Back to the Mar-Apr 2021 issue

Can Firefighters Put Emergency Lights on Their Personal Vehicles?

Emergency Response

Q: Can volunteer firefighters put lights on their personal vehicles for use when responding to emergencies?

Bright red emergency vehicle lightLMC: Minnesota has some specific laws that are related to the use of emergency lighting on personal vehicles. Under Minnesota Statutes, section 169.58, subdivisions 2 and 3, a volunteer firefighter, emergency medical first responder, ambulance crew member, or ambulance driver can put a red lamp on the front of their motor vehicle after obtaining a permit from the commissioner of Public Safety. The lamp should conform to specific requirements outlined in the statute.

The lamp should only be lit when responding to an emergency in connection with carrying out official duties as a volunteer firefighter, ambulance crew worker, or first responder. For ambulance drivers, the lamp should only be lighted when driving to the location of an ambulance in response to an emergency call.

Answered by Loss Control Field Consultant Troy Walsh: twalsh@lmc.org  

Mental Health

Q: Our city is thinking about implementing a mental health checkup program for police officers. What should we consider?

LMC: Due to the nature of their job duties, public safety employees may be at more risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mental health check-ins may encourage employees to get help when they need it, and many Minnesota cities are considering implementing such a program. In some cases, the programs may involve requiring employees to check in with a mental health provider periodically.

Police officer taking exam

There are several legal considerations associated with offering mental health programs in the workplace, including data privacy, benefits continuation, collective bargaining agreements, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. One of the most important decisions is whether to make the program mandatory or voluntary. If mandatory, and if the program is seen as a medical exam or inquiry under the ADA, the city must show that it is job-related and there was a business reason for requiring the exam. If the program is voluntary, the city will want to comply with the rules for wellness programs. For more information, see the League’s Preventive Mental Health Checkups Q&A at www.lmc.org/mh-checkup.

Answered by Human Resources Director Laura Kushner: lkushner@lmc.org

City Council

Q: Our city would like to increase the pay of our council members. Do cities have the authority to do this? If so, are there certain requirements we should follow?

Rolled up dollar billsLMC: Yes, cities have authority to change council members’ pay. According to Minnesota Statutes, section 415.11, the city council in Second Class, Third Class, and Fourth Class cities can establish, by ordinance, the salaries of the mayor and council members in an amount that the council deems “reasonable.” Generally, no change in salary shall take effect until after the next succeeding regular city election. An ordinance changing council salaries should specify the date when the changes will take effect.

A city council, however, may adopt an ordinance to take effect before the next city election if it reduces the salaries of the mayor and council members. The ordinance shall be in effect for 12 months unless another period of time is specified in the ordinance. After that, the reduced salary reverts to the salary that was in effect immediately before the ordinance was adopted.

 

For more information, see the League’s Handbook for Minnesota Cities, Chapter 6, pages 23-24 at www.lmc.org/handbook6.

Answered by Research Assistant Emmanuel Emukah: eemukah@lmc.org

Got questions for LMC?

Send your questions to choffacker@lmc.org.