Fighting Fire with Family

Story and photos by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-12-01

From Station 109, (left to right): Engineer Doug Boan, Captain Scott Lohmeyer, FF Tim McNew, FF Justin Gallisdorfer, Engineer Ty Smith, Captain Jeff Hickman, FF Eric Gravin.

Sac Metro Fire Station 109 is a "Family Operation"

Carmichael, CA (MPG) - For the 27 members of Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District’s Station 109 in Carmichael, a typical day on the job most often includes everything but putting out a fire. 

The reality, says Capt. Jeff Hickman who oversees a team of seven of firefighters and two EMTs comprising Station 109’s “B” shift, one of three shifts at the station, is much of the time a shift for his crew entails a regiment of equipment drills, practice runs, working out and lots of waiting. 

If “The Truck” does get a call, says Hickman, it’s likely for a 9-11 medical emergency, which can range from a non-life threatening issue to a deadly roadside crash.

“I don’t know of any other job where you spend more time preparing than actually doing what it is you initially came to do,” says Capt. Hickman, 50, who launched his career at 27 as a firefighter at the American River Station in 1994.  “We don’t want a fire of course, but on the other hand, that’s what we are trained to do.  Put out fires.”

Make no mistake: the work is among the most dangerous, fire or no fire.  As such, the hiring process is stringent.  The training grueling.

Getting in
Metro Fire formed in 2000 as the American River Fire and Sacramento County Fire Protection districts merged, creating the 7th largest department in California.  Its 40-plus stations provide fire protection and emergency medical services to some 740,000 people across 358 square miles of unincorporated Sacramento County.  

Metro Fire receives thousands of applicants to the training academy annually.  If accepted, recruits spend roughly 20 weeks pushing themselves to their physical and mental limits, hoping to secure one of only a few open slots at one of 16 station houses.

Applicants must be 18 to enter the academy, and, due to the increased demand for emergency 9-11 service support, graduates must also be certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).  Paramedics in the academy have the edge.

“When I got here in 2003, I was the only paramedically trained firefighter in the house,” said Hickman.  We now have two and the need for the training is significant.”

Initially, says Hickman, Engine 109 handled roughly 1,000 9-11 calls a month.  Today, it’s about 4,500.  As such, Metro Fire’s EMT services division has roughly 250 trained firefighter-paramedics on staff.

“Every firefighter has to at least be an EMT, and every truck has at least one paramedic on board,” said Hickman.  “If you have paramedic training, that’s your foot in the door right there.” 

Applicants begin with the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT), involving a series of endurance and agility drills.  According to Hickman, roughly nine out of 10 pass the CPAT, but that’s no guarantee they’ll graduate, as the academy training itself, he said, is CPAT on steroids, twenty weeks of it.  There’s also a written exam.

“I think the academy dropout rate is about 25 percent,” Hickman said. 

The Sit-down and The Probie

Academy grads must secure an interview for an open firefighter spot, provided there is one.  According to Hickman, there are roughly five openings for every 3,000 applicants.

“If we have an opening, we’ll conduct what we call “The Sit-down,” said Hickman.  “That’s where we meet with candidates and ask them why, out of 3,000 other applicants for the job we should hire them.”

Selected candidates begin with a year of probation, where their character and physical and mental skills will be scrutinized.  It’s no time for resting on laurels.

“The Probie is under a microscope,” Hickman said.  “We’ll test them extensively at every level. We can’t have someone in the house who is a liability rather than an asset.”

The Job
Metro Fire firefighters with paramedic training can expect a beginning monthly salary of roughly $5,300, and a full pension after 30 years of service.  Shifts A, B and C at Station 109 run 48 hours on, 96 hours off.  That’s two, 24-hour shifts, back to back.

“We work 10 shifts a month, and usually all night long,” says Hickman.  “That’s the downside.  You are always on duty when you are on your shift.”

Station 109 has 27 crew members, one is a female.  Two EMTs handle the ambulance, while the rest of the crew run either The Truck or The Engine.  The Truck is the brain and muscle of the operation, housing, among other things, a computerized “ER,” digital cameras, and a plethora of heavy duty tools and equipment, including extractors and the jaws of life, as well as the ladder.  The Engine houses the hoses and the pump. 

Station 109 is also a designated, Hazmat station.  So if, for example, an abandoned barrel of liquid is found on the side of the freeway, crew members can assess its contents and advise on its safe removal.  The Truck also has a full-functioning lab on board to analyze chemical and biological materials, as well as three computers and three wireless network.

“The Truck is not just a hose and ladder on wheels,” Hickman said.  “You’d be surprised how self-contained it is.  Even the ladder is inside the truck, not on top like everyone imagines.”

The Rush and the Risks

There are many reasons why firefighters love their work, including the blend of public service and adrenaline-pumping responsibility.  But the risks, says Hickman, are high, and no firefighter gets around them.

“Firefighting is a rush like no other,” Hickman said.  “But no firefighter can avoid getting injured in some way.”

Hickman said the biggest threat, aside from the obvious ones, is invisible.  Cancer from long-term exposure to chemicals from burning furniture is a growing concern.

“It’s all made of vinyl, rubber and plastic now, and even though we have our protective suits on, we still get exposed to those chemicals inside.  So cancer is our biggest concern.”

Stress and heart disease are also common, Hickman said, but not from smoking, as was the case some 20 years ago, but from the main attraction to the job itself: the adrenaline pumping.

“The stress from going from zero to 10 in 20 seconds is big,” said Hickman.  “But it’s getting better.  Thirty years ago, the average age a firefighter lived was about nine years past retirement, largely due to smoking and drinking and the job itself.  Today, we have more awareness, we work out and eat healthier meals.  So now it’s about 20 years past retirement.”

The House
Station 109 is more than just a place of employment.  It’s a second home, even if occupied by a revolving crew of adrenaline junkies.  The furnishings are far from opulent.  All crew members sleep in cubie-sized rooms on single beds, where bags are half-packed for quick end-of-shift exits.  A large TV room with an army of blue recliners is the entertainment center, and there’s a makeshift gym in the truck bay. 

Like most homes, the heart and soul of Station 109 is the kitchen, where crew members share three meals a shift together, jointly shopped for, cooked and consumed around a large, round wood dining table that Hickman built. 

“When we sit down at this table, we call that ‘family time,’” said Hickman.  “This is where we get to know each other.  We spend a third of our lives here, so it’s a place for a family, and it is our house.”

Area Museums Get Into the Holiday Spirit 

By Traci Rockefeller Cusack   |  2017-12-06

Sacramento Area Museums (SAM) are featuring a number of holiday-related events and activities. Photo courtesy of Sacramento History Museum

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) -  Imagine. Explore. Discover.  In addition to its fascinating Gold Rush past, the Sacramento area is rich with an amazing array of state-of-the-art museums and historic sites that offer visitors the chance to explore California’s fine art, history, science, and wildlife treasures all year long. In December, many of the nearly 30 members of Sacramento Area Museums (SAM) are featuring a number of holiday-related events and activities, a sampling of which includes the following:

Twinkling Tractors at the California Agriculture Museum – Now thru December 
The California Agriculture Museum in Woodland offers fun holiday sights and music to experience as they showcase tractors decked with holiday lights. Offered on Tuesdays through Fridays now through the month of December, guests can stroll through the Museum and enjoy holiday lights without concern of being rained out. For more, visit

State Capitol Holiday Music Program Now thru December 23, 2017
Amid a beautiful backdrop of vintage decorations in the Capitol Rotunda, a variety of diverse and amazing holiday musical performances will entertain State Capitol guests throughout the holidays. Depending on the day, visitors will enjoy FREE live musical entertainment from groups and performers such as High Voltage - El Dorado Theater Co., Camellia Flute Choir, Sacramento Opera Carolers, Salvation Army Brass Band, Girl Scouts of the Sierra, bell-ringers, harps, accordions, Broadway-style song and dance, baroque and brass ensembles, talented school choirs, and barbershop harmony. For more, call 916-324-0333 or visit
Home for the Holidays Exhibit at the Roseville Utility Exploration Center – Now thru 1/4

