Honoring the Fallen Heroes of 9/11

Honoring the Fallen Heroes of 9/11

About an hour after the first plane struck the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, Michael Wright found himself on the 81st floor of the North Tower, trapped in complete darkness and smoke. That’s when he heard the rumble: The South Tower was collapsing.

“I was lucky enough to be next to a first responder,” Wright said. “I can credit him for the fact that I am alive now.”

For John McLaughlin, rescuers found him the next morning, buried in the ruins of building two. “The last bits of rubble were cleared, and they were able to pull me out with nylon straps,” he said.

Survivor Wendy Lanski recalled how after the planes struck, “Police and firefighters and EMS workers were everywhere … [they] were coming up to us, grabbing us in groups, saying, ‘Go out this door, run across the street, cover your head, and don’t look up.’” As she and her colleagues rushed to escape the building, first responders were charging in, intent on saving lives.

Tragically, many of them never made it out. In all, 412 first responders – 343 firefighters, 24 law enforcement officers and 8 emergency medical personnel – were lost when the towers fell. With them, 2,565 people in and around the buildings.



September 11, 2001, marks the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, when four commercial planes were hijacked by members of al Qaeda and flown into buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C. The fourth was thwarted when passengers resisted, causing it to crash into a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended target.

The attack left Americans reeling in shock, horror, and grief. In an instant, devastation rippled out across families, communities, and the nation.

In sharing that heartbreak and devastation, though, Americans came together. Within hours, an incomprehensible tragedy had galvanized a renewed spirit of national unity.

Much of that was sparked by the stories of courage and heroism that had emerged within minutes of the attack. Strangers risking their lives to run back into the towers to save others. Office workers staying behind for friends who were trapped or had disabilities.

And, of course, the hundreds of first responders – the warriors who rushed in to save lives, despite the overwhelming danger. Over the next days and weeks, countless stories like those of Wright, McLaughlin, and Lanski emerged, painting a profound story of the best of humanity.


Remembering the Fallen

Besides being the single deadliest attack in human history, 9/11 was also the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in U.S. history.

As we take time on 9/11 to reflect on the national tragedy that occurred 20 years ago, we will remember the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice that day. They were fire, EMS, and law enforcement personnel, but more importantly, they were husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, and beloved colleagues.


How You Can Honor Them

Here are some ways you can honor our 9/11 heroes:

  1. Visit a memorial. There are memorials and monuments at or near the sites of the attacks, as well as across the country. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum also offers an online experience to learn more and pay tribute.
  2. Help 9/11 responders. Due to the chemicals and toxins released at the attack sites, many 9/11 first responders have since developed or died from illnesses such as cancer, respiratory diseases, and other chronic conditions. Support organizations that are directly helping responders who’ve fallen ill.
  3. Support your local first responders. By supporting your local heroes, you are giving thanks to all those who answer the call to serve and protect. Say yes to that next pledge or fundraising drive hosted by your community’s firefighter or police department.

If you are a first responder, you can:

  1. Join a 9/11 memorial stair climb. Every year, thousands meet up to climb the equivalent of 110 stories, the height of the World Trade Center towers. Normally held in office buildings, convention centers, and stadiums, this year the stair climb events are mostly virtual. Find one near you.
  2. Engage with your community. Although your job is serving others, doing so in your off hours – for causes close to your heart or in different areas of interest – will bring you closer to your community and first-responder network. Find a cause that could use your expertise or energy, or educate others about the EMS profession and inspire the next generation of first responders.
  3. Practice self-care. Learn to be aware of and manage your stress levels. Employ healthy coping mechanisms, take care of your mind and body, and be sure to reach out if you need to talk with someone or get support. Be there for your first responder family, many of whom are at increased risk of suicide.

Although we can’t erase the tragic events that took place 20 years ago, we can honor its fallen heroes by being kind and generous toward our neighbors and finding ways to serve in our communities.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Why Moving Over for Emergency Vehicles is SO Important

Why Moving Over for Emergency Vehicles is SO Important

You hear sirens and see flashing lights. There’s only one thing to do. Pull over. 


There’s a reason you’re moving out of the way.

Even a few minutes delay can be a matter of life and death when you’re traveling by ambulance. The same holds true if a first responder can’t get to the scene of an accident, a fire, or disaster. Emergency vehicles need to get to the place where they can help people. If you’re on the road where they are traveling, you can help them get there by giving them a clear path to their destination.


Your moving car is dangerous to stopped vehicles.

You may have noticed a police officer, a roadside worker, a car pulled over on the side of the road, or even a wreck. Driving by them or rubbernecking at high rates of speed is dangerous. According to the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), “making a traffic or emergency stop on the side of our nation’s highways is one of the most dangerous things law enforcement officers do in the line of duty.” 

Every two weeks, a first responder or roadside worker loses his/her life, reported AAA. The agency recommends slowing down to a speed that is 10-20 mph slower than the speed limit and changing lanes to be further away.


Pay attention so you’ll hear and see emergency vehicles.

If you have the radio blaring, if you’re texting, or otherwise distracted, you may not see or hear an emergency vehicle approaching. You might not know that you have to pull over until that vehicle is right there. Not only is that stressful, but your quick actions might also cause a collision.


Here’s what to do when you see lights and hear sirens.

    • Put on your turn signal and slow down. 
    • Check your mirrors and make sure the way is clear.
    • Move over to the shoulder and park your vehicle.
    • Wait until the emergency vehicle has passed. You will want to stay at least 500 feet behind it.
    • Check your mirrors, put on your turn signal and carefully pull back into traffic.

Importantly, don’t slam on your brakes. Don’t travel through a red light. Don’t stop in the middle of your lane. And never try to outrun an emergency vehicle. 


Where you are, and the direction you’re traveling, matter.

Emergency vehicles don’t always come from behind you. Sometimes they are traveling in the opposite direction, on the other side of the road. Do you still have to move over? Check your state laws for the rules regarding moving over for emergency vehicles.

    • If you are traveling in a high-speed lane, and there is no room to stop, slow down. 
    • If you are traveling in the left lane, go right as traffic on the right moves over.
    • If you are stopped at an intersection, stay there.
    • If the emergency vehicle is traveling on the opposite side of a divided highway, you don’t need to pull over.
    • If the emergency vehicle is traveling on the opposite side of the road, and there is no divider, pull over to your right. That vehicle may need to use your lane to get by.

Every state in the U.S. has a move-over law. Most people don’t know about it. Check your state’s law and learn what you need to do to keep everyone safe.


This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Policing Through Tough Times- Remember Your Why

Policing Through Tough Times- Remember Your Why

About the author

Philip J. Swift is currently serving as a City Marshal in the DFW area of Texas and has been a law enforcement officer since 1998. He holds a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology and his areas of research include behavioral learning theory, cognitive schemes, group psychology, and historical trauma theory. He has several published works and regularly speaks locally and nationally regarding his research and expertise in law enforcement and criminal culture.


In the summer of 1998, I sat down for my first interview panel in what would become a successful attempt to become an officer. I vividly recall sitting before the panel when a panelist asked me why I wanted to be an officer. Even though I have been asked this question many times by people who could not understand my desire to enter this field, the question caught me off guard. To avoid looking unprepared, I blurted out “I have lived in this community for ten years and I want to give back to it. I have always wanted to be a cop, as long as anyone can remember, and I am looking forward to this opportunity.”

Although a truthful answer on my behalf it was by no means a complete one. My “why” then and now is much more convoluted and includes what I will simply call the warrior or guardian factors.

I have since learned that this reserved answer is so common that when the “why” question is asked this answer comes across as “canned” even though service really is a common “why” of officers. If questioned further, few officers would deny that the warrior or guardian factors are part of the reason they love their work.  In a recent Police1 survey, 75% of officers stated that they wanted to be an officer to serve the community. Additionally, both the variability of the job (52%) and the challenging nature of the job (48%) were acknowledged as fundamental factors of their “why” when entering this profession.


The Importance of ‘WHY’

The commonality of the “why” question and – in some sense the “canned” nature of the answer – highlights its importance. In law enforcement an officer’s “why” can have a lasting impact on the communities and agencies that they serve. An officer’s “why” can literally be the difference between life or death for officers and the people they interact with.

Beyond the greater impact to the community an officer’s “why” is the mechanism that allows an officer to cope with the inhumanities they face and to find meaning in their careers.  Every officer can point to at least one experience that made their career worth it.



Why ‘WHY’ May No Longer Be Enough

In the current charged environment in which officers have been living in. respondents to a recent Police1 survey stated that “serving the community” and “fighting crime” are their main reasons for staying in this profession.

If an officer’s “why” has remained relatively unchanged during their careers, why does this “why” no longer sustain officers like it once did? The answer is that the importance of a “why” has been lost in the commonality of the question and response.

Many officers do not understand that their “why” is the public expression of the meaning of their careers. Officers are not being asked why they do the job, rather what meaning do they find in it? When officers cannot describe how they derive fulfillment from their career and fall back on the tried-and-true answers they no longer have a meaningful “why.”  A lack of fulfillment and meaning leads to burnout, indifference, and in some cases resentment of those agencies and communities that officers serve.


Resetting Your ‘WHY’

When an officer is asked the “why” question, they should have a unique answer that describes the meaning they find in their career. It is important that the officer’s “why” is simplified to a point where they can find fulfillment in each step of the journey rather than solely in the destination. If this is not the case, the officer needs to reset their “why.”

There is nothing wrong with an officer describing their “why” as “fighting crime” or “serving the community” – the danger lies in how that “why” is defined. If too broadly defined, the officer can be left questioning if the means justify the end. For instance, if “fighting crime” means lowering crime rates, the officer in unlikely to be able to achieve that goal on their own, resulting in a lack of fulfillment.

However, if “fighting crime” means doing their personal best daily to fight crime, they are likely to regularly feel fulfilled enough to ward off burnout, indifference, and resentment.

If an officer’s “why” is to serve their community and they are not finding fulfillment and meaning in the current environment, they can ask themselves: “What greater service is there than serving a community that does not understand the necessity of your service?” This allows the officer to reset their “why” in a manner that allows them to find greater fulfillment in their work.

Nurturing Your ‘WHY’

As with all things, nurturing your “why” is easier said than done. The following is a list of strategies that officers can use to nurture their “why”:

    • Be introspective and honest with yourself about your “why.” Do not let others define your “why.”
    • Understand that your “why” can change from situation to situation. Some days your “why” may be the paycheck – and that is ok.
    • Resist isolation or segregating yourself from diverse perspectives. Isolation and segregation create “group think” and limits critical thinking.
    • Practice critical thinking. The most important thing to understand about a subject is how others understand and perceive it.
    • Give yourself grace. No one is harder on you than you!


Remembering Your ‘WHY’

Your “why” should never cause you undue suffering. If your “why” is causing you misery, take a minute be introspective, give yourself grace and ask yourself “why?”  If your “why” is to be of service, then find ways to be of service every day and revel in them. If your “why” is to fight crime, enforce the law and arrest the lawless but realize your responsibility ends there.  If your “why” is to earn a paycheck, then go out every day and be the best employee you can be.

Your “why” is yours. It is personal. Never let anyone else define it – and always be honest about it.

Here’s One More Reason to Love Being an Officer

One thing that attracts many officers to law enforcement is the desire to protect others. To help police officers secure and protect their gear and their families, California Casualty is sponsoring the Safe and Secure Giveaway.  This year, three first responders will win a brand-new Liberty Safe filled with 5.11 gear. Enter here for your chance to win.

Visit California Casualty for more information.




Sponsored by California Casualty

Written By Phillip J. Swift for the Police1 BrandFocus Staff


Planning Retirement as a First Responder

Planning Retirement as a First Responder

One day, you’ll retire and leave the fast-paced life of a first responder. While that day may seem far off, it’s never too early to start planning.

Taking the first steps now will help you make the most out of your retirement later. Here’s what to consider.


What Retirement Will Cost

When you retire, you’ll want to be able to live a similar lifestyle to the one you enjoy now. Starting with the costs of your current lifestyle, you can estimate how much you’ll need for retirement. A general rule is that you’ll need about 80% of your current monthly salary to cover your needs in retirement.

Begin by estimating these costs now and in retirement. When thinking about future costs, you’ll also want to account for inflation (about 2% per year).

    • Housing (rent/mortgage, utilities, real estate taxes, home insurance, household maintenance)
    • Healthcare (including Medicare when you qualify)
    • Auto insurance
    • Daily living expenses
    • Entertainment and travel

The average American life expectancy is nearly 85 years old. That means, if you retire at age 65, you’ll need about 20 years of retirement income.

So, how much retirement savings do you need? Depending upon the cost of living where you are, you will likely require between $1 million and $2 million total to retire comfortably. If that figure alarms you, you’re not alone. Retirement can be daunting if you’re not prepared.


How Much Money Will You Have?

You won’t have a job when you retire, but you will have sources of income. This includes money in savings accounts, investments, retirement accounts, and more. Calculate how much money you will have based on these income sources.

Savings accounts

Putting money away each month for retirement really does pay off. That’s because, over time, you earn interest on your interest. Financial experts recommend banking 15% of your income each year. While historically, many people set up savings accounts at the brick-and-mortar bank where they have their checking account, you won’t earn a lot in interest. Consider a high-yield savings account offered at online institutions that are insured by the FDIC.


Social Security Benefits

Social security is a government program that provides income to retired Americans. It’s based on your lifetime earnings. You pay into the social security system every year that you work and then are eligible for money back when you retire. While social security is a great foundation for retirement, most Americans find that it’s not enough to cover all costs. You can calculate your anticipated social security here. (Note: Some states do not participate in social security for public employees. In those cases, the state offers a public retirement system. If you work in Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Ohio, you may not receive social security.)

Retirement Savings Plans

If you’re a first responder, chances are that you have a 457 Plan. Similar to a 401(k), a 457 plan is offered by state and local public employers. In both plans, you can contribute pretax money from your paycheck, which then grows without being taxed until you withdraw it. You also may consider setting up a Roth IRA. While your contributions are not deductible, you are not taxed when you withdraw the money. Know which plan you have and its benefits. In many cases, you can choose low, medium, or high-risk plans, which can impact how much you will earn over time.



While pensions are increasingly rare, some employers, usually public sector and unions, still offer them. With a pension, you will receive some percentage of your annual income based on how long you worked for the company. You have to meet the vesting requirements, which means that you have to work a certain number of years in order to qualify.


Military Benefits

If you served in the military, you may be eligible for military retirement benefits.


Retirement Job

Many retirees work part-time to supplement their income or simply to keep busy.


Prepare for the Emotional Transition

You’ve spent your whole life serving others in a fast-paced, high-stress job. Retirement will be different, and as a result, could leave you with feelings of emptiness. Stepping down from your job could cause you to feel you’ve lost your purpose. Make sure that you prepare for the emotional transition as well as the financial one.


Figure out where to spend your time

You may wish to travel, spend time with your grandchildren, or volunteer. You may want to work on the house or the yard. You can take continuing education classes at the local college or offer to teach them at your community center. Ask around to find out about the opportunities in your community. Structure your days into a retirement routine that gives you a sense of purpose and an opportunity to enjoy life.


