In This Issue


Emergency Relief Dividend

Risk Management and Coronavirus Loss Control Guideline

Tennessee Department of Health MOU Update

COVID-19 and Municipal Sewer Systems

2020 Risk & Insurance Symposium

City of Calhoun and Community Involvement

Message from the President — May 2020

As a risk sharing pool, we talk frequently about the partnership we share with our members. That partnership begins with the service of our Board of Directors and extends to every interaction we have with our members. Our Board of Directors is composed of mayors, city administrators and managers from across the state, and ensures that PE Partners continues to value what is most important — the work our members do each and every day serving Tennessee’s citizens.

While much has happened over the last several months, we continue to recognize the partnership we have shared with members over the last 40 years. We are working to weigh the impacts of the current pandemic on our operations and carefully evaluate the best ways to serve our members.

We recently shared the declaration of an Emergency Relief Dividend, and have continued to update loss control resources and recommendations related to COVID-19. We are looking forward to resuming normal operations with health and safety in mind. While it is not yet possible to make final determinations on how COVID-19 will impact programs we offer in late summer, such as our annual Risk & Insurance Symposium, we will continue to monitor the situation. After careful thought and consideration, we intend to make a final determination in late June. If the event is cancelled, we intend to make content available through webinars so that our members can stay up-to-date on the risk management topics that are scheduled to be presented.

In addition, in this newsletter, you will find an update to the information shared last month regarding the Memorandum of Understanding that law enforcement agencies were able to enter into with the Department of Health regarding disclosure of protected health information.

We appreciate the work you do as local government employees and elected officials, and thank you for your partnership.

Stay safe!

Charles DeMore signature

Charles DeMore
President / CEO




 

Emergency Relief Dividend

The events of the recent months have presented uncertain and difficult times that have impacted citizens, businesses and local governments. Throughout this unprecedented period, PE Partners has worked to implement contingency plans to ensure that we do not have any interruptions in the services we provide. Because of this planning, PE Partners has remained fully operational and ready to serve our members. 

Public Entity Partners’ Board of Directors held a special called meeting on May 15, 2020, and voted unanimously to declare a $7 million Emergency Relief Dividend for our members. If your entity meets the eligibility requirements, a check will be mailed to the address listed on your policy document in mid- to late July. Each member was sent their eligibility amount for the Emergency Relief Dividend the week of May 25.

Throughout the past 40 years, our commitment to supporting our membership has not wavered. We remain fully committed to assisting our members, especially as you navigate operations during this difficult time.

If you have questions about the Emergency Relief Dividend, please reach out to our member services team.

East Tennessee
Wayne Anderson
WAnderson@PEpartners.org

Middle Tennessee
Callie Westerfield
CWesterfield@PEpartners.org

West Tennessee
Celeste Taylor
CTaylor@PEpartners.org

 

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Risk Management and Coronavirus Loss Control Guideline

COVID-19 presents numerous challenges for our members as public servants and employers. Public Entity Partners stands ready to assist you. We have summarized best practices and consolidated many of the available resources in our newly released Risk Management and Coronavirus Loss Control Guideline. Resources are posted on our website and will be updated as additional information becomes available. 

Risk Management and Coronavirus Loss Control Guideline

PE Partners COVID-19 Coronavirus Resources

As always, we encourage all members to work toward a safe and healthy workplace, and reduce liability exposures as much as is reasonably possible. Please consult with your city attorney or local counsel as you implement programs and procedures.

As this historic event unfolds, employers should follow federal, state and local requirements and regulations establishing restrictions or guidelines to promote the safety of both employees and the general public. While the pandemic and subsequent reopening of public facilities provide an increased risk exposure, much of the risk can be reduced through proper supervision, documentation and controls. 

Note: PE Partners does not represent that these recommendations identify and address all the unsafe or hazardous conditions associated with the pandemic or the subsequent reopening of facilities, programs or activities.

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Tennessee Department of Health MOU Update

Last month, PE Partners shared with our members the Memorandum of Understanding between the Tennessee Department of Health and local law enforcement about protected health information regarding COVID-19 cases. The legal counsel for the COVID-19 Unified Command & Economic Recovery Group has provided an update to that memorandum, which was shared by the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police to all police chiefs in the state. Please keep in mind the importance of safeguarding and maintaining the confidentiality of any PHI to which your organization may have had access.

RE: Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the Disclosure of Protected Health Information between the Tennessee Department of Health and your agency (“MOU”)

Dear PHI Disclosure Recipient,

The State of Tennessee recognizes and values the contributions of first responders, law enforcement officers, and health and mental health personnel and notes their tireless efforts to protect and serve the public during an unprecedented emergency. The safety of your agency’s personnel has been paramount to us, as COVID-19 has presented unique challenges for those on the front-line of emergency response, law enforcement, and healthcare. As you know, during the early response to COVID-19 it became difficult for first responders, health care providers, and law enforcement agencies to locate and source adequate personal protective equipment (“PPE”).

In an effort to address these challenges, the Tennessee Department of Health (“Health”) executed an MOU to share with your agency limited protected health information (“PHI”) regarding COVID-19 cases. Health agreed to provide the PHI disclosures pursuant to the authority provided in federal law and regulations, including 45 CFR Part 164, and based on guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

As the supply chain for PPE has stabilized, and our understanding of COVID-19 has increased, Health has determined the continued disclosure of PHI regarding COVID-19 cases is no longer warranted. Therefore, effective Sunday, May 31, 2020, Health will cease disclosing to your agency the list of names and addresses of individuals documented as having tested positive, or received treatment, for COVID-19 during the prior 30 days. 

Throughout the implementation of the MOUs, meant to responsibly disclose PHI to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state, Health has tried to maintain a balance between respecting patient privacy rights and preventing and lessening a serious health threat to first responders and law enforcement. Even as we continue to address many COVID-19 challenges, two developments make this an appropriate time for Health to cease these COVID-19 PHI disclosures. 

First, PPE is now more readily attainable for first responders and law enforcement. In addition to securing PPE through normal purchasing means and supply chain channels, your agency should work with your local EMA Directors for PPE needs. TEMA has been supporting local procurement efforts, and, to date, TEMA’s logistics efforts around PPE have resulted in the shipment of over 1.4 million PPE items to first responders and law enforcement around the state. Supplemental to these existing efforts to supply PPE to agencies across Tennessee, TEMA will be shipping KN95 masks to LEAs and other first responder organizations and N95 respirators to emergency medical personnel to bolster on hand supplies. 

Second, the prevalence of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases may be creating a false sense of security. Individuals who have COVID-19 but who have not sought testing because they do not have symptoms may unintentionally transmit the virus to your personnel because the need to wear appropriate PPE was not apparent. Therefore, first responders and law enforcement are encouraged to treat all close interactions with individuals with appropriate precautions. These precautions include wearing appropriate PPE, maintaining social distancing where possible, and following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for first responders and law enforcement, available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/first-responders.html.  

Thank you for your efforts to safeguard and maintain as confidential the PHI Health has disclosed to your agency. Your obligations under the MOU continue, particularly with respect to maintaining the confidentiality of this PHI, limiting its re-disclosure except as permitted in the MOU, and using PHI only as the MOU authorizes. Within 30 days, you must delete and/or shred any existing copies, or any portion thereof, of the PHI disclosed by Health in your agency’s possession. Also, you must immediately notify Health if the PHI in your possession has been, or is suspected of having been, disclosed in an unauthorized manner, regardless of when the disclosure occurred.

Again, thank you for your service to the people of the State of Tennessee, and for your dedication to public service.

cc: County EMA Directors

Todd B. Skelton
Legal Counsel, COVID-19 Unified Command & Economic Recovery Group
Office of the Governor
Tennessee State Capitol
(615) 664-8590

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COVID-19 and Municipal Sewer Systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges over the past several months, but a unique challenge to wastewater collection systems has been the toilet paper shortages. Although the supply chains have largely improved since the initial shortages, there has been an increased use of paper towels, napkins and “flushable” wipes as alternatives to toilet paper. Unfortunately, these products can cause extensive damage to municipal wastewater collection systems since they do not break down at the same rate as toilet paper.

