You’ve mostly likely had a call to “hurry up and wait”. You respond to the scene quickly and find that you have two tasks: stay safe but stay put. Your vigil can be the result of any number of circumstances — from an active shooter or hostage situation to a stakeout or construction detail to a sniper post or secured position. These all require you to endure with alertness over a long span of time while negotiations are conducted, plans are made and resources assembled. This lack of action does not mean you will not feel exhaustion. Here are 6 things to put in place today for that future call:
- Exercise your body and mind. It goes without saying that this can’t be done at the last minute. Strength, flexibility and fitness will help if you find yourself in one place or position for long spans of time. Exercise regularly with strength-based, endurance and aerobic exercises to maintain a healthy weight, improved mood and enhanced concentration. Learn stress-relieving exercises, like yoga, to train your body to better move and breathe while under stress. Meditation training will help you achieve clarity, calmness and focus. The ability to concentrate on your mission’s goal — and your role in it — is an asset crucial to ward off distractions and mistakes.
- Hydration and fuel. In the long term, a balanced diet can lead to decreased irritability, higher energy, and improved concentration. On scene, though, you are left with very few options. Hydration is crucial to maintain cognitive performance, mental acuity, temperature equilibrium and physical stamina. A hydration pack is a perfect solution pull on before a mission. If you anticipate a lot of activity, a sport drink in your bag or pouch will quickly replenish your electrolytes. For a short-term boost, caffeine will help but over the long term can act as a diuretic or laxative and can worsen the dehydration experienced with heavy exercise. If you undergo a lot of physical activity for an hour or more, carbohydrates such as an energy bar or raisins can help maintain your energy and concentration. Some responders keep a few MREs near them for especially long calls. Sugar will help on the very short term but over time will leave you feeling sluggish.
- Prescriptions. If you must take any medicine regularly, be sure to have a plan in place for how you will safely administer your dosage as needed. This is especially true if the call threatens to leave you isolated in a remote or dangerous area. Severe allergies require the same amount of planning. An auto injector might be a lifesaver if you are allergic to stings and unknowingly get pinned down next to a wasp nest. Even if you just wear contacts, having your eyeglasses or an extra set of contacts on scene will allow you to see clearly through a fatigue-filled night.
- Defense from the elements. Depending on the season, time of day and geographic location, protecting your body can take many forms. Everyone remembers the big things like ballistic protection, but it’s the small yet important things that can be neglected. Good footwear sets your foundation for hours on your feet. Undergear, gloves and a watch cap will help you prevent frostbite in the cold. Wicking wear, headwear, sunglasses, and sunscreen help you prevent heat exhaustion or sunburn in the scorching heat.
- Sensory augmentation. Equipment that gives you the advantage over the situation or perps often involves enhancing the ability of your senses. Tactical flashlights and filters can assist your night vision. Quality communication devices help you coordinate with your team with only a whisper. A compact set of binoculars can help you reconnoiter from a distance. Even a small tactical mirror in conjunction with your baton can help you see around corners.
- Pocket tools. The now ubiquitous smart phone brings ever-advancing tools to your fingertips. Even the most standard features (like a GPS, compass, light, or camera) can come in useful. Paired with a solar charger, your phone can be a resource for the longest missions. A multi-tool and knife can help you solve many tasks. A small first aid or bleed kit can help you treat injuries until backup arrives.
The best teams ensure they have a plan for various incidents. Using situational awareness, they balance on-scene resources with just-in-time logistics to manage what personnel must carry all the time. The key is to anticipate what additional items YOU need to stay operationally functional throughout your entire mission — without carrying a ton of unnecessary weight.
By no means is the above list an exhaustive one. We would love to hear what gear you make sure you have on duty. Please leave a comment below and help your fellow professionals prepare efficiently and wisely: