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Welcome to my site and thank you for reading. After many times thinking, if only I had a blog, well-- here we are. This blog will feature writings on a variety of topics from roadside food, to leadership in the fire service; politics; culture- gay, straight, and indifferent, my experiences in Ohio, New York and beyond; and much much more. It's my hope that you will find it interesting and that it stirs at least some thought and discussion. I am certain you wont always agree, but that is what its all about right? Oh and one more thing: The views expressed on this site are entirely my own. They do not reflect in anyway the views or positions of my employer.



Monday, December 16, 2013

A Heartfelt Apology


Dear __________,

This is a letter that is long overdue.  I honestly didn’t realize how much my actions had impacted you and how my lack of awareness resulted in me saying and doing things that were hurtful.  That this went on for so long is just a sign of how much I needed to grow and mature and become more self-confident. I placed unrealistic expectations, over-the-top demands, and unfair judgments onto your actions.  I punished you for trying and failing—and for succeeding. But now, in the face of new lessons learned, old lessons reinforced, and in the midst of a renewing Christmas Spirit I need to say how sorry I am for how I hurt you.  Sorry for how I abdicated my role as an emotionally mature and stable to adult to outside forces and for the manner in which I reacted rather than observed and used words like wrong or unfair or guilt or shame when I should have stayed silent and just watched without reaction. 


I have always had a suspicion that my efforts to grow would lead me to this action.  They say somewhere in one of those famous steps you are supposed to write letters of apology to those you have hurt.  I understand now why that is such an important step, but also why it is so difficult.  Even to know that you need to is the product of experiences and learning and crying and feeling so lost in the blackness that you wonder if there will ever again be light, much less a way out. 

However, even in the books, they do not tell you to whom the first letter apology is owed. They cannot tell you.  That is a realization which must be lived. It can only be known in those places in your heart and soul where you feel truth.  The places the poet touches or the cello player in a cathedral or that are seen in the deep blue lingering flame of a Christmas Candle.  It is in those caverns where the stalactites are records of ancient truths known but forgotten.  Truths that reveal that the person we harm so greatly—the person who we punish more often and more harshly than any other—is ourselves. 

It is only our own light that we so often snuff out for a moment or a lifetime in the face of fear and sadness and longing.  It is only our own lamp over which we throw a sheet, hoping the neighbors don’t notice the cobwebs and the debris and the decay.  It is only our own potential that we wrap in paper and hide in the back of the freezer like stolen gains of a long ago bank heist.  But, if we are lucky we come to learn that our light is not meant to be hidden.  If we are to be true to who we are—whose we are—our light must be allowed to fill up our own house and be shared with the world.

Only then, when we accept these truths can we know the purpose we have and the role we must fulfil.  Only then will we feel—in those corners of our soul—the most important message of all:  “I may be hurt, but I am not harmed”—lost from our childhood is the lesson that the monsters under the bed are not real.  Instead of living through that power, we too often move the monster out from under the bed into every other part of our lives.  And, fearing that we shall be destroyed or disappointed, we try so very hard to hide from all the places the monster may lie. Slowly, our worlds become full of monsters—and the tsunami of fear overflows everything in its path—most of all—peace.  So whenever we think we are in the midst of the thing that will do us harm- we defend, we “fight” and we react—just the same as the five year old at the parent’s door begging to not have to return alone to the scary blackness of his room. Little does he know how much he will laugh in later years at the story, or how we will repeat the same actions in different ways while wearing a suit and tie with framed souvenirs of success on his walls.  Only the names of the monsters really change. 

Why can the monsters not harm us—whether five or thirty five?  Whether under the bed, in the boardroom or sitting across from us on valentine’s day ending a relationship that never existed in the first place? Because none of it matters.  Not one single solitary bit.  Does that make it right that someone is rude or insensitive—no.  Does it make it okay they use you or don’t call you back or that they will never treat you the way you deserve.  No. But it is something we cannot change. The only hope we can have is to change our reaction to it.  If we latch on and cling to the injury the wound will never heal.  If we let it pass over us like the crashing wave, stop the fight and the bitter longing for control, we will bob along till the next one, and all those after.  And maybe, we will create an environment in which our awareness and the other persons can grow.  Either way, to fight and claw and stammer and stop has no good outcome, no matter what monster, no matter what age. 

But, whom do we punish most of all with our reactive, judging selves.  Our inability to let go. The answer has been this year’s greatest Christmas Gift.  To learn that I have punished myself far too harshly, judged my actions—built my own castle of shame.  Failed to love who I must love first.  And from that unwise step, I have set myself up for so many tragedies, big and small.  The stories of legend.  Not of a superhero saving the kingdom.  But of a king who nearly burned his own castle down, without so much as single arrow from the black knight to show for the battle. 

I suppose I do owe an apology or thank you to more than a few other people.  I was often too demanding in my expectations, especially when their awareness was different than mine.  When their actions failed to meet my expectations, rather than show love, I reacted—hurt and wounded like a sorry animal.  Rather than open and observant like a human.  I am learning now.  I will try to do better.  But to those of you who pushed me along the path, I must also say that I am not saying I was wrong for not ending up with you. I was only unwise in how I reacted to the lesson and experience you offered.  Perhaps if I had been different, things would have turned out different.  Or, perhaps, if you had acted differently, been more understanding with me, then things would have been different.  Who knows?  For the past, is past. 

