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 (s) and should not taken as official policy of ANY organization with which I am associated. Reading or sharing any post from this site shall be taken as an indication that you have read this disclaimer and understand it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dispatching IS a Profession...So What?

Those that find themselves under a headset forty hours a week (or more) know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Dispatching is a profession.  It is not like any other job title that anyone could ever hold.  Not even our sister and brother public safety professionals who serve as Police Officers, Firefighters, or Paramedics know truly the nature, complexities and demands of our role.  I have heard it from more than a few that anyone who in those job titles  can just sit down and follow what the computer says and be a dispatcher. One such believer was a smart and shrewd soul, but he couldn't look me in the eye when he said them.  I am certain he knew better-- for all badges may be equal, but they are not the same.  

And that leads me to my question.  For those of you who know better because you have been in the seat.  For those who have handled the crazy normal days and the crazy crazy days: what are YOU doing to share the nature of our profession with others?  How do you advocate for what we do and who we are?  Don't you dare say its not your job.  Don't you dare say it's not your responsibility.  

If we want to be recognized and understood as a profession it is not going to happen because we tweet, although that may help.  It will not happen because we share Facebook memes. It will not happen because of joint meeting of Police and Fire Chiefs and Town Council people decide to bestow upon us our rightful status. 

It will happen because we demand to participate in table top exercises.  It will happen because we make a compelling argument for why we need more people. It will happen because we educate those we serve about why its not just "picking up a phone".  It will happen because we make a concerted effort to be the best dispatch professional we can possibly be.  There are literally thousands of ways to get involved: Pick one.  And do it.  

Respect is earned, even from ourselves.  As the time comes for New Year's Resolutions and current year reviews, let us resolve to make this year the one where people outside our comm centers and PSAPs begin to understand what we have always known: That we are Professionals. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Columbus Fire: Moving to the Future

Kudos to the Columbus Division of Fire for taking steps to address their EMS service challenges. Given the many factors at play, this is probably the best approach they could have selected. However, by no means should this be the last step.  As I detailed in a recent post, CFD remains woefully behind schedule in the construction of new Fire Stations.  So much so, that their over reliance on automatic aid partners will only grow unless dramatic steps are taken in the immediately future.  This has the potential to move the problem of overworked paramedics from the City (who collects the tax dollars)  to the Townships and Surrounding Cities (but who do not collect taxes to provide these services). 

To remedy this situation several steps should be explored in the near future: 

1) Building temporary, medic only, fire stations in outlying areas, or quartering CFD medic units in the closest township/suburban fire stations to service areas that CFD is unable to effectively handle at this time. 

2) Deployment models should be adjusted to not simply assign a mutual aid medic to City runs in every case.  A more dynamic and resilient deployment model, which accommodates nearest transport units for high priority medical cases but utilizes CFD medics for BLS runs, should be deployed.  

3) Peak Time Medic Units should be placed in areas not just based on the volume of calls in the area, but based on overall response times and number of incidents handled by mutual aid, with the reality being that the best areas to cover with extra resources may shift over a 24 hour period.  For example, Polaris may need an additional medic unit during the day time hours, but not at night, when that unit could be better utilized in the West Side or Fairwood Avenue Area.  

4) The program of utilizing ladders for Extrication Runs should be continued and expanded.  

5) The Heavy Rescue Units should, for now, be maintained, and should be the first piece selected to assist Medic Units when they are nearby, instead of Engine Companies.  This preserves the Engines for Fires and additional EMS runs.  

6) CFD should work with the City Administration to develop a comprehensive CFD 2025 plan-- focusing on the goals of response time, reduced reliance on mutual aid, and other performance benchmarks that will guide a major bond issue intended to "catch up" CFD to where it needs to be. 

The first steps have been taken.  The current CFD administration is demonstrating its understanding that the Status Quo must change.  That should be applauded, but the work must continue. 

Walking in the Redwoods

I recently completed one of my essential mind clearing trips.  A journey of about six thousand miles which took me from Columbus to California, Las Vegas, and Wyoming.  The goal is always to find something or someone that inspires or illuminates or, in a worst case scenario, reminds me of what I like about where I live and the people I am fortunate to know.  

A central element of this annual quest is to go somewhere I have never been, in the hope that such a place will help me to understand better myself or those around me.  In this season of crazy-- when so many people I have been touched by have passed away, when so many institutions I have cared about are teetering, when so many of my friends (and me) are truly scared of the future-- I give you the Redwood Forests of California.  

These trees tower over the observer, over the surrounding hillsides, over everything around them.  Their scale can not be explained or described.  It can only be witnessed. They are much like Niagara Falls, Love, or an amazing diner that stands as a monument to who were we were and, in more ways than we know, still are.  

I can not post a photo of the Redwoods here and have it mean anything to you, so I am not even going to try.  But what I will share is this.  The Redwoods grow so tall and are so inspiring not because they root themselves deep into the ground.  They do not tie into bedrock like a skyscraper to support their foundation.  No.  Their roots are actually quite shallow.  What they do to survive is to entangle themselