, an unidentified juvenile whose location was unknown, sent messages to the local youth, indicating that he was distraught over a break up with his girlfriend. He went on to say that he was planning to take his father’s 9mm gun to school the next day and target his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend and then commit suicide. The young Bishop resident immediately contacted Police.

Upon learning of the messages and their content, Bishop Police Officer Jared Waasdorp conducted further investigation and interview with the Bishop youth. Officer Waasdorp was able to ascertain that the subject making the threats possibly lived somewhere in Colorado. Officer Waasdorp contacted authorities in Colorado, including Investigators from the Colorado Cyber Crimes Task Force. Officer Waasdorp also contacted Microsoft Corporation and initiated the necessary process to obtain any information that might reveal the identity and location of the subject making the threats.

Utilizing the expertise and assistance of the Colorado Cyber Crimes Task Force in conjunction with the information provided from Microsoft, Officer Waasdorp was able to determine the subject’s identity and location.

Local Authorities in Colorado were notified and made contact with a 14 year old male who admitted to making the threats. Colorado Authorities also determined that the boy’s father did own a 9mm weapon. The boy was detained for a mental health evaluation and the investigation is continuing. Due to the evolving nature of the investigation, further details are being withheld to protect the integrity of the case and the identities of other involved parties. As information becomes available, we will continue to provide updates as appropriate.

The Bishop Police Department wanted to release the information available at this time to highlight the importance and value of the actions of this local young man. His recognition of the circumstances and willingness to alert authorities likely averted a tragedy and saved lives. We hope that his actions would serve as an example to others and encourage them to come forward whenever they have information that helps us protect the public and prevent crimes from happening.

Chief Carter.

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Melissa Kositzin guest blog

“I stabbed her with my rapier”

… “You stabbed her with your what?”

By Melissa Kositzin of Wandering Voiceless Blog

April 30, 2013

After nine years as a dispatcher, this is still my most memorable call.

It was a Tuesday evening in April, 2007. I had been a dispatcher for three years, and that night I was working as a call-taker.*

One of the things I love about my job is that I never know what is on the other end of the phone (or radio). I can be contentedly reading (“training”) or writing (more “training”), enjoying a cup of joe (or more recently a gallon of diet soda)… and then out of the blue, the phone will ring. Most of the time, even if it’s the 9-1-1 line, it’s pretty routine: a medical aid, a missing vehicle (more often towed than stolen), a missing child or elder. Once in a while though… you get one of these.

My first clue that this was a “real” emergency was the voice of the woman screaming “help me” from some distance away from the phone, accompanied by the noise of scuffling and a male’s voice screaming something unintelligible.

I immediately accepted a call for service at the address that had appeared on my CAD screen and called it a “415FAM” — the code for a disturbance between family members. To this day, I have no idea how I knew instantly it was a mother versus son. It certainly wasn’t clear from the first few seconds of the call. Even my notes in the call only say


At that moment of making a decision to get a call in as quickly as I possibly could at the highest priority possible, on instinct alone I chose that call type. (Perhaps subconsciously I had mentally processed both the male and female voice, and the possible ages of those voices.)

Initially neither of them answered my questions. Both of them continued screaming, huffing and puffing with the background scuffling noise, and occasionally the woman would be able to get out the word “help.”

Listening to a recording of the call now (to refresh my memory for this post), I can hear the woman say, “I’ve been stabbed.” I did not hear that when I initially was taking the call. (That actually happens quite frequently, where we can only hear part of what is being said until we play it back for training or to make a copy for the district attorney.) I heard her say something, and I responded with “I’m sorry, you’ve fallen?” (Because that would explain the scuffling and screaming, right? Good grief!)

She just kept saying “help” from time to time, while the male continued speaking unintelligibly. After about a minute there was some silence, and then what I finally heard at the time of the call was the male saying, after calmly confirming the address, “I’ve killed my mother.”

Honestly, I said “You did what to your mother?” (Yes, I’m a little slow sometimes. Don’t tell my kids.) He repeated, “I killed her.” I then calmly asked him his name, to which he only repeated the address.

I told him I had officers on the way, and asked, “How did you kill her?” He responded, “I stabbed her with my (unintelligible to me at the time), now, she’s dying, please send (what sounded like suicide pills).” So naturally, I asked “She took suicide pills?” (Let me be clear, this is not me at my call-taking best.)

After a bit more back and forth in which I’m trying to make sense of what he’s saying to me, he says slowly and carefully, “Shit, I killed her with my rapier.” Since I’m still not catching that word rapier, I ask him again, “Okay, how did you kill her; what happened exactly?” He answered with, “I don’t want to talk about it. Bring some pain medication for her so she dies more peacefully.”

There is yet more back and forth (where did you hurt her, what did you do, what are her injuries, etc.) as I try to get out of him what he did to her, because I just wasn’t understanding what he was saying. (So much for my instincts!) He finally gives up on me, and says, “Listen lady, good-bye. I’m done.” However, he leaves me with an open line instead of hanging up.

At this point, I have typed into the call


Throughout the rest of the call on the open line I can hear him speaking to his mother, but I can’t tell what he’s saying. I can still hear her faintly moaning. I listen in as the officers arrive and get him detained. When they are “code 4″ (the scene is secure), I release the line.

As I replayed the call in my mind over and over that evening, I was sure I must have asked him the same question in the same way about five times. It’s called “stuck in a loop.” Listening to the call again for this post, I didn’t really ever repeat the same question exactly; I did rephrase it, he just kept saying the same thing. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t hearing that word “rapier.” Perhaps, if I had heard her when she said, “I’ve been stabbed,” I would have put two and two together and been able to type into the call the weapon that had been used so officers would be prepared when they got on scene. As it was, they went into the house “cold” — without any clue what they would find.

I still didn’t know what had happened until a couple of hours later when one of the detectives came upstairs to tell us that the male subject had stabbed his mother 17 times with a rapier (a long sword) in a schizophrenic frenzy. When he was done, he felt no remorse, but wanted her to die peacefully, hence his request for “suicide pills.”

Collection of early modern swords (17th to 18th centuries) at the George F. Harding Collection of Arms and Armor, the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo credit Wikipedia.
Collection of early modern swords (17th to 18th centuries) at the George F. Harding Collection of Arms and Armor, the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo credit Wikipedia.


Collection of early modern swords (17th to 18th centuries) at the George F. Harding Collection of Arms and Armor, the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo credit Wikipedia.

Although it wasn’t my best interrogation, I had managed to keep him on the line and inside the house until officers arrived. For that, I am grateful.

The mother died shortly after she was transported to the hospital. I heard her last words on that call. I wish I had been able to comfort her more than I was able. I am more conscious now of using a more sympathetic voice with victims, and a more forceful voice when necessary with suspects.

The male was committed to a local mental institution. As far as I know, he’s still there. For that, I am also grateful.




*Allow me a moment to share some general background information: In our agency, we rotate through three positions: radio {dispatcher}, phones {taking calls} and CLETS {records checks and overflow phones}. CLETS stands for California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. It is the electronic system through which we can check every available database managed by the California Department of Justice. We also access “NCIC” through this system which is a term heard on many television shows. It is the nationwide equivalent of CLETS. Through these systems we can tell if a person is wanted (has a warrant for their arrest), if a car has been stolen, etc. None of this CLETS info has anything to do with this story, but one thing led to another so there you are. At least you got it as a footnote, and not in the body of the story. :>


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