Flushable wipes are not actually “flushable.” Many wipes are made from plastics and are not suitable for sanitary sewer systems since they are not biodegradable. Flushable wipes and grease account for the majority of sewer blockages in municipal sewer systems. When they make their way into a sewer lift station, they can clog the pumps, sometimes causing the pumps and motors to burn out.

Paper towels account for up to half of the debris found on the bar screens of wastewater plants. Paper towels are not designed to break apart when wet. Unlike tissue paper, which breaks down readily when wet, paper towels absorb water and expand when wet. When flushed, they expand in size and remain that way as they move through the entire sewer system. If they get caught on tree roots that have entered the piping, a big clog can result, leading to a sewer backup. Clumps of paper towel waste can damage sewer lift station pumps and motors.

Please remember (and promote in your communities) that only toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet. Sewer blockages can be costly for the homeowner, and can also cause increased maintenance costs for wastewater collection and treatment plant operations.

Taking the proper steps to create an effective backup and overflow prevention program can help you manage the liability associated with your sewer system, and hopefully prevent costly sewer backups and damage to the system.

These steps include:

1. Document complaints about backups

Public Entity Partners’ casualty loss control consultants can work with you as you evaluate the processes you have in place to document complaints and backups within your system.

Documentation should include:

  • The name of the individual making the complaint
  • Location of the backup
  • Date and time you received the complaint
  • Who received the complaint
  • The action you took about the complaint

All inspections, maintenance and repairs on your sewer system should be documented with the dates they were performed, the name(s) of the personnel who completed them, and what the results were.

2. Map out your system

Most sewer systems are mapped. Your system’s map should include numbered manhole covers, all lift or pump stations, and the location of complaints. This will help you track your complaints and identify areas of your system that may need to be fixed.

3. Fix the problem areas

Your ongoing schedule of inspecting, cleaning and preventative maintenance for your system should be in writing. This is documented proof that you are taking care of your system. Focus on problem areas of your system. Plan and schedule cleaning for these areas at least twice a year. An uninspected line that hasn’t been cleaned is typically responsible for backups.

4. Educate employees and the public about their responsibilities during a sewer backup or overflow event

  • Do you know how to respond to a sewer backup? The manner with which your personnel handle residents who experience the trauma of a backup can influence whether or not your entity is sued. Your personnel should always treat citizens with concern for their problems. Explain what will be done, by whom and when it will occur, and consider suggesting precautions to prevent these types of events in the future.
  • Your employees should never discuss who is at fault for a backup or overflow event. Sometimes employees say things that make residents believe the overflow is your entity’s responsibility or fault. Educate your employees so they understand that responding to a sewer backup or overflow event does not mean accepting responsibility for the damage.
  • Create educational documents, fact sheets or brochures detailing the causes of backups and overflows. Explain that cooking grease, diapers and debris should be kept out of sinks, toilets and drains, and can cause backups and overflows.
  • Residents should be encouraged to have a backflow device and understand they are responsible for maintaining their lateral line.

These four steps for creating an effective program are key to identifying areas of concern within your sewer system and proactively working to fix these issues. A program of this nature will not only reduce the number of backups experienced in your system, it will also demonstrate the duty of care that you exercise, reducing your potential liability for these types of events.

Any local government employee or elected official who may receive a complaint from the public should have a basic understanding of your sewer backup prevention program — and where to direct a complaint so it can be properly documented. Never admit or assume liability until a determination is made by your claim adjuster. If you accept responsibility for a backup before the claim adjuster has investigated, you could put your coverage in jeopardy.

If you have questions as you evaluate your sewer backup and prevention program, please reach out to your casualty loss control consultant.

East Tennessee
Judy Housley
JHousley@PEpartners.org

Middle Tennessee
Chester Darden
CDarden@PEpartners.org

West Tennessee
Paul Chambliss
PChambliss@PEpartners.org

 

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2020 Risk & Insurance Symposium

Preliminary agenda and registration information is available for PE Partners’ 2020 Risk & Insurance Symposium, scheduled for Aug. 19 - 21 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs.