Shopping, decorations, visitors, travel....the holiday season can be a stressful time for everyone and for our planet, too. Learn ways to take care of yourself and the earth as you prepare for this busy time. Stop by for some helpful hints on making your holidays more sustainable with the Home for the Holidays exhibit. Learn what lights are the most efficient to use when decorating, where to dispose of that tree when you're done with it and how to keep those pipes clear when you're cooking all day. Help make it a clean, green and happy holiday for everyone. For more, visit

Gingerbread Holiday at the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum – 12/1 thru 12/21
The community is invited to enter gingerbread creations at the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse Museum 12/1 or 12/2 and also encouraged to visit the museum to see dozens of sweet confections on display during the 30th Annual Gingerbread Holiday celebration. Always FREE, there will be houses, mansions, shacks and other gingerbread structures created by school children, families, bakery academy students and adults. Contest entries are divided into categories:  children, youth, adult, family, school or youth groups and high school culinary academies and guests can vote in the “Visitor’s Favorite” category. For more, visit

DDSO Holiday Pop-up at Verge Center for the Arts – 12/1, 12/9 & Ongoing thru December
Verge is teaming up again with DDSO (Developmental Disabilities Service Organization) for the holidays! The community is invited to shop for original artworks, pillows, clothes, jewelry and other one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones (or for yourself). DDSO is one of the most respected nonprofits in the Sacramento and San Joaquin regions, providing a diverse range of services for adults with developmental disabilities. This is a great opportunity to help support them and champion the creativity and potential within the hearts and minds of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Verge looks forward to welcoming the community this December on First Friday, Second Saturday (6 to 9 p.m.) or during normal gallery hours. For more, please visit

Gold Fever! Tours Offered by the Sacramento History Museum – Weekends thru 12/17
Perfect for families and friends, guests to Old Sacramento can experience what it was like to catch gold fever while getting actively involved in the intriguing Gold Fever! guided tours. Each tour guest has the unique opportunity to take on the persona of a character in history – or a “real-life rascal” – who scratched and clawed their way to make this area the center of the Gold Rush. Never the same tour twice, Gold Fever! tours depart at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. from the Sacramento Visitors Center in Old Sacramento. For more, visit

Old Sacramento Underground Tours Offered by the Sacramento History Museum – Weekends & Daily 12/26 thru 12/31
To finish off the 2017 season in a festive and fun way, Old Sacramento Underground Tours continue on weekends in December and are offered daily between Christmas and the New Year. The Sacramento History Museum offers a unique and memorable underground tour experience for friends and families to enjoy together. Visitors can take the hour-long tour at either 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. or 2 p.m. each weekend and day during this holiday week. Note no tours are available 12/24 or 12/25.  For more, visit

All Nations Native Craft Faire at the Maidu Museum & Historic Site – 12/2
Guests will enjoy an artisan crafts such as Native jewelry, basketry, handmade crafts and more. There will be more than 20 Native American artisans from California tribes and the Cherokee Nation.  Shoppers will also enjoy live entertainment including tribal drumming, traditional music and singing. For more, visit

All Aboard for Story Time with Mrs. Claus at the Railroad Museum – 12/4
 It’s All Aboard for Story Time! with Mrs.Claus as a celebrity guest reader at 11 a.m. at the California State Railroad Museum. To the delight of young children and train enthusiasts alike, Mrs. Claus will read the children’s books The Night Before Christmas and Thomas and the Christmas Tree (both are Thomas and Friends books). In addition to this special, holiday-style All Aboard for Story Time!, photos with Santa Claus will be available (for a fee) on Wednesdays through Sundays through December 21 from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the historic Eagle Theatre located in Old Sacramento State Historic Park. For more, please visit