In this moment I am focused on myself.  On forgiving me for what I have done.  Trying to move forward in a place of peace and awareness and looking at things much more simply.  Does it help me be the better me, then it is something I should do or continue.  If it does not, then I must let it go.  That is what our life requires—to clean out the junk and the clutter of our heart and spirit so that the sun may shine in and so that we may shine out. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Why?

Many of you are aware that I was recently promoted to the rank of Deputy Director, Fire Dispatch Operations, FDNY.  You may also be aware of my passion for helping to develop, and improve the profession that is public safety communications.  However, it would seem to be that, as a leader, in my own agency, I have failed to sufficiently express to some why it is I was so honored to accept this position of leadership and just what I hope to accomplish in my new role. 

If the rumor mill is to be believed, I am in some person's eyes here to sell the soul of our proud organization to the likes of APCO and NENA.  Much in the same way horrid way American soldiers sometimes march under the UN flag.  To others, I am only here to boost myself, on the backs of those who came before or whom I work with now.  To still others, I am only about making efforts to merge us with NYPD and EMS to wipe away the last remnants of what once was. 

That is only a partial list of what I have heard.  And I am over the initial feeling of pain and anger when I became so aware. But it speaks to the challenge that is my role.  The nature of many to fear all things new, or ideas that are misunderstood.  It screams at our human abilities of assumption and judgment rather than communication and discussion.  And, more importantly, it flies in the face of a history that reveals quite clearly what I feel about the agency I work for and those I work with.  But ignoring history is nothing new for far too many.  Operating from positions of distrust, disunity, and dissension is the norm for far too many.  I knew it when I accepted.  I know it now. 

In this format, I wish to answer a question that I have never answered before.  Most will never read this.  But, in truth, it is not for them.  It is for me. 

I am in the role I am in now because I believe that we, as members of the FDNY Bureau of Communications represent much of the best of what a Dispatching Agency can be.  By our efforts we have shown time and time again that professional fire dispatchers can handle nearly any event with effective precision, even if that event is unanticipated. 

But I also know that we are hurting.  No PTSD counseling after Sandy.  No plan to manage the next Sandy.  Facilities that do not meet our needs.  Training and Supervision that do not live up to standards.  Policies and Procedures that do not address the challenges we face.  A workforce that is dispirited, dismayed, and disillusioned after years of change that was not managed well if at all.  The times have changed for our organization.  The environment has changed.  The challenges have changed.  We are just as likely to oversee the response to a building collapse or major emergency as we are a major fire.  And that has not been reflected anywhere in our behavior as an organization.

I see these realities everyday when I go to work and everyday when I watch the news.  Every day when I read about other agencies failing to meet the same challenges and the immense costs of those failures.  These are not invented.  They are not imagined.  They are the after effect of a bureaucracy that looses sight of it mission; a workforce that is undervalued; and a fire department that too often sees Dispatchers in the same category as payroll clerks and managers. 

I want to help change that.  Not later, not in  year, not in a decade: but now. 

There are tools out there to help change that culture.  To help us meet those challenges.  They are found in the lessons from other agencies. In the training and support offered by our professional associations.  In the experiences of our own storied past, from 9/11 to the War Years, to everything in between. 

The women and men of our agency deserve better.  They deserve an agency that blends the best of the old, with the best of those that are here; with the best of what can and should be.  It is my hope to help others see what we can be.  To begin to see what we do as a calling, as a profession, and, by living up to and expressing that vision, teach others to see us in the same light.

We will not achieve greatness as an organization by being smaller versions of ourselves.  By accepting the limitations that have been imposed.  By no longer lighting the desire of passion for being a dispatcher in our newest employees, or keeping the cauldron lit in those that have been on a while.  No, we are at a breaking point.  The events of the last few years have left us battered and bruised and beaten down. 

But I know, from those who have inspired me, that this can be the beginning of something great.  Not because I or anyone else hand it out like so much hallowed candy to beggars in costume. No.  Because a group or proud and dedicated women and men decide that we will live up to and beyond our reputation.  That we will overcome the doubters inside and outside our organization.  That we will not accept what we have been given. 

It begins with each individual taking responsibility for their actions.  And, as a group, taking responsibility for us all.  We speak so often of being a team.  But so quickly put others down.  Say-- That wasn't my fault.. that was his or hers.  Well, are we a team or aren't we?  Are we accountable to each other for what we do?  For how we are?  For how we treat each other.  Too much of the past few years has been not degrading comments from outside-- but from inside.  If we want a better future-- this must stop-- NOW.  For we are all in this together.  And the person you may dislike personally, may be the person that catches a huge mistake and saves us all, or a member of the public.  In truth, each black eye we obtain is not a result of a failure of the one, but of the many.  We are not here to make the best of friends with everyone we know.  Like a firehouse, we are here to be a family.  Looking out for each other. making sure we succeed.  Together.  Always.  If you don't see that thought.  If you don't feel that in the organization. Then your first job is to create that feeling:  In yourself.  It will then carry out into others until we again express the highest ideals of team-work, accountability, resilience, and dedication.  Until those are true for all of us, we are just Lone Rangers corralled into the same tent. And we will fall at every outside effort to tear us down or divide us. 

Something better than that.  Dedication to the public and to each other. Pride in our efforts and our abilities. Accountability for our results (good and bad) and genuine Love for our bother and sister dispatchers.   That is what I want to inspire in each and every soul I work with.  It is also the vision I have for our entire community of Public Safety Communications.  Plain and simple.  Its what I believe.  Its what I get up in the morning. 

