And Now a Word From The Sponsor

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.



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.