11th Annual California Hall of Fame Ceremony & Exhibit at the California Museum – 12/5 & 12/6
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and First Lady Anne Gust Brown will soon induct the California Hall of Fame 11th Class at the California Museum. The new class of inductees includes Lucille Ball, Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Mabel McKay, Mario J. Molina, Jim Plunkett, Gary Snyder, Steven Spielberg, Michael Tillson Thomas and Warren Winiarski. The California Hall of Fame celebrates Californians who embody the state’s spirit of innovation and have made their mark on history. Members of the public are invited to watch the ceremony live webcast on 12/5 at 7 p.m. at and visit the Museum’s all-new exhibition featuring artifacts on loan from inductees opening on 12/6. For more, please visit

Winter Wonderland at Fairytale Town – 12/9, 10, 16 & 17
Celebrate the holiday season in Whoville!  Fairytale Town will be trimmed with festive holiday décor and a dazzling display of lights, starting at dusk each evening. Guests will enjoy Dr. Seuss and Grinch-themed hands-on activities throughout the event. Visitors can listen to strolling Victorian carolers, shop for gifts from local vendors, step inside a giant snow globe and enjoy a flurry of snow falling nightly at 7 p.m. near the Mother Goose Stage.  For more, visit

Holiday Magic at the Sacramento Zoo – 12/9
Why should only humans receive gifts during the holidays? It’s time for Holiday Magic when the community has the special opportunity to watch as the animals unwrap their holiday goodies!  Plus, Zoo visitors who bring a donation for Loaves & Fishes will receive $1 off admission. For more, visit

Holiday Craft Bar at Verge Center for the Arts – 12/9
Stop by Verge and add that extra touch to your holiday gifts and decorations! Whether you want to make your own wrapping paper, holiday cards, present tags, bows, or other holiday touches, Verge will have the materials for you. This is a drop-in event running from 2 to 5 p.m. for one-day-only. Head to Second Saturday after making your items for a full art day. For more information, visit

Hands on History: A Simple Emigrant Christmas at Sutter’s Fort – 12/9
In John Sutter’s day, people from around the world passed through the gates of Sutter’s Fort, each with their own customs and traditions for the holiday season. “A Simple Emigrant Christmas” offers several vignettes showing holiday scenes, including foods, music, decorations, and traditions from other cultures. During this special “Hands on History” event, Fort visitors can participate in a number of hands-on activities such as dipping and creating their own holiday candles, crafting their own “keepsake” holiday ornaments – that include snowflakes, cornhusk angels and bird nests – plus making holiday cards with nib (or “dip”) pens and colored ink, grinding raw wheat into “Christmas flour,” singing Christmas carols with Fort musicians and more. For more, visit

Pajama Party at the Sacramento Zoo – 12/24
Guests can celebrate Christmas Eve for FREE at the Sacramento Zoo without even changing out of their pajamas! Festive and fun, get there early as the Zoo will close early at 1:30 p.m. that day so the dedicated staff can enjoy time with their families. Plus, the community is encouraged to join the Loaves & Fishes Holiday Drive at the zoo by donating baby wipes, new gloves, news socks, or unused toiletries at the zoo entrance. For more, visit

New “Forces: Earth & Space” Exhibit Opens at the Powerhouse Science Center – 12/16

Powerhouse Science Center is offering a wonderful holiday destination for guests to enjoy when they open a new exhibit that showcases how the forces of the universe make stars shine, planets orbit, and galaxies hold together complex extraterrestrial systems. In addition, guests will learn how matter and energy work in synchronicity and incredible things happen in the vastness of space. Note the museum will be closed 12/4 thru 12/15 to prepare for the exciting new exhibit. For more, visit

Free Admission Day at Fairytale Town – 12/24
As a special holiday treat, Fairytale Town is giving the gift of free admission to guests who visit on Christmas Eve between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with a day of free play for the whole family. What fun! For more, visit

“Twelve Days of Space Science” at the Powerhouse Science Center – 12/26 thru 1/7
The community is invited to celebrate “Twelve Days of Space Science” at the Powerhouse. From alien encounters to comet parts and fizzing liquids to ice moons, guests will check out a different hands-on space activity and space-themed story each day (excluding New Year’s Day when the science center is closed). For more, visit

“The Sound of Music Holiday Event” at the Crocker Art Museum – 12/28
The Crocker’s screening of The Sound of Music returns for its sixth and final year with costume contests, door prizes, yodeling, singing, and lots of laughs. Starring Julie Andrews, with music by the famed Rodgers and Hammerstein, this multi-Academy-Award-winning film tickles the heart and warms the soul. Dress in costume, purchase a Movie Fun Pack to make things even more interesting, and sing your heart out to the film’s iconic and beloved soundtrack. Two screenings will be held in the Crocker’s plush auditorium at 1:30 and 6 p.m. Advance registration is encouraged as this event sells out each year. For tickets, please visit or call 916-808-1182 for more information.

Who Year Celebration & New Year’s Eve Party at the Sacramento Children’s Museum – 12/31
During the daytime, the Museum is proud to offer a fun Who Year New Year celebration! Every hour on the hour starting at 12 p.m., guests can enjoy bubble stomps to ring in the New Year around the world. They’ll also have noise-maker making in the Art Studio and more!  Then in the evening, guests can enjoy the 2nd Annual Who Year New Year’s Eve Party (a ticketed event). Festivities will go from 9 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. and will include dancing, continued noise maker-making and bubble stomps, games, light refreshments, and Museum play, culminating in a New Year's countdown to midnight. For more, visit

For more information about upcoming activities offered by Sacramento area museums, “like” them on Facebook at, follow them on Instagram and Twitter @SacMuseums or visit the user-friendly website at

About the Sacramento Area Museums (SAM)
Comprised of nearly 30 greater Sacramento area museums working in partnership with Visit Sacramento, SAM’s mission is to raise awareness of local museums by giving the community the opportunity to discover California’s fine art, history, science and wildlife treasures. SAM achieves its mission through implementing cooperative promotions and developing strategic marketing alliances, by encouraging sharing of knowledge and resources among its partner institutions.  For more information, visit

Source: T-Rock Communications

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Ring We Now of Christmas

By Gerry Halley  |  2017-12-06

Bel Tempo, a community handbell choir

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Silver Bells, Silver Bells, its Christmas time in the city.  Actually the bells of the Bel Tempo Handbell Choir are Gold, and the sound is Golden!  The holiday season is a special time of year of wonder and excitement.  It's also a time to reach out and help others who are less fortunate. This year on Sunday, December 17, at 4 p.m., 3235 Pope Avenue, you are invited to help others while enjoying an afternoon of holiday music from around the world with Bel Tempo, a community handbell choir sponsored by Northminster Presbyterian Church. The concert has become a holiday tradition for music lovers of all ages. In addition to handbell music, Bel Tempo will be joined by soloists on violin, marimba, English horn and a variety of percussion instruments.  Audience members will have a chance to try their skills with hand chimes and join in carol sing-a-longs.

This year's concert, “Ring We Now of Christmas,” is a benefit for Family Promise of Sacramento.  Family Promise helps displaced families renew their dreams and re-start their journey towards independence. Permanent housing is the ultimate goal, along with developing the self-sufficiency needed so that homelessness is less likely to reoccur.  Family Promise partners, with over two dozen, host and support congregations.  During the day, the Family Promise Day Center, located in the Loaves & Fishes complex, provides a safe and secure haven for families.  Each evening, Family Promise transports the families to the host congregation for that week and then transports the families back to the Day Center each morning.

The afternoon of music is free.  A freewill offering will be accepted to benefit Family Promise.  For more information, call (916) 487-5192 or go to

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Save for Retirement Now, Get a Tax Credit Later

WASHINGTON, DC - The Internal Revenue Service reminds low- and moderate-income workers to plan now to earn a credit on their 2017 tax return. A special tax break can help people with modest incomes save for retirement. It’s called the Saver’s Credit and it could mean up to a 50 percent credit for the first $2,000 a taxpayer contributes to a retirement plan.

