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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, February 18, 2013

Kitt makes a better car than a dispatcher...

Or: 

Why Automated Voice Dispatching for Busy Fire/EMS departments may not be the best solution for effective service.

Several years ago, my hometown fire department started utilizing an automated voice to announce responses on its primary dispatch frequency.  Units (both fire and ems) monitor this frequency to receive assignments, then switch to their assigned tactical or response frequency. Upon completion of the run, they return to primary dispatch frequency and monitor for the next alarm.  The automated voice is also what reads the alarms over the PA system in the firehouses for those units that are in quarters. 
First, for those units that are in quarters, in a static mode, automated readout of the runs makes pretty good sense.  The units are in the firehouse, there is no dynamic element of the response, and they can verify the address on their MDCs (Mobile Data Computers) when they board the apparatus to respond.

However, for those companies that are on the air, especially during peak periods, Automated Dispatching has several serious limitations.  These limitations increase in severity as activity level increases and include:

·         Automated Reading of runs over the radio is very inefficient

·         It can lead to significant confusion and reduction in situational awareness

·         It can encourage a lack of dynamic dispatching on the part of dispatch personnel. 

These challenges can be explained as follows and are made more significant when an agency does not have units monitor at all times a Primary Control Channel to coordinate responses of units.  

1.       Units on the air are normally in an apparatus with an MDC (Mobile Data Computer) on. These units only need to be given a quick announcement of the run, and then can obtain further information from the MDC, provided they acknowledge receipt of the response verbally.  Having the Computer read the entire message twice, including response channel, is a drastically inefficient use of valuable airtime. In addition, there is no affirmative response from the on air unit, only the assumption that the MDC is working and the unit will acknowledge.  If there is a delay in the unit receiving the run or they are away from the MDC, there is no opportunity for them to respond verbally that they are responding.  Instead, the dispatcher from another channel will have to verify that they are responding.  This could significantly delay the “Turn out and acknowledge process of the run”.  

2.       Having the Computer read the entire message twice, including response channel, is a drastically inefficient use of valuable airtime, especially when the units have a working MDC which provides all of the required information.  The dispatch message for an on air-unit should be simple, concise, and include an affirmative response from the on-air unit that they are responding.

3.       For those cases where a units MDC is down the length of time to dispatch message ensures a delay in response acknowledgement, as the unit must switch to another channel to acknowledge the run.  This introduces a response acknowledgement delay into response times.   
 

4.       The automated read out of the dispatch message on the primary channel also eliminates the ability of the dispatcher to provide to units information about why they are responding when it falls outside Normal parameters.  For example, is a unit replacing another unit, responding as an additional unit, are there special instructions, are they relocated into another area, etc.   Not giving the responding unit the response reason can create response confusion and decrease situational awareness on the part of responders

 All of these factors and others, in busy departments, contribute to the need for the primary dispatch channel to allow dynamic dispatching.  Units should often be redirected from lower priority calls to higher ones; units may be exchanged on responses for closer ones, or situations may require a dispatch message that exceeds the ability of the automated voice to explain. 

The final evidence of the lack of suitability for automated voice read out can be found in the reality that almost no police agencies use the feature.  Their active and complex radio traffic requires a dispatcher to maintain two-way verbal communications with field units to ensure a safe an effective response that preserves response times.  For busy fire/ems agencies, the reality is the same—that effective dispatching of units requires efforts beyond the capabilities of even a robust automated dispatch reading technology on a primary dispatch frequency.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Beacon on a Hill


My friend’s accent is still just a little on the rough side.  You can clearly hear where he has challenges, but most words pass by intact in a land between a Chinese upbringing and an American Dream.  It’s always intriguing watching and hearing the seriousness with which he resounds an error—one, two, three, four times—and the way in which he watches tiger-like as I pronounce some meddlesome rule of pronunciation or vocabulary in my Midwestern way.

 He pays such careful attention to how I emphasize the “TH” and, particularly, leave out the silent letters.  Those are the hardest for him.  Learning when not to say something—even though it cries out from the page.  I have to smile about that.  After all, so many of life’s most challenging moments are caused by things we should just leave silent, even though  they are right there before us, calling or begging to be acknowledged.   

But there are words worth saying.  Many of them.  The other day, trying to conduct a history and English lesson together,   I handed my fellow student a copy of the Gettysburg Address.  Hearing him recite that short speech three or four times—trying to get the words just right—I couldn’t help but think of the power of words; sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken.  But here, in the verbal land between our two continents, it was quite apparent that even if some of the language was difficult—the idea was pretty easily understood.

As is often the case with teaching, you get more than you give.  As he started to understand the speech he commented about how different Chinese culture was—that the ideas espoused by these two-hundred plus words would just not be understood by most Chinese People.  “Government of the people; by the people; for the people?..” How does that work he asked?

Later that night as I watched more tea party rants about immigration and gun control—myths about hoards of free-loaders landing daily on our beaches, I thought about my friend and his English and his dream.  We don’t drag people to these shores.  They come here willingly—spending thousands of dollars—risking their lives to do what?  To work in hot fields at harvest, hotter kitchens doing dishes, trying to build a life without raising suspicion. 

I know that we need to reform immigration in this country.  I know that illegal immigration is something we need to address.  But I wonder, when I hear these people rant—the ones who always seem to rant about everything now-a-days, I wonder if they really know who they are ranting about?  Take away the myth from the reality.  They are ranting about the same kind of people their own ancestors were.  People who came here, spurred by a dream, to build a better life.  The dream is big enough for everyone.  The opportunity is big enough for everyone.  Just because Warren Buffet has billions does not mean I can’t.  In fact, it means I can. 

