Camping & Your Mental Health

Camping & Your Mental Health

Ah, the great outdoors. What is it about being out in nature that makes us feel free and more alive?

Not only is camping refreshing, but did you know that it actually has multiple mental health benefits? Read on to learn more about the positive effects of camping—and our special Work Hard/Play Hard Camping Giveaway for First Responders!


1. Camping reduces our stress.

Face it. Even if you love your job, all jobs come with their own stressors, and stress can be harmful to your mental, physical and emotional health. While one camping trip may not completely reduce your stress, you’d be surprised at the impact it can make.

    • Nature is associated with higher levels of serotonin, a chemical produced by our body that boosts our mood.
    • Nature provides a relaxing “soundtrack” that is soothing and peaceful. There’s a reason sleep apps are full of noises from nature. Studies have shown that the babbling of a brook or the sound of wind through the trees promotes relaxation and feelings of well-being.
    • From a practical aspect, you can escape the “to do” lists and pressures of work and home. You have less to worry about.


2. Camping provides a digital detox.

As a population in general, we spend too much time indoors in front of our screens. This can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, lack of focus, and sleep problems. It also can be a contributing factor to obesity. Camping gives us a much-needed break from our digital devices.

    • Camping allows us to be social. It can promote face-to-face conversations, form bonds, and strengthen relationships.
    • It also allows you to be solitary if you prefer, and spend time with your own thoughts. Nature offers the perfect setting for reflection and meditation.
    • Unplug during your camping trip. Keep the digital devices to a minimum, set designated phone-free zones, and you’ll enjoy more of what nature has to offer.


3. Camping gives us sunshine and fresh air.

The sunshine and fresh air on your camping trip not only feel good, they have real health benefits. That will make you feel even better about being outside.

    • If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t get enough Vitamin D, important for bone growth. Sunshine helps our bodies make Vitamin D, so being outdoors is a natural vitamin boost.
    • As you breathe in fresh air, your oxygen levels increase. This helps you to feel more energized. It improves your ability to concentrate and remember.
    • Fresh air also can help lower blood pressure, help in digestion and boost your immune system. Enjoy that breath of fresh air. It’s good for you!


4. Camping promotes exercise and resilience.

Camping doesn’t have to be a survival test; you don’t even have to camp in a tent! You can plan your camping trip around your family’s needs and choose enjoyable exercise and favorite recreational activities. This is a chance to try new things and feel good about all you’ve accomplished.

    • Choose a favorite outdoor hobby or explore a new one. Examples include fishing, biking, hiking, or orienteering (using a map or compass to navigate between points).
    • Plan to make your own food over an open campfire, even if it’s just hot water to pour over Ramen noodles. Not only will it be fun, you’ll be building confidence with your newfound skills. Just remember to keep campfire safety in mind.
    • If you brought the kids along, this is a great time to teach them personal responsibility.


5. Camping improves sleep patterns.

Because your days and nights will be guided by nature, you’ll escape the light pollution and sleep patterns associated with life back home. And getting an adequate amount of sleep each night has been proven to have a positive impact on your mental health.

    • The sun emits short-wave blue light in the morning and long-wave reddish-orange light in the evening. This signals our bodies when to sleep and when to wake up.
    • Camping allows you to get in touch with your internal clock and natural sleep cycle. A weekend camping trip can move you closer to the ideal sleep-wake time.
    • Unlike your normal workday, when you are camping you make your own schedule, meaning you can get rest and wake up whenever you would like. No morning alarms = automatic stress reliever.
    • Pro tip: Don’t skimp on sleeping gear. Bring that inflatable mattress for an extra cozy night.


6. Camping brings you home with a new perspective.

You’ll return home with your mind and spirit recharged. You will also appreciate the comforts of home more. Here are just some of the added mental health benefits after a camping trip:

    • Improved focus, higher levels of confidence, and self-esteem
    • Reduced levels of stress and anger
    • Stronger family bonds and good memories


California Casualty’s 2022 Work Hard/Play Hard “$10,000 Camping” Giveaway will award one lucky First Responder $10,000 for outdoor gear that lets them disconnect from the daily grind and reconnect with friends, family, and nature.

