‘Tis the Season for Safety!

"Santa" Orbe TMC Crime Prevention K9

“Santa” Orbe
TMC Crime Prevention K9

Don’t let holiday happiness be marred by holiday hazards!  The TMC Security Team offers this information to help you and your family have a happy, healthy and SAFE holiday season.

At home
▪  Your Christmas tree could be thirsty!  Make sure it’s well hydrated to avoid becoming a holiday fire hazard.  A 6-foot tree will use about one gallon of water every two days.
▪  Keep in mind – trees cut early in the season run a greater risk of drying up before the holidays are over, making them more dangerous if they are decorated with lights.  When your tree dries up, don’t waste any time getting it out of the house.
▪  Be aware that sometimes criminals will pose as couriers delivering gifts to case your home, or commit a crime immediately.
▪  Be cautious that scammers may take advantage of people’s generosity during the holidays.
▪  When you leave your home for extended holiday travel, have a neighbor or friend keep an eye on your house while you’re away, including collecting mail and newspapers while you’re gone. 
▪  It’s never a good idea to post your upcoming holiday travel plans on social media, as it’s an open invite to burglars!
▪  Avoid having large displays of gifts visible from windows and doors.

Stay safe while staying warm
▪  If you use portable heaters, make sure they have an automatic safety shut-off switch and never leave them unattended in a room with children.
▪  Install smoke detectors on every level of your house, and test them monthly.  Replace batteries at least yearly.
▪  If any appliances or heating devices in your home produce carbon monoxide, install detectors in your home.  Make sure they are tested regularly and properly maintained.

Out and about
▪  Don’t leave gifts or other valuables in plain sight in your vehicle.
▪  You’re more likely to become the victim of a crime at night, or while you’re alone.  Try to do your shopping during daylight hours, but if you are out after dark, don’t hesitate to ask for a security guard to walk you to your car.
▪  Take a few minutes and photocopy the important items in your wallet, including your driver’s license, credit cards, etc.  Keep these documents in a secure place.  In the event your wallet is lost or stolen, having a record of everything will make it easier to cancel and report to police.

"Santa" Ax TMC Crime Prevention K9

“Santa” Ax
TMC Crime Prevention K9

▪  You probably already know that chocolate can be lethal to dogs, but did you know that grapes, raisins, avocados, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts and walnuts can also cause a severe reaction including lethargy, vomiting, tremors, joint stiffness and the inability to walk?
▪  Other things to keep in mind – holiday decorations can cut up the digestive tract and cause intestinal obstruction.  If chewed, live electrical cords can cause burns, difficulty breathing, seizures and cardiac arrest. 
▪  Pets may experience vomiting and diarrhea if they eat fatty trimmings and bones.  Swallowed bones can cause stomach perforation among other things! 
▪  If your pet ingests something potentially dangerous, play it safe and call your vet.  Or, the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline is (888) 426-4435.

‘Decoy’ has gnawing desire to work with TMC K9 Crime Prevention team

Monty Watt TMC Security Officer

Monty Watt
TMC Security Officer

TMC Security Officer Monty Watt is a self-described “adrenaline junkie,” who loves nothing more than getting decked out in a suit that makes him look like the Michelin Man, and taking a bite from a 100-pound K9 – one of TMC Security’s highly trained dogs. Sure, it may not be for most of us, but Watt says he was hooked the first time he did it. 

“It’s a lot like being at an amusement park.  It’s a little scary since you don’t know what’s going to happen, or how the dog is going to react, but since you’re in the suit, you get the confidence to confront the dog because you know that you’re not going to get hurt,” he said.

Watt hopes to become a K9 handler in the future.  TMC currently has two K9 teams.  TMC Security Supervisor, Crime Prevention, K9 Unit, Jim Myers, is the handler for Ax, a 6-year-old Czech Shepherd.  Officer Cisco Montoya has Orbe, a 5-year-old Czech Shepherd.  Montoya also got hooked the first time he did decoy work.  Years of showing interest in the program and volunteering his time paid off when he was promoted to K9 officer.  Watt hopes for the same result.  His enthusiasm and dedication – he’s been a decoy for five years – will certainly look favorable if the hospital decides to fund another K9 team.  “At 42 years old, I don’t see myself working for a regular police department, and I plan on staying at TMC long term, so I want to be part of TMC’s elite security force,” he said.

TMC Security Officer Monty Watt at a K9 training session

TMC Security Officer Monty Watt at a K9 training session

Decoy training is done five to six times a month as part of the dogs’ maintenance training.  “It’s always a different scenario, and is done in different locations or buildings.  We try to make the experience as real as possible,” said Myers.  “It helps keep their skills sharp.” 

That’s especially important considering these dogs typically have fewer opportunities to go after suspects in real life, like other law enforcement K9’s do.  “In the history of the Crime Prevention Program, we’ve only had one suspect who received a bite.  We need to make sure our dogs can do what they’ve been trained to do.  We need them to always be ready to perform,” said Myers.  

In addition to working on these dogs’ physical skills, they’re also working on their mental game.  “There is a right and a wrong way to be a decoy,” explained Watt.  “The right way is to let the dog feel like he’s won so that he is confident of himself in a real situation.”

Get an A+ in back-to-school safety with the TMC Security Team

Security_Services_SealsBack-to-school is without a doubt an exciting time for families, but let’s face it – it can also be stressful for parents and children alike.  With multiple schedules to coordinate, lunches to pack, and homework to get done, it’s easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of the school year and let our guard down when it comes to child safety. 