You may hate it, you may disagree with it.  Which is obviously your right.  However, I too have a right and an obligation.  Which is to ask you, if not my vision, what is yours?  Is it something we can work through together to understand perhaps different sides to the same coin.  Or is it just holding on to tired beliefs, and immature mindsets.  Is it just saying no out of fear.  Or out of jealously?  

Whatever the results.  However the vision is created, we have learned together that it must be something that brings us forward.  Something that allows us to grow.  As an agency, as an industry, as a passion, and as a profession.  For anything else is what you claim to fear the most.  Death.  Of something you claim to love so much.  The choice is not mine.  I have chosen.  The choice is yours.  Come along on the ship.  Help to steer it.  Help us make a better way.  Or chose to stay safe on the shore.  I know where I will be and, more importantly, I know I will never, ever be alone.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Lucy and the Football

I have done this before. 
It is a feeling I am familiar with. 
I can see the ball.
Its......right........there.  
So inviting. 
But somehow, its fuzzy-- not quite clear. 
I suppose that is the expected result
Of all the times before 
When the glass was chipped or stained or just neglected. 
But I can squint...just...enough. 
Maybe I do not even see it for real. Maybe I just feel it there.  Twenty or so feet away. 
May as well be another hemisphere.  
But... Once pavlovs dogs howl you no longer have a choice in the matter. 
And you are compelled to try.  Hard as you can to make it different. 
To ensure an outcome unlike the last one, or the one before, or the one before that. Or like that entire page in the planner that read 1999.
So I run.
And I fall. 
The topic doesnt even much matter. For the running and the falling are the same. 
The concept just as painful and the bruise just as deep. 
I dust myself off. 
Search about for the bottle...
Advil or stronger.  Maybe both. 
And I think to myself that there are not too many balls left to kick.  Or maybe there arent too many reasons to try. 
I shake my head. 
Blame myself as I always do. 
Head in hands on the bench. 
No winning field goal kicked. 
Wondering if the ball was ever there in the first place. 
So scared... Too scared... To even think for a minute that it is, perhaps, the games that play me. And not me them. 
I look at the grass stains, the polyp on the ultrasound, the stress pounds above my waistband, the wagging judging fingers questioning my every move, every dream. 
And I just have to wonder about what happens.
When Charlie Brown finally says no. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

November Sidewalk

They had long since cascaded down to the sidewalk.
This early February wind was overkill.
The leaves knew their place now was not in the branches,
that their time had passed.
The entire journey is so very short. 
From the first speck of green,
to the noisy hard blown ride on the concrete
it was only a matter of months. 
Ours is so much the same. 
From inception to peak to fall,
in a time that is mere moments to the world.
But everything to us. 
Along that journey we hope to make an impact,
a lasting impression. 
Forge some way of going beyond what we know to be our end.
We try treatments, surgeries; grow children and foundations.
We build and paint and write and plan.
We spend so much of our lives fighting the inevitable fall from the branch.
Religions, Gods, Hospitals, dreams-- all designed to soften that landing.
Or deny it. 
The pace along the avenue quickens,
the cold wind is battering now. 
I hunker into a ball, pull up the scarf to shield my face from this
much too soon arrival of winter's howl. 
But behind me those leaves continue, pushed across the asphalt and cobblestones.
Do they forget that this is the end?
Don't they realize that the best days have passed? 
That what will come is not the red and orange and green of their prime,
but an end that is certain and already started. 
I pause at the light on the corner, waiting to cross between the hurried people; hurried cabs and hurried frightened futures.
For a moment the neighborhood is silent and I can hear everything and nothing.   
And I swear from here,
It sounds like those leaves are dancing.

Six Months In...

It is hard to believe that six months ago I was offered and accepted promotion to the Rank of Deputy Director-- Fire Dispatch Operations FDNY.  It has been an interesting road so far.  I have to say most days it feels like I have not accomplished nearly as much as I set out to do.  At times, the combination of bureaucracy; fear of change; and lack of trust is like some horrid too thick clam chowder that threatens to swallow whole every thing it comes into contact with.  

I am certain all of my friends who have transitioned to ranks of leadership know this feeling.  Its kind of like being in an airplane at 30,000 feet versus watching the airplane from below.  The perception of movement is, indeed, very different. 

I have to force myself to remember that progress has been made.  We have or at least will have multiple certified supervisors and trainers in the coming months. The FDCAD Project is moving slowly to implementation.  Applications for programs are being written and FDNY officially sent an attendee for an APCO National Conference and Regional Conference for, I believe, the first time ever.  We have won awards from NENA and are planning the first Dispatcher Recognition Event for NPSTW in April 2014.  Beyond that, many of our problems and issues have been identified, steps are being taken (even if slowly), and things are being done. 

But there are lessons that remain to be learned and the experiences to go through on this path.  From being patient, to under-promising and over delivering, to always making sure to keep focus on the people that really matter.  There are so many lessons.  I am, most of all, thankful for the opportunity.  I know not where the future shall lead, but hopefully, with God's grace; the support of those in the FDNY Bureau of Communications; my fellow 9-1-1 Industry friends and colleagues; and a serious effort; I will leave my place (when that day comes) better than it found me. 

To those I work with.  Thank you for your support.  I know that change can be so many different things, none of which are easy or welcomed.  But we are an amazing group of people, talented beyond measure.  FDNY deserves to have-- the citizens of NYC should have-- the best Dispatchers in the world.  In many ways we are there, but there remains work to do.  And I thank you for your help in both creating that vision and making it a reality. 