Firefighters, EMTs, and Law Enforcement officers can enter by clicking here. The deadline to enter is November 18, 2022.


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

What to Pack in Your Patrol Car This Winter

What to Pack in Your Patrol Car This Winter

It’s cold out there, and if you’re a cop on the beat this winter, you’ll definitely feel it. While winter weather may be uncomfortable, exposure to the cold can be deadly, and frostbite can be permanently disabling. 

Take steps to make sure you’re safe and comfortable this winter with a cold weather survival kit for your patrol vehicle. Most of these items you can find inexpensively locally or online, or you may already have them on hand. So the next time the temperature dips, and you’re driving around this winter, you’ll be ready.

1. Thin wool or fleece gloves – Use these as your backup pair in case you need them, or as additional insulation under your heavy gloves. Inexpensive military surplus glove liners work well because they don’t take up much space. The wool keeps you warm even if it gets wet.

2. Hand warmers – These warmers are oxygen-activated. You can get ones that last for 12 hours, which will cover your shift. You can place them in gloves, boots, hats, vests, or pockets for an extra boost of warmth when you’re patrolling, directing traffic, or standing around in the cold.

3. Snowmobile balaclava – This windproof headwear is thin and stretchable, so it easily fits under hats and works well with uniforms. It’s made to wear under a snowmobile helmet, and it effectively shields your head, face, and neck.

4. Plastic trash bag – Trash bags have great insulating properties, which makes them ideal for covering up a tear in a uniform. They also are effective barriers from wet, icy or snowy surfaces if you might have to sit down on one.

5. Glow stick necklaces – Snap these necklaces and they give off a glow that can be seen at night. If you’re ever about to fall unconscious, wrap one around your arm or attach one to your neck. You can also use them in a pinch if the battery in your flashlight dies. These sticks will glow for 8 to 12 hours.

6. Packets of instant coffee, hot cocoa, tea bags – Pack your hot beverage of choice for a quick pick me up. Just add hot water, available at most convenience stores. A hot beverage can help you maintain body temperature on frigid nights and keep you hydrated.

7. A large zipper food bag or vacuum pack bag – Store your kit in a waterproof bag that’s easy to carry. A large zipper food bag is light and foldable. You also could pack everything in a vacuum-sealed food bag. Whatever you use, make sure your cold weather survival kit is with you wherever you go this winter.


More cold weather tips

Working in the cold is an added stress for law enforcement. Make sure you are fully prepared.

  • Police uniforms are not necessarily made for warmth, and you may not even be issued a winter version. Make sure you’re protected with good outerwear and base layers, especially if you’re working in conditions under 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Insulated underwear comes in different weights. Choose the weight you need based on the weather. Remember that a good base layer is odor resistant, quick to dry, and soft on the skin. 
  • Insulated duty boots protect your feet and keep them warm during the toughest conditions. 
  • Warm socks made for the weather will help. Wool retains heat even if wet and lets your feet” breathe.”
  • Insulated hats prevent heat loss through your head.
  • Warm gloves protect your hands but can affect your fingers’ ability to move. Make sure you practice with your gloves on as you deploy your baton, TASER, OC, handcuffs, magazines and pistol.
  • Equipment can freeze and malfunction due to the cold. Keep a small black sack with hand warmers and put your radio in it to keep the battery from freezing. Wrap your flashlight with hockey friction tape so the cold metal won’t stick to your skin if you touch it with bare hands. Put a coat of silicone inside your holster to more easily draw your weapon, and do a half-draw if you’re out in the cold for a period of time.
  • You depend on your cars to keep you warm. Snap-on grille covers help keep the cold air outside from coming in. 

Stay safe out there. 


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

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

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

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

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