While numerous continuing education opportunities typically available to local governments throughout the spring have been cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 virus, we hope to be able to move forward with the Risk & Insurance Symposium in August. This annual event offers sessions related to risk management, cyber liability, workers’ compensation and employment practices liability. The symposium is a great opportunity to renew your organization’s focus on safety and risk management, and learn from industry leaders.

A room block at Franklin Marriott Cool Springs has been reserved, with a negotiated conference room rate of $157 per night. Once the block is full, the Marriott will charge per-night room rates based on market rates, so please reserve your room early.

During the symposium, participants are invited to attend the Excellence in Risk Management Awards Lunch, where we will honor PE Partners members who exemplify excellence, innovation and commitment to the risk and insurance field. Please visit our event website for more information about the awards and the nomination form, and to register and view the agenda for the symposium.

For additional information or answers to any questions about this event, please contact Halie Gallik at 800.624.9698 or HGallik@PEpartners.org.

 

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City of Calhoun and Community Involvement

Tennessee has been known as the Volunteer State since the War of 1812, and the City of Calhoun continues to carry on that tradition, with many jobs and tasks taken on by non-paid personnel, including volunteer firefighters, police, coaches — and even the city manager. This “can-do” spirit is further illustrated in Calhoun’s volunteer efforts to help build and improve the community.

  City-of-Calhoun-Hiwassee-Meadowland-Park-Pavillion-Dedication-Ceremony  

Over the past year, through many hours of volunteer help and with contributions from local businesses, the City of Calhoun completed construction of a beautiful pavilion as part of their Hiwassee Meadowland Park. This stacked stone and wooden beam structure has already housed popular community events. When you see it in person, it is hard to believe this was accomplished with small grants, no city funds, and lots of sweat equity by residents and local businesses.

City Manager Joe Bryan, who wrote the initial grant application for the pavilion kit, shared the following about the impact of volunteerism in the Calhoun community:

“We couldn’t have done it without community volunteers and donations. We have around 450 residents within the City of Calhoun and our budget is tight. We wanted to bring emphasis back to the park as a community gathering place. The old pavilion had been built in 1986, and it was dangerous and close to collapsing. Former Mayor John Walker served as project manager and solicited all the local contributions. People throughout the community volunteered their time on this project.”

  City of Calhoun - Hiwassee Meadowland Park Pavillion  

It wasn’t just individuals who volunteered, either. Skilled work was provided through the generous support of contractor Pen Gulf, Inc. They used their expertise and knowledge to train the volunteers and worked alongside them, and also provided necessary personal protective gear.

“The contractor followed their safety protocols and helped us ensure that all volunteers worked in a safe manner,” Bryan said. “When we had people on site, we had to determine what jobs were okay for volunteers to do and what needed someone with more experience. And we had to make sure everyone had the needed protective gear for their assigned tasks.”

The new pavilion has helped to relaunch local events that have not been celebrated in 25 years or more. Christmas at the Park was a huge success in December, bringing nearly 350 people to the park in a town of only 450 citizens. The Rivertown Festival was also a hit, and the city is now working on adding a catering kitchen that will generate even more interest and use. The city recognizes that improved facilities will expand the demand for use by third parties, in addition to use by the city, and has worked to develop proper facility use agreements to protect the city.

City of Calhoun - Hiwassee Meadowland Park Pavillion City of Calhoun - Hiwassee Meadowland Park Pavillion

 

“Local industry, citizens and businesses came together to help us get this project to completion,” Bryan says. “We literally built the pavilion at no expense to the city.”

This project demonstrates how much can be accomplished with the use of volunteers, shows the proper ways to enlist their help, and illustrates how to best utilize public facilities. Calhoun not only provided a spectacular gathering site for their community, they also used trained volunteers and instituted procedures for facility use. Both of these measures protect the resources of the city.

If you would like to review your entity’s exposure in these areas, please review the Use of Volunteer Loss Control Guideline available on the PE Partners portal or reach out to your regional casualty loss control consultant.

East Tennessee
Judy Housley
JHousley@PEpartners.org

Middle Tennessee
Chester Darden
CDarden@PEpartners.org

West Tennessee
Paul Chambliss
PChambliss@PEpartners.org

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