The Journey Continues...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coming out of the (Radio) Closet... Again

Every once in a while something happens, or a string of events occur, and you realize you must admit who you are.  It could be a rude comment from a family member, or a crass word from a stranger. Maybe it is hateful speech from a politician, or musician—or the latest rant from Eminem. At that moment, even if you have done so before, even if your entire life speaks to who you are openly and honestly, you sense a need to stand yet again on the highest peak and scream out what and who you are for all to hear yet again.  So, here it goes. 

I AM A DISPATCHER

Or Public Safety Communications Technician; or 9-1-1 person, or whatever you need to label me to make you feel better about what I do. I am NOT a career firefighter, EMT or Police Officer.   Unless you are one of the 500,000 or so people in this country that do this job, whether as a line dispatcher or a supervisor or a director or whatever—you DO NOT understand what we do.  You may come close.  You may believe that because you are a  1) Firefighter 2) COP  3) paramedic  you understand exactly what we do in the course of a shift, or a career. 

Let me ask you then—just because you eat at a wonderfully expensive steak house, does that make you a chef?  Or just because you play Call-of-Duty 32 does that mean the next time a war starts you will be the modern reincarnation of Sgt. York?  Or does spending hours on WebMd make you a heart surgeon?

The answer to these comparisons is—of course not.  Granted, we may have the same language—we may even use the same toys in the toy box.  The best dispatchers, and dispatch agencies, however, serve the PUBLIC FIRST—then the officers, firefighters, and EMTs of their agencies.  Here is why:  Your community may permit as many units as possible to add themselves to calls that sound good.  Why have three engines going to a fire when six may think they should go?  Why have an officer respond to one call when she or he may wish to go to the one that sounds better.  Ask any dispatcher about this—and she or he will cringe.  Ask them about prioritizing calls, resource management, and making tough decisions—and they know intrinsically how crucial it is.  Some departments don’t even permit dispatchers to check availability of units when nearby calls come in, or swap units on runs when they are closer to each other’s calls. Even worse, some agencies let the units run the show—adding, swapping and changing assignments in some sort of P25 digital anarchy. 

Dispatchers—real dispatchers—know the power of the word NO and of thinking and of decision making. They know why these are the most important tool we have.  They know why even with technology we have to know the areas we serve, the challenges and hazards of the community, and the real policies that are followed when it is just too damn busy to “follow the cards”.  Real dispatchers must worry about the calls that already happened; the calls that are happening, and the ones that will happen in the future.  We can never just take it one at a time. If you take that approach, then you are not a dispatcher.  You are merely a human conveyer belt. 

But that is how the responders in the field MUST manage things.  They have to focus on where they are—when they are or they will not be able to operate safely.  That ability—to think in multiple dimensions is only one of the distinctive characteristics of the dispatching profession. It also highlights why being a dispatcher IS a profession—for it requires a unique set of skills, knowledge and abilities that experiences sharpen into an ability on the part of the dispatcher to creatively manage unforeseen or unplanned events.  This is not to lessen anyone else in the public safety world—each badge has its own elements that make it unique and special and important.   The idea that just because you can do the job in the field you can automatically do the job in the communications center (or vice-versa) is a bigger myth than the tooth fairy, far less fun, and far more dangerous.

No one should ever diminish what happens before the first tone goes off or after the first unit arrives on that other side of the radio.  I have no desire to be a career firefighter, or a career cop, or a career paramedic.  The best agencies in our world—and the best members of our community—highlight why.  Because what we do is a calling and profession in and off its self.  Separate from, but a part of law enforcement, the fire Service, and the world of EMS. 

So, the next time someone calls you “just a dispatcher” or a member of your agency exposes themselves as just a firefighter or cop or paramedic wanna-be—just politely smile and acknowledge to yourself just how much he or she doesn’t get it.  And never miss the chance to come out of your own dispatcher closet to share with those who are willing to learn—or who need to learn—just what it means to say we are the “First-First Responders.”  Or  what it means when we say we are:

Dispatchers.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A brief mini-rant about EMS Delivery Models

I understand the need for two tier EMS systems. Especially in larger cites it makes sense having a BLS/ALS mix: IF you have an effective dispatching operation to go along with it.  By effective I mean upwards of 95% accurate in call-typing.  It also helps to have first-responder fire units with BLS capability at a minimum and ALS capability in areas where response times can be lengthy.  However, what I can not grasp are the EMS systems that still send two ALS ambulances on ALS Calls. These agencies seem to have challenges grasping the resource management component of EMS response. If its an extra set of hands you need- send along an Engine or Rescue on non-emergency. If its critical ALS then send that Supression unit on emergency.  But why waste your second ambulance on the same call? Just my $.02....

Thursday, October 17, 2013

We are led where we need to be.. (Good and bad..)

If we are fortunate, there are a few times in our lives where we get to feel completely that we are on the right path.  That what we are doing is the right thing. And that we are where we need to be.  I was entrusted to speak to the APCO Regional Conference this week on the topic of self-improvement and self-development and how those efforts can lead us to a better profession and better organizations.  This is a topic I am quite passionate about, especially after my own experiences in the dark recesses of my own agency.  Those times that I felt quite strongly the boot-heel on my throat and the tone was quite clearly-- "just do as you're told."