Connect with former team members

First responders are more than just coworkers. You’re a tightly-knit team, and when you retire, those bonds don’t suddenly disappear. Schedule time to connect with your former team members on a regular basis. It will do wonders for your mental health as you tackle retirement together.


Practice healthy habits

Keep yourself healthy through retirement by eating right, exercising, and staying on top of medical screenings.  Staying healthy will help you to enjoy retirement to its fullest.




This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Home Safes – Here’s Why You Need One

Home Safes – Here’s Why You Need One

Your home and the personal property inside are your most valuable assets. If the unexpected were to happen, give yourself peace of mind by knowing your personal possessions have an extra layer of protection by placing them in a home safe. 

Keeping a durable safe inside your home is one of the best ways to ensure your valuables, personal belongings, and other important documents inside remain secure in the event of a burglary, fire, or natural disaster. But buying a safe that is water, fire, and/or theft-resistant can be quite a monetary investment.

If you are questioning whether it’s “worth it” to purchase a home safe, here are some important factors to remember.

You’ll have quick access to important information

If you need cash or important documents like your Home Warranty, you won’t have to jump through any hoops or wait to get the information you need. All of your important information will be in one place that is quickly accessible to you and your family.

Your important items will remain safe

In the event of a disaster, there may not be time to grab all of the items you would like to bring with you. With a home safe, no matter the occurrence, your important possessions will remain secure.

You can also use it for firearm & weapon storage

If you keep weapons in your home, you can rest assured knowing that they will be locked away in your safe, out of sight and reach from your children and any guests (wanted or unwanted). 


What Kind of Safe Should I Purchase?

Not all safes have the same functionality. Before you purchase a safe of your own, do your research on what will work best for you and your family. If you live in a flood or wildfire-prone area, be sure to invest in a safe that protects against water or fire. If you chose to use your safe for weapon storage, remember to find a safe that protects against humidity.

Home safes also come in many different sizes, with the average home save being 1.2 – 1.3 cubic feet. If you have an area of your home that you know you would like to place keep your safe (out of the eyes of an intruder) be sure to purchase a safe with the correct dimensions, so it will fit properly in your space. 

The size of your safe should also take into account what you will keep inside of it. For example, if you are storing multiple family heirlooms, along with all of your emergency documents and a full emergency kit, you may want to invest in a larger safe.

Here are some examples of what you can keep in your home safe.

Items to Keep Inside Your Safe

Personal Documents – Birth certificate, passport, social security card, marriage license, vaccination & medical history, tax returns

Important Information – Passwords, health insurance information, legal documents, wills, death decrees, immigration paperwork, & external hard drives

Money & Bank Information –Cash, bank account numbers, checks, credit cards, bonds, stock certificates, & precious metals like gold or silver

Home& Auto Information – Insurance information, contracts, warranties, permits, deeds, & titles

Weapons – Firearms, knives, bows, & ammunition

Jewelry – Expensive necklaces, bracelets, earrings, watches, diamonds, gemstones, & engagement or wedding rings

Spare Keys – House keys, deposit box keys, car keys, garage door openers, & neighborhood facility keys

Heirlooms – Trinkets, photos, & items from childhood or passed down from generations

Emergency Information- List of family cell phone numbers & addresses, family disaster plan, emergency kit,&  home inventory

Owning a safe is one of the easiest ways to make sure your personal property stays protected. Save yourself worry and stress by investing in a safe for your home today – your future self will thank you.

First responders- you help keep us safe all year long; let us help you keep your valuable possessions safe too. Click here to enter to win one of THREE Liberty Safes filled with 5.11 Gear courtesy of California Casualty! 

DISCLAIMER: Contest terms and conditions apply, see page for details. 