Also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, the Saver’s Credit helps offset part of the amount workers voluntarily contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA, a 401(k) or 403 (b) plan, and similar workplace retirement programs.

Taxpayers with an IRA have until April 17, 2018, (the due date of their 2017 tax return) to contribute to the plan and still have it qualify for 2017. However, contributions (elective deferrals) to an employer-sponsored plan must be made by the end of the year to qualify for the credit. Employees who are unable to set aside money for this year may want to schedule their 2018 contributions soon so their employer can begin withholding in January.

The Saver’s Credit can be claimed by:

  • Married couples filing jointly with incomes up to $62,000 in 2017 or $63,000 in 2018
  • Heads of Household with incomes up to $46,500 in 2017 or $47,250 for 2018
  • Singles and married individuals filing separately with incomes up to $31,000 in 2017 or $31,500 in 2018

To qualify for the credit, a person must be:

  • Age 18 or older
  • Not a full-time student
  • Not claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return

Like other tax credits, the Saver’s Credit can increase a taxpayer’s refund or reduce the amount of tax owed. Though the maximum Saver’s Credit is $1,000 ($2,000 for married couples), the IRS cautioned that it is often much less and may be zero for some taxpayers.

The amount of the credit is based on filing status, income, overall tax liability and the amount contributed to a qualifying retirement plan. It may also be impacted by other credits and deductions or reduced by any recent distributions from a retirement plan.

To claim the Saver’s Credit, taxpayers must complete Form 8880 and attach it to their tax return. Form 8880 cannot be used with Form 1040EZ.

In tax year 2015, the most recent year for which complete figures are available, Saver’s Credits totaling nearly $1.4 billion were claimed on more than 8.1 million individual income tax returns.

The Saver’s Credit can also add to other tax benefits available to people who contribute to their retirement; for example, most workers can also deduct contributions to a traditional IRA.

Source: IRS Media

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SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - The California Highway Patrol (CHP) joins the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) in recognizing December 4-8, 2017, as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.

According to the AOTA, with increasing age come changes in physical, mental and sensory abilities that can challenge a person’s continued ability to drive safely.  Family and friends have a major role in identifying changes in driving behavior and beginning discussions about older driver safety.  It is important to start these conversations early and discuss any needed changes in driving habits before it becomes a problem, allowing older drivers to be actively involved in the planning. 

“Most drivers want to continue driving for as long as possible and maintain their independence,” CHP Acting Commissioner Warren Stanley said.  “Family and friends play an important, but often difficult role, in discussing how long it is safe to continue driving.”

Data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows drivers age 65 and older made up approximately 15 percent of the licensed drivers in California in 2016.  Last year, more than 5,100 fatal collisions were recorded in California.  Preliminary data from the CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System indicates drivers age 65 and older were involved in 10.7 percent of the fatal collisions and 8.3 percent of the injury collisions in California in 2016. 

As part of our efforts to help California’s seniors drive safely for as long as they can, the CHP offers a free, two-hour Age Well, Drive Smart course.  Through this program, seniors can sharpen their driving skills, refresh their knowledge of the rules of the road, and learn how to adjust to normal age-related physical and mental changes.  The CHP North Sacramento Area office will hold a free class at the First Baptist Church of Fair Oaks located at 4401 San Juan Ave, Fair Oaks, CA. Class size is limited so it is encouraged that all who plan on attending RSVP.

Persons interested in signing up for the class will need to register for the class by emailing Officer Chad Hertzell at or by sending a private message to our Facebook account at or calling him at 916-348-2317.

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Nearly 90 percent of older drivers do not make inexpensive adaptations to their vehicles that can improve safety and extend their time behind the wheel, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Common vehicle adaptations like pedal extensions, seat cushions and steering wheel covers can help to improve safety by reducing a senior driver’s crash risk. Seniors aged 65 and over are more than twice as likely as younger drivers to be killed when involved in a crash.

“While many seniors are safe drivers, they are also the most vulnerable,” said Michael Blasky, spokesman for AAA Northern California. “We urge seniors to consider making the necessary adaptations to their vehicles in order to reduce crash risk and extend the time they can continue to drive. Simple, inexpensive features can greatly improve their safety and the safety of those they share the road with.”

The research brief, In-Vehicle Technologies, Vehicle Adaptations, and Older Drivers: Use, Learning, and Perceptions is the first phase in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s groundbreaking Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project.

For this phase of the study, researchers investigated 12 vehicle adaptations and found that fewer than nine percent of senior drivers reported using any of the devices in their vehicles. Some of the inexpensive devices that can be purchased and put to use in new or existing vehicles are: Cushions and seat pads can improve line of sight and can help alleviate back or hip pain; Convex/ multifaceted mirrors can improve visibility and minimizes blind spots; Pedal extension can help drivers obtain a safe distance from the steering wheel/airbag and optimize visibility; Steering wheel covers can improve grip for drivers with arthritic hand joints; Hand controls can help the driver to perform all vehicle maneuvers and functions without the use of lower extremities.

Choosing the right features and working with a trained technician is imperative to safety behind the wheel. Of those drivers who have a device, almost 90 percent reported that they did not work with a trained professional to install the modification, a key recommendation by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). AAA urges drivers to consult with a trained technician to guide them in making adjustments to their vehicle.

Vehicle adaptions also benefit seniors’ mental health by extending their time on the road. Previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that seniors who have stopped driving are almost two times more likely to suffer from depression and nearly five times more likely to enter a long-term care facility than those who remain behind the wheel.

“Knowledge is power when it comes to extending time behind the wheel, and AAA is committed to providing seniors with the information they need to make sound decisions,” Blasky said.

AAA is promoting the report in partnership with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to support Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. AAA and AOTA worked in collaboration with the American Society on Aging and AARP to develop CarFit to help senior drivers better utilize the features and technologies in their vehicles. AAA also offers the Smart Features for Older Drivers tool, which can help senior drivers identify in-expensive devices and vehicle features that optimize their comfort and safety.

About LongROAD: Recognizing that lifestyle changes, along with innovative technologies and medical advancements will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has launched a ground-breaking, multi-year research program to more fully understand the driving patterns and trends of older drivers in the United States. The LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) study is the largest and most comprehensive senior driver database on senior drivers incorporating 2,990 participants. It will support in-depth studies of senior driving and mobility to better understand risks and develop effective countermeasures.

Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit

AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 100 years ago. Visit

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The Government is the Real Problem

By Paul Scholl  |  2017-12-06

Senator Nielsen greets retiring Sacramento Metro Fire PIO Michell Cummings. Photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner

Nielsen Speaks to Carmichael Chamber

Carmichael, CA (MPG) – There was a lot of passion being displayed at the most recent Carmichael Chamber of Commerce luncheon about the current state of affairs in California politics.

Senator Jim Nielsen struck right at heart of many of the issues on the minds of local business owners and residents. There was a large contingent on hand, over 115, wanting to know what could be done about the out of control State government.

“Minimum wage is going to be very tough on small businesses. Many of the new bills will increase the cost of doing business in California” Nielsen said. “The current government wants to continue to give authority to agencies, not elected by the people, to raise fees without any oversight.”

The senator described the process of one recent bill and the excesses of the legislature. Contrary to the 72 hour in print rule (and available on the web), a bill of over 700 pages was presented just ten minutes prior to the vote. He said rarely does anyone read the actual contents of the bills being passed before they are voted on.

Nielsen emphasized that it is up to the constituents to be diligent and to “Be aware of the creeping Administrative State”. He described how he had taken it upon himself to try to get through to one particular agency over an issue. His staff could not get through to an actual person in that agency after many attempts. He called himself many times and could not get through. He then assigned a Sergeant  at Arms to go to that agency and stand at the desk of the person he was calling to order them to answer the telephone when he called.