TMC’s Security Services and the Crime Prevention K9 Unit offer the following information about simple things caregivers can do, and meaningful conversations they can have with the children in their care. 

DPS Sex Offender website

Take a few minutes and locate where registered sex offenders are in your neighborhood, by your child’s school, or any other parts of town you visit frequently.  The Arizona Department of Public Safety created this user-friendly website: http://www.azdps.gov/Services/Sex_Offender/

Analysis from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children found that approximately 32 percent of abduction attempts happened when a child was going to or from school, or a school-related activity.  The five most common tricks used by individuals attempting to abduct a child included offering the child a ride, offering the child candy or sweets, asking the child questions, offering the child money or using an animal to lure them into their car.

     ▪  Tell your children they should never go anywhere with anyone without first getting your permission, even if someone tells them it is an emergency. 
     ▪  Set clear boundaries about the places and homes your child may visit. 
     ▪  Make it a rule for your children to check in with you when they arrive at or depart from a location. 
     ▪  Talk openly with your child. 
          ∙  Encourage them to tell you or another trusted adult if anyone makes them feel scared, confused or sad. 
          ∙  Teach them that it is OK to tell you what happened and they won’t be a “tattletale” for telling.    
          ∙  Help your children identify trusted adults who may be able to help them if they need assistance. 
          ∙  Pay attention to your children and listen to them, as this will help them build feelings of safety and security.

Empower your child with this information in the event they are approached or followed

     ▪  Tell your child it is more important to get out of a threatening situation than it is to be polite.
     ▪  If they are approached by someone who makes them feel uncomfortable, tell them to trust their gut feeling, and get away. 
     ▪  If someone tries to kidnap them, tell them to do anything they can to draw attention to themselves – yell, kick, scream, pull away, or hit.

Getting to and from school safely

School buses are the safest mode of motorized transportation for getting children to and from school, but injuries can occur if kids are not careful and aware when getting on and off the bus.

     ▪  Walk with your child to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. 
     ▪  Make sure children stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches. 
          ∙  Young children do not have the same frame of reference for safety as adults do.
          ∙  They may not look before they leap, which is why it is so important for them to be supervised.
     ▪  Teach kids to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting off, and remind them never to walk behind the bus. 
          ∙  If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, they should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and cross when the driver indicates it’s safe.
          ∙  Teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street.

TMC’s K9 Unit: Crime Prevention has gone to the dogs

Cisco Montoya TMC Security Officer Crime Prevention, K9 Unit

Cisco Montoya
TMC Security Officer
Crime Prevention, K9 Unit

Would you ever volunteer to put on a 35-pound bite suit and essentially become a human chew toy as part of a training session for a law enforcement K9?  TMC Security Officer Cisco Montoya did more than a decade ago, and the experience changed his life.  “I was hooked,” he said.  “I saw how fun it was to work with the dogs, and the bond that K9’s and their handlers have.  I was determined to become a handler.”  Montoya has been with TMC since 1997.  He started in housekeeping, and worked his way up the ranks while doing security part-time at another hospital.  The entire time, he continued to volunteer as a decoy – a move that eventually helped him secure his position as one of two K9 officers for TMC Security.  In 2003, he received his first partner, Gage.  The two were a team until Gage was retired at the end of last year.  Shortly after, he got Orbe (pronounced Or-bay), a five-year-old, 90-pound Czechoslovakian Shepherd.

Jim Myers TMC Security Supervisor Crime Prevention, K9 Unit

Jim Myers
TMC Security Supervisor
Crime Prevention, K9 Unit

Jim Myers has worked for TMC Security for 24 years.  When he was promoted to supervisor in 1995, he helped launch the TMC Crime Prevention and K9 program.  “The TMC Crime Prevention Program was intended to focus on effective prevention rather than just waiting for crimes to happen, and then responding to them,” he said.  That program also included the use of K9’s.  “At the time, no other hospital in the state had a crime prevention program tied in with their K9 program.”  Myers’ first dog was Zeus.  He had him for four years, until the dog had to be retired.  Myers spent the next eight years with Norbo until the dog was injured while conducting a search during a call.  In 2009, Myers received Ax, a six-year-old, 100-pound Czech Shepherd who is by his side daily.

Hans Blabla Czech Shepherd breeder/trainer

Hans Blabla
Czech Shepherd breeder/trainer

The TMC K9’s are all Czech Shepherds.  Their true bloodlines make them extremely healthy, and typically free of health problems that plague other breeds, like hip dysplasia.  The TMC Security team gets their dogs from a Czechoslovakian man named Hans Blabla who has a kennel in Surprise, Arizona.  Blabla breeds, imports, and police trains Czech Shepherds.  The dogs then receive additional training for a hospital setting.  “The most impressive thing about these dogs is their ability to transition from working to being social.  It’s just like flipping a switch with a simple command.  I could go on patrol with Ax, and then take him to TMC for Children, and he could serve the same purpose as a therapy dog,” Myers said. 

“Those traits are exactly what we look for in our dogs,” said Montoya.  “Since we deal with children at TMC, these K9’s need to be approachable.  Both Ax and Orbe tested great for this.”

We’ll have several posts over the next few months focusing on the TMC Security Department and their K9’s, including the crucial decoy training the dogs go through, their typical day, and how TMC Security assists the Tucson Police Department in a jurisdiction that is larger than the city of South Tucson!

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461