In the prep time before I left the hotel to teach the class and attend classes for that day I did something I don't think I have ever done before. I said a prayer.  The Lord's Prayer first, then I asked quite clearly, that If there be a person in the room that needed it, I be given the grace and the power to impact that person in need in a positive way.  I asked that I be used as a instrument to inspire and to motivate. 

As I stood up to speak it was to that one person.  I did not know who it would be.  But something told me that he or she was there.  It was one of the most passionate and easily flowing presentations I have ever given, almost possessed with a spirit that I had never felt before.  The words came easily. I didn't bounce around too much and the information about how we can build better agencies by building better selves came with an eloquence I had never before quite possessed. 

And sure enough-- after the presentation-- it happened.  There were many who spoke very kind words and I welcomed them all. Even made a new BFF or two.  But it was one veteran dispatcher--  almost with tears in her eyes that struck me.  She held my hand and thanked me for helping restore her faith and passion.  I almost cried myself.  I knew in some way that she was the one I was presenting for.  How odd how our lives are directed where they need to be. 

But this is true both in terms of our power to help as well as our power to hurt.  And the one we most often hurt is ourselves. 

Many of my friends know of my OCD habits.  (They are getting better, so I am told).  Many of my friends also know of my "vulnerability" to slot machines.  The casinos know this as well and My God are they good at manipulating it.  That's how a voucher for $30 in free play and $30 in free food turns into me loosing far more than that in a couple of hours at a casino, when I should have been writing emails or articles on self-improvement.  Or perhaps I should have been reading them.  Well probably not. The bookshelves are full of those, and still I parked my car on the top level of the Great Cedar Garage convinced this would be the time I would win it all.  I even was ahead-- for a bit.  But all those big seven come out in Dante's playground-- why else do think Casinos have all you can eat buffets (gluttony); Prostitutes (Lust); Ringing bells (Temptation); and the rest.  If you are going to go to one you might as well get the combo. 

The revelation occurred not when I checked the bank balance this morning-- don't worry, this isn't a plea for donations-- but as I walked to the car.  Maybe this was the lesson I needed, as much as that wonderful professional I helped inspire needed her own lesson.  We all have lessons to learn, we all have work to do.  We are all full of our own vices and fears and challenges and we all strive in our way (hopefully) to overcome them.  

In the interest of helping me see my own issues more clearly and maybe helping you see yours more clearly I have shared this financially painful experience. largely because I know the answer is to not to hide our problems under our rocks; or in our closets. For way too many that is their solution for nearly every problem.  We do it in our personal lives and our professional ones.  But not matter what the context, the real solution is to bring them out into the light. 

For whether our problem is a lack of passion about our profession; a lack of vision as a manger; or a lack of ability to control one's desires at a penny slot machine-- we all have work to do.  And there are always people who can help us with that work. Maybe a stranger, maybe a speaker, maybe a friend.  No matter who, that is our role to play.  It is why we should always strive to be the blessing to all.  You just never know who you may help save-- perhaps even yourself.  And on those days where we run into the still darkened corners of ourselves-- may we all find the light to help acknowledge those cobwebbed spaces-- embrace them-- even love them for they are as much as part of us as any other.  Then, and only then, will the light reach all the areas of our homes. 

Ever notice how few windows there are in casinos?

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Gift of a Different View

For those in the public safety communications profession (or any part of public safety) I have a suggestion: GET OUT OF YOUR NORMAL ENVIRONMENT!  Visit some other agencies, talk with fellow diapatchers, and find out how things are on the other side of the fence.  You may not learn the secret of the holy grail- you may not learn much of anything.  But you will learn something! I promise.  Just be aware, open to the experience, willing to ask questions, and don't be afraid to find out thing that might shatter some assumptions that you currently have.  Maybe your place is nowhere near as good as your thought. Or maybe its way better. Or maybe the truth is we are all one family- some good, some bad- but always able to grow and learn and do better-- together.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Coming of Fall

Now we arrive at my favorite time of year. When the first crisp of fingers of autumn poke at Summer's turning eye and remind us all that life is about seasons and transitions and change. Many fight that change-- push back against the turning pages of the calendar much like they push back against their fears or their mindsets or their anger or their past. Ironic then, that letting go of that which holds us back is as easy as turning that page. If we are only willing to do it.  Maybe that is why I long for this time of year. When I can let all that holds me back fall away with the brown dried leaves of the tree out front. Finally ready to allow, after a certain amount of time for rest, hibernation, and freedom, the appearance of something new and even more wonderful than what was. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

I Have Returned

Good Afternoon from spot # 584 in the Rose Reading Room of the New York Public Library's Grand Building at 42nd street and 5th Avenue. 

It has been awhile since my last post and I have been honored and humbled that some have missed by essays on the work around me.  Now that the crazy times have somewhat abated, it should be possible to keep better up. 

To summarize, the last few months have involved: The birth of my second niece; my promotion at work; my first and second presentations at a national conference; my accepting of an award for my fellow FDNY Dispatch personnel presented by NENA; the total realization of how much ability I have failed to use effectively in my first thirty-eight years-- and just how much I need to be doing gong forward.  I was also rejected by my home state for employment (Thankfully) and celebrated Pride weekend in my beloved Church-- an experience that will stay with me the rest of my life. 

