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.
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.