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

LEO – Community Engagement Ideas

LEO – Community Engagement Ideas

Community engagement is critical to ensuring that your police department is trusted, respected, and supported by the communities you serve. Building and maintaining positive relationships with residents, business owners and other community members help peace officers more effectively carry out their mission to serve and protect. It also helps citizens better understand emergency and public safety response and how to access help, as well as become better prepared for disasters, emergency situations, and other events affecting the whole community.

Covid has meant that engagement efforts must look different (i.e. socially distanced and with precautions) than before; however, that doesn’t mean they should stop or slow down. In fact, in times of crises like this, community engagement is more important than ever.

Here are some ideas for your agency to strengthen the bonds with your community – while keeping everyone safe.


Host virtual events

Many events that used to happen in person can be transitioned online fairly easily. Use platforms such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangouts, or even Facebook Live from your department’s Facebook page.

    • Community meetings – Whether a town hall or something less formal, virtual meetings allow your department to meet with your community on specific topics, questions, or concerns they may have. They also allow you to share news, announcements, and new campaigns or initiatives.
    • Meet and greets – Let your neighborhoods meet their peace officers! Showing your officers’ human side – personalities, humor, and all – goes a long way toward relationship-building. This can be as simple as short self-intro videos to virtual ride-alongs in a squad car and campaigns designed for young audiences.
    • Virtual tour – Offer a virtual tour of the department and its facilities – everyone loves getting a peek behind the front doors.


Connect with kids and youth

Forming good relationships with youth is key to creating a community environment where citizens can live, work and play free from fear of crime.

    • K9 tour – Service dogs in canine units are a perennial hit with kids. You can share live videos of the dogs training with their handlers, as well as tours of their kennels and a peek inside K9 vehicles. What are the most common questions about the dogs? – answer those in your video! Check out some examples here, here, and here.
    • Storytime – Make an early, positive impression on kids by reading and sharing their favorite books. Check out other departments’ videos here and here. You can customize for any age group or by topic – the possibilities are endless! Channel some Mr. Rogers, and you’ll have fans for life.


Bring it outside

With a little creativity and the proper safety precautions, your department can do many of the outdoor activities you used to, shift some previously indoor activities outside, or even start a new tradition or two.

    • Events at the station – Depending on your station’s outdoor facilities, you can host meet and greets, K9 with kids, town halls, press briefings, and more – anything where groups can stay small and socially distanced.
    • Community walks – Police chiefs like this one and this one have made a point of walking their neighborhoods as a way to meet local residents. By answering questions and learning about residents’ experiences and concerns, police leaders are able to better understand the community’s needs and challenges. These friendly one-on-one conversations also foster goodwill and help citizens feel invested.


Leverage networks

Screens, airwaves, and other virtual channels aren’t going anywhere, even when the pandemic ends. They give you a ton of options for new and sustainable ways to connect with your community.

    • Social media – Your department’s social channels are great for 2-way communication, allowing you to push out information that you want your community to know, and also to hear directly from citizens. A simple social media strategy will help advance community outreach, problem-solving, and crime prevention efforts.
    • Traditional media – Even in the digital age, “old school” media still plays an important role in helping your department spread messages, disseminate information, and raise awareness and community engagement. Build your media relationships to leverage local TV, radio, and newspapers.


Make it fun, make it meaningful – make it about them

Despite there being an end to the pandemic is on the horizon, these are still stressful times. A bit of levity can help immensely and reminds the citizens you serve that your peace officers and your department are an integral part of their community. Directly addressing the concerns, questions, and interests of your community will go a long way toward building those relationships and trust that’s paramount to your department’s success.


Support different languages

If your community is a diverse one, make sure to offer critical information in multiple languages on your virtual channels. This cuts down on information barriers and helps improve public health and safety in the entire community.


Community engagement remains one of the best ways to foster trust and respect between community members and peace officers. With a little retooling of your outreach programs, as well as some new ideas and thinking outside the box, you and your colleagues can continue building those relationships – while staying safe and keeping your community safe.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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