Enough about me though, now about you.  What has truly been apparent over these last two months is just how much we can accomplish when we decide to finally cast off the shackles in all their various forms.  The day you wake up and realize that to be amazing and wonderful is not just your possibility-- but your responsibility.  Can we change the entire world all alone by ourselves?  Generally, no.  But can we change ourselves-- absolutely.  And can that local change spread, like the scent of autumn leaves-- reminding people of something that they can sense, even if it is beyond touch.  Of Course!

That is our duty-- to accept this potential in ourselves and act upon it.  Diligently--  without fear.  Until we illustrate for others that they too can do the same.  The first person that refused to sit in the back of the bus was not the last.  The first person who spoke out for equality in marriage was not the last.  The first person that figured out the earth rotated around the stars-- that we were not the center of the universe but part of it.  They were only the beginning.  Was it easy?  No. The annals of history are full of stories that start with creativity and end with the dreamers and the thinkers being ostracized-- or worse.

But this is the demand placed upon us by those talents we are given.  Those dreams we dream.  Those visions of something and someplace better. 

In the last year I have made a conscious effort to live those dreams.  To avoid as much as possible the distractions that have, in the past, done so much damage.  Even the memories of those past lessons have had to be put aside, lest they serve to derail the train as it leaves the station. 

I say this not to brag, not to boast, but to share a bit of light on the path.  If I can do it-- so can you.  If I can go beyond what was-- and catch a glimpse of what can be-- so can you.  If I can work to make my job, my community, my family, and all those I touch better-- so can you.  It is our shared duty.  Our shared responsibility-- to each day make it a bit better than the day before.  And in the words of a famous quotation:

"If you are not going to make yourself better tomorrow than you were today--
then what do you need tomorrow for?"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A week on the road











 
Images from a week on the road in and around Virginia and Maryland. 
 
 These are photos from two of the most important campaigns in the Civil War:  Antietam and Appomattox Court House.  The former marked the bloodiest battle of the war, with over 22,000 casualties between both sides.  At the latter, the long nightmare ended-- with General U.S. Grant accepting the surrender of Robert E. Lee, ending the conflict. 
 
It's hard to imagine what happened on these rolling hills where wild turkeys, hordes of school children, and tourists now roam.  As I walked behind a woman chatting on a cell-phone in the cemetery, and thought of the events of last week, I am reminded that we have short attention spans and an even shorter knowledge of history.  Although the loss of anyone is a tragedy, the loss of memory is a far greater crime. 
 
 I wonder, as we debate issues of gun regulation, health care, politics, gay mariage and more--  how many Americans realize that over 600,000 brave soldiers died on American Soil in a fight to preserve a simple concept: ONE.  We are one nation because of their sacrifice and a President's resolve to ensure we stayed as a single nation, not a seperate and weak patchwork of places where freedom and opportunity applied unequally and unevenly. 
 
Today, we are one nation as the result of idea, so tested by recent events,  that we could govern ourselves.  Not governed by those who lobby or buy elections or votes, but as the product of a serious effort by citizens to work together, to compromise, and to find solutions.  Not to hide in fear from big issues, or practice the art of dividing people or denying rights and certainly not to drown in money.
 
Do we have problems, of course.  But we have had bigger ones.  Do we have differences, of course. But we have had bigger ones.  No matter what, we must be willing to sit down, work through, discuss, compromise, and come together.  One Flag, One Nation.  To those that say their way or the highway no matter what the issue, I share with you these images as a reminder of what that path led to.  How many lives lost for ego-- ignorance-- fear and hatred?  I hope we never need another Bloody Lane-- or Unconditional Surrender to remind Americans that we are in this together.  Whatever the challenge, whatever the foe.  Our duty is to learn from where we have been, so that we can make a better today and tomorrow.  That is the truth whispered on the wind at Antietam-- and by the ghosts buried under the tranquil rolling hills of Virgnia.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Just who does he think he is?

 .
Perhaps as some sort of school bully taunt, someone posted in response to one my articles, “Just who does that guy think he is…”.  I have to admit, it made me smile.  I have been causing people to ask that question for the better part of my life, childhood and adult.  Every time I have asked a question that maybe they didn’t think I should have.  Every time I have foreseen a challenge and proposed a solution before others even knew there to be a problem.  Each and every time I reacted in a way different than the average or the norm or the expected.  When I came out in an Ohio firehouse in 1998; when I relocated to New York City in 2000; when I obtained an “unnecessary” master’s degree in 2007 and started teaching as adjunct professor a couple of years later; or when I ventured my way back into the pews In 2012.  Whatever the case, whenever the opportunity, my best days have always been defined by when the most number of people asked that question.  Ironic, I suppose, that there is a bible verse that defines my purpose more succinctly than I can:

13"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  (http://www.biblepath.com/beatitudes)

These verses, an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount are, from my view, a commandment.  We are given the talents, abilities, mind, and heart that we have no to hide them away.  Our inner being is not to be locked away, reserved for when permission is granted or only for some special occasion—like the china in the curio cabinet.

No, our lives are meant to be lived.  Our ideas are meant to be shared.  Questions are to be answered, and answers and solutions developed in community and fellowship with others. 

So many in this world today hide from questions—much less answers.  They would prefer not to challenge those in power and assume that the old ways will remain and that that the old ways and mindsets are better.  Or that only a select few have a monopoly on knowledge or truth. 
I do not agree.  I have a responsibility, obligation, and duty to share ideas—myself—and my spirit with the world around me. As does every other member of this wondrous human race.  If you do not agree, well that is your choice.  But the reaction to what I may say or write, well that is your own—not mine.  If you are lacking in the spiritual or intellectual fortitude to come along on a journey of learning and discovery then I shall say a prayer for you, and invite you—but I shall not abide or pause myself-- while you grow into a life greater than the one you have imagined for yourself and finally get around to giving me permission to live mine.