So let’s find some common sense solutions to bringing these people into a society that they risked their lives to become a part of.  Let’s find ways to secure our borders, but also to increase opportunities for citizenship; student and worker visas; and immigration sponsorship for those who want to be here.  After all, this is a nation of immigrants.  The statue says she “lifts her lamp beside the golden door”—let’s start living up to what our mottos and our founding documents really say.  Not using fake patriotism as a justification for all things intolerant and fearful—and turning away the same “tired, poor, and huddled masses” that have, at their best, helped reveal this country as a beacon on a hill. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

SuperBowl 2013


The party was interesting from the first minute.  When I realized that the guy I found most attractive was there with his wife and kid, I smiled at myself for not fawning over the twinkies; cupcakes; McDonald’s fruit pies and other assorted typical party fare that in the past would have captured my interest.  Instead I slowly breathed a sigh of acknowledgement that maybe, just maybe I have begun to grow up.  I didn’t even really engage the twenty something group; only sharing a bit about my writing when they distracted me from my laptop long enough to derail a critical thought. 

My host could claim no such enlightenment.  Older than I, he switched between the groups—one of coworkers and friends, the other flights of fancy that were there for reasons I am not quite sure off.  Maybe they were there in the way people hang prints of really great art in their living rooms—pretty to look at reminders of something that could have been much more.  If only you were around at the time to offer VanGogh a couple of shillings for a Starry Night original.

But much like with art; time is the most important piece.  If we aren’t there at the beginning to pick up the original, we have to settle later for the copy.  It may look okay, especially if we put a decent frame around it—but in the end it will be just a copy of something we missed and a reminder of what could have been… if only….

My friend came out late—the ripe old age of nearly 40.  Dragged from his closet, like so many of his generation, by the lust of a younger man that offered no long term anything-- other than the reality that the closet was no longer big enough to make sufficient quarters for living. 

I have no animosity towards my friend.  But it is an amazing thing to watch him act out scenes from a play that I have known by heart at not so distant times of my life.  Owner of a beautiful home, holder of a good job, well respected in his community—none of it seems to matter nearly as much as his occasional success in bedding someone young—someone attractive—someone who is real to him only in the sense of a reminder: opportunities missed, paintings not purchased, wild high-school nights of love never consummated. 

I suppose we all do this.  God knows my own dating life, my own trips to the casino; my own trip to New York in some ways; all of them were and are journey’s in fantasy.  For a long time I thought that the person whom I gave one fun evening or night to was my willing fellow traveler on a mission towards something real.  After a time, though, I came to realize that they were perfectly happy with the poster print of the great painting.  They didn’t stay long enough to look beyond the frame—or even to see if there was dust on the glass.  All they really wanted was the night and the experience, and the warm body.  A kind of Mister Potato Head—all the pieces present, but able to be configured or remembered in whatever way you wish. 

When my friend details to me his exploits I can normally only listen for a few seconds before I flash a look.  Sometimes I verbally react, which I know I should not do.  I ask him, what are you thinking with these kids?  What do you think is going to happen?  Is it good for you?  Good for them?  At what cost will this fantasy be paid?  He always looks back perplexed—as though I have long ago finished the Rosetta Stone and have offered a condemnation in French, while he is still at Mon Ami or Aret?!

I shake my head.  Get frustrated then.  Want so badly for him to realize that there is a price to be paid.  That all these convenient strangers will diminish him.  The most non-free thing in the world is our spirit.  And giving to someone in order to replace memories never had in the first place is, well, the saddest thing I have seen.  Many of my gay friends think that sex can exist without any tinges of emotion.  That it can take place like a transaction—this for that—me for you.  Paper or plastic.  Have a nice day!  Be sure to come back next week for the can sale.  Perhaps this can be for some.  I don’t think so however. My own scars prove to me the price to be paid.  When I lied and thought “It’s just sex” and then cried over the never to follow date; or phone call; or even text message.   There has to be some distance between us and our knuckle dragging kin right?  We have to be able to overcome the primordial elements of ourselves to create and cultivate situations that allow us to appeal to our better selves.  Move beyond the poster to the real art.  If only we could be a little more careful with where we pour out our glass.  I’m not saying be a prude, but at least stop and make sure what you give will be welcome and appreciated not just for the action—but for the person. 

I thought of my friend and my reaction to his misguided ways as I drove home from the party.  Rolling through my mind all that I wish he could see.  Wanting to share with him all I have learned from my fifteen years navigating through this murky dark gay world and the murky dark places in my own self that had to be understood—accepted—and loved before I could find my peace. 

I thought about him a great deal as I pulled my car into the parking lot at the casino.  As I pulled the handle—said aI silent prayer—and tried to win back what I lost on the first machine.. and the second.. and the third. 

I thought about him more as I drove away.  Reminded by my lighter wallet that we all have lessons to learn, and relearn--- and fantasies to overcome.  Some are in the form of 20 year old blonde-haired gay boys; some are in the whirling lights and sounds of a slot machine—some are in the form of a drug- so slow and sweet—others at the bottom of one too many glasses.  They are all the same though.  Our perceived pathways to something better, or something lost. 

But in the middle of those paths—in the moment between when we realize what we have done and begin to berate ourselves for a failure we should have seen coming—do we really find anything.  And it is not ever the plinking triple diamond win; or the night of lust with our past—it’s the knowledge that we can do better for ourselves—we can step away from the things that call us backwards in time or spirit—but only if we first have the courage to demand the real thing—and not the imitation.  And love ourselves enough to value what we have to give—and who we give that away to.  The treasure that fluttered away at the casino was precious I suppose, but I know more than anything that the treasure of me—the treasure of my friend—those are far more valuable, far more unique, and far more critical to not waste away in the search of anything that is less than real.  Even if it looks nice on the wall, that $5 print in the Walmart frame is not ever going to be a VanGogh.