The speech to the Chamber also outlined how there are many backdoor dealings by the current out of control legislators, and how their processes are designed specifically to keep the public in the dark. He said “Government is real problem.”

The senator also touched on other hot topics. He spoke about the complete failure of the government to properly oversee all the problems with the Oroville Dam, both before and after the crisis. He spoke about his personal feelings about the kneeling of people when our national anthem is being performed. “Our anthem speaks to the greatness of our country. We have the finest nation. We are a great nation and a great people” he said.

After his speech, the senator took a number of questions from attendees. One question was “Why weren’t we allowed to vote on becoming a sanctuary state?” Senator Nielsen’s reply was pretty direct. “The legislature in California has created a magnet for criminals. This slams the door shut between law enforcement agencies and they can’t communicate. With Propositions 37, 47 and 57 we are not safe.”

Bottom line? Pay attention to state politics and hold your representatives accountable. They don’t love you.

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This Little Book is Big on Birds

Story and photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner  |  2017-12-06

American River Natural History Association recently launched “150 Frequently Seen Birds of California’s Great Valley.” Authors and photographers include Molly Keller, Kari Bauer, James Scott, Peggy Kennedy, Guy Galante, Ed Harper, Bob McLeary and Rich Howard.

Carmichael, CA (MPG) - Quail not if you don’t know a goose from a grebe. The American River Natural History Association's new bird guide flies to the aid of people who love birds but can’t always name them. Launched in time for Christmas gift-buying -- and small enough for a stocking or pocket – “150 Frequently Seen Birds of California's Great Valley” identifies species common to our local wildernesses, suburbs or riversides.

Non-profit ARHNA called upon seven wildlife photographers to donate more than 300 snaps. Molly Keller and Peggy Keller did research and writing. Each of the featured birds gets a double-page picture spread a description of its plumage, habitat and habits.

The spiral-bound guide is recommended as a companion for birders of any age or expertise. While most people can all spot a common sparrow, few could name the seven (or more) sparrow species flitting around our yards and parks. In the book’s close studies, they’re all different and uncommonly beautiful. It’s also fascinating the see nocturnal birds and their babies beautifully detailed by dedicated photographers who go to work when most mortals are in bed.

Carmichael naturalist Guy Galante (also known for decades-long observation of American River Parkway coyotes) contributed more than avian 30 studies for the tome. “Birds are the newspaper of the natural world,” he told supporters at the book launch. “They tell you what’s happening in the environment. I’m really grateful for what I’ve learned from them.”

To purchase the $14.95 book, duck into the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Ancil Hoffman Park. Or visit  Sales support ARHNA and the Nature Center.

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Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Two of the three leading credit agencies have raised their assessment of SMUD’s credit worthiness. Fitch and S&P upgraded SMUD’s credit ratings to AA, from AA-. Meanwhile, SMUD’s credit worthiness continues to be rated Aa3 by Moody’s. This is the strongest SMUD’s credit ratings have been in 33 years.

The agencies cited improved finances, sound operating fundamentals, competitive rates and a diverse energy portfolio among the many reasons they raised their assessment of SMUD’s credit worthiness.

Exceeding financial goals helps SMUD maintain solid credit ratings and provides for lower interest rates when SMUD borrows. The upgrades are expected to save three basis points (0.03%) on SMUD’s upcoming bond transaction, which is worth $350,000 net value over the term of the debt.  Additionally, SMUD will continue to pay lower interest rates every time the electric utility issues debt in the future.

According to Fitch: “The rating upgrade reflects the district's strong and sustainable financial performance, moderate leverage with manageable capital needs, and management's proactive plans to comply with environmental mandates and adapt to a rapidly evolving industry.”

S&P noted: “We have assigned SMUD a business profile score of '3' on a 10-point scale, with '1' being the highest, reflecting our view of SMUD's competitive electric rates, diverse and coal-free resource portfolio, strong financial management, and stable and diverse service territory.”

As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for 70 years to Sacramento County (and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties). SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD’s power mix is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information,

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