We in this day and age are fond of lists.  I suppose it might make it easier, given my habit of writing lengthy answers, to provide an alternative answer to the question that motivated this response:

 So here it goes: Who Am I?

I am an Ohioan; New York Immigrant; I am adopted; I am loved and loving; I am dedicated; caring; honest; and passionate. I am a writer; photographer; and public servant.  I am a college graduate twice over; a certified Communications Center manager and Emergency Number Professional. I am a student; a gallery exhibited artist; and a business owner.  I am a friend, best friend to more than a few; and a lover of meeting new people and making connections that bridge differences.  I am a Christian and an attendee of the Riverside Church.  I am a fan of movies; airplanes; country music; travel; history; politics and museums.  I am a proud gay person—out since 1998—and never lost a friend, family member, or anything else by being who I was made by God to be.  I am a blogger; project advisor; and Chief Fire Dispatcher in the New York City Fire Department—and a damn talented one at that.  Not because of myself alone but because I have been fortunate to have learned from many amazing and wonderful people and I keep learning-- every single day.  I am the Grandson of George and Lenora and Walter and Agnes; brother of Holly; and Brother in Law to Matt; and Uncle to Emma and soon to be Hannah.  I am a welcomed customer at the Three Jolly Pigeons Bar; Anapoli Family Restaurant; the laundry mat on the corner; and the Thurman cafĂ© in Columbus Ohio.  I am blessed to have more great friends than I dare list here—and so lucky to have been granted an experience over these last thirty-eight years that has been full of more wonder and amazement than I could have ever imagined. I am a human being—never perfect—but always striving to grow and learn and challenge myself to be more than I assumed I could be.  I have played firefighter a few times; ridden a few calls on an ambulance; lost myself in a soup of doubt and fear so deep that I never thought I would escape—on at least two occasions.  I love Dogs and Otters and Penguins—and I love that moment of standing in the museum—looking at art— when you for just one moment you can live inside the soul of the creator.  I love buttered popcorn; lemon-lime seltzer; Guinness; Key West; and will someday find a partner to share it all with.  Or maybe not.  But through all of it—these and the countless other ways that define me—I have never been—never will be—alone.  And for that I am most thankful of all.

That is who I am: Christopher Blake Carver—born and raised in the Midwest—living in New York—and so grateful to have been asked that schoolyard question—so that I could be reminded of what the answer really means.

The Art of Relocations


One of the most critical functions of any fire department dispatching office is to ensure that adequate fire and EMS coverage is maintained no matter how busy the day or how large a single incident may be.  Fire departments should not operate on a first-come, first serve basis where citizens unlucky enough to have an emergency at the same time as someone else are denied an adequate response.  
This does not mean that on every corner should sit a fire engine or medic unit at all times, assigned to one particular address—“just in case”.  But it does mean that departments have a duty to balance their resources in the best way possible to ensure that each and every emergency receives a response in as timely a manner as they are able.   

The most common event that effects availability and response times is a working fire or other large scale emergency that involves “tying-up” resources in an area for a significant period of time—generally an hour or longer.  When this occurs, dispatchers should be empowered (and required) to relocate or redeploy existing resources to ensure an adequate response time for subsequent emergencies.  An additional method of solving this challenge is the recall of off-duty personnel to staff reserve apparatus—an approach that might be more effective in areas where coverage is already limited or a department is not able to relocate resources from another agency for coverage.
 In tandem with the redeployment of resources as a tool to manage reduced availability, many agencies also reduce response levels during such periods.  Departments should look at this tool, especially for minor emergencies, fire alarms, and likely minor events such as outside odors of smoke or gas as a critical method to preserve response times, but it will be addressed in detail in a future post. 

One reason why some agencies find resource management efforts, such as relocations, a hard concept to grasp is because it goes against the mindset of “it comes it, it goes out” or “we can only handle one event at a time”.  This is an understandable point of view for response personnel who have to focus on one thing at time—at one incident.  But for dispatchers and the department management and the city itself—there is a moral and legal obligation to meet the needs of the public at all times and in all instances.  Allowing one side of the city to be stripped clean of fire apparatus for a working fire and taking no steps to maintain at least basic coverage is a shortsighted and dangerous course of action that exposes the department and the local government to liability and undermines department effectiveness.
The City of Columbus is a good example of a department that should consider utilizing relocations more frequently to ensure adequate coverage. By virtue of the city’s layout, there are large areas covered by only one firehouse, and where activity levels are significant.

 Note: In terms of making relocations, there are several rules that should apply:

1.      Covering firehouses (making relocations) should be done whenever the impact is going to be medium to long term and/or an incident is rapidly escalating.

2.      There are several software solutions that can assist with maintaining coverage—but these software solutions still require dispatch personnel to have a concept of relocations—when to do them and why.  

3.      Relocations can take several forms, but generally units should be moved from areas of high coverage to areas of lower coverage. 

4.      Call volume is not the predominate factor to consider when making a relocation—it is time.  An engine in an area that can be covered with minimal time impact makes a better choice to relocate to a diminished area than a company who may not be that active but who’s second due coverage comes from a significant distance away.

5.      Also, you should avoid if at all possible relocating all of the units in a firehouse.  Take the engine from one house, the ladder from another, and the medic from a third. Otherwise you simply rob Peter to pay Paul and may create an even bigger response coverage problem than the one you were trying to fix in the first place.

6.      Units relocated to ensure coverage should not be used (generally) to respond to the incident that created the problem in the first place.  This only recreates the coverage problem and results in the units moved to fill the updated coverage gap coming from an even further distance—increasing the negative impact on response times.  

To use Columbus as an example, there are two types of coverage holes than can exist, either due to a working incident or a company going out of service long term.  In the first case, even certain single units can be so critical to coverage that they should be covered.  In the second case, a group of units can be considered and when all three of them are out of service relocation can be made.  In either case, a potential goal could be:

Engine Company arrives in seven minutes or less, no matter how busy.

 Ladder Company arrives in ten minutes or less, no matter how busy. 

Medic Unit arrives in eight minutes or less no matter how busy.

These goals are actually not very stringent and represent a considerable credit over the NFPA standards for response time of apparatus.  However, it is recognized that activity level will impact availability; it just should not have such an impact as to significantly impact response times in a negative manner.

Back to Columbus, what follows are some suggestions about relocation rules and their explanation:

Engine Companies:
Battalion One:            

Two of the Four Downtown Engines should be available between 0800-2000hrs, Monday to Friday.  Due to population downtown, traffic concerns, etc, it is too active for more than two of the engines downtown (E1,2,3,9) to be out of service, relocated, or unavailable at the same time.

Engines 26, 29, 32, and 33:    

Should always be covered when out for more than one hour.  Their response areas are too large and too active and second due engines are too far away.  

In all other cases: 

When three engines that normally respond together are all out of service (daytime) or four engines that normally respond together are out of service (night time) a relocation of at least one engine should be made to ensure adequate coverage.  Examples include: 

Engines 23, 21, 151, and 5 are operating at a working fire and will be tied up for an extended period.  An Engine Company should be relocated to Engine-23.  (Engine-1, 2, 3, or 9 would be a good choice since they are doubled up. 

Ladder Companies:
Columbus has one Ladder Company that should always be covered due to the guidelines mentioned above: Ladder-13.  It has too large a response area to be uncovered for a significant period, especially given it being first due to the Ohio State Campus. 

Otherwise, Ladder Coverage can be maintained using the “One in three rule” mentioned above.  If three adjacent ladders are out, relocate a ladder from an area with decent coverage to fill the Gap.  For example, a serious working fire on the north end ties up Ladders 24, 28, and 111.  A Ladder Should be relocated to Ladder-24.  (Ladder 1, 2, 10, or 15 would be a good choice)

For Rescue and battalion relocations, a simpler rule could apply:
Battalions:      

o   If only one battalion is in service, it should respond from Bn-1.

o   If only two Battalions are available, they should respond from Bn-1 and Bn-3.

o   If only three battalions are available, they should respond from Bn 1, 2, and 3.
Rescues:         

o   If only one rescue is available, it should respond from Station-2.

o   If two rescues are available, they should respond from Stations 2, and 16.

o   If only three will be available long term, they should respond from Sta’s 2, 4, and 16. .

 Medics:          

Although more challenging, medic relocations can be based on similar factors but are more effective during mass casualty incidents that have a long term impact on availability.  In the CFD example, there are few instances where normal operations may require medic relocation. 

However, in large scale incidents, a one-in-three rule may be effective.  For example: A bus accident downtown results in ten medics operating long term: medics-1,2,8,14,15,10, 7, 18, 25 and 21.  Slower medics should be moved into the gap of coverage (if not used directly to the incident).  Medic-34 could relocate to Medic-1; Medic-28 to Medic-2; Medic-5 to medic-15, and Medic-31 to Medic-14. 

Clearly, rules and policies regarding relocations are dynamic.  However, dispatchers must be given the tools, training, and technology to ensure adequate coverage for their areas of responsibility—no matter how busy things may be.  The public expects a level of service from their fire department and will not accept an excessive delay in 911 responses because of a single incident having too great an impact on the availability of resources in the community.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Community Approach

While attending Palm Sunday services today at the Riverside Church here in New York, The Rev. Robert Coleman's sermon on the meaning of Christ's Journey and whom he chose to make that journey with reminded me of a simple truth that links nicely to my love of Urban Geography and one of my favorite things about living in New York, or in any community where a person takes the time to make the effort to be a part of that community.

here is a question for you: How many places can you go where people know you are and where they are glad to see you?  How many places can you walk in, in person!, and be greeted by name and, more often than not, with a smile. 

Are there places in your community where, if you do not show up for awhile, you are missed, and a comment is made on your return.  I would suggest that the more of these kinds of places you have, the more you make a positive imprint on your community.  This list should go beyond work.  How about your diner, or the regular stores you shop in?  Your favorite Italian Restaurant; the Bank; Church if you attend; or a local bar. 

Whatever those places are, perhaps they serve as a barometer of the way we present ourselves to the small worlds around us.  And, perhaps, they serve as an easy place to start on a mission of having more genuine interactions with the world around us.  It can begin for anyone-- in any community or place-- as a simple effort to "Be The Blessing".  So many of us complain about the impersonalization of modern society, maybe we can do more to change that than we ever thought possible.

and, if it makes you feel any better, you can check in from the neighborhood diner on Facebook while you are having your coffee.  Just be sure to make contact with the real world, as well as the virtual-- it will help make things better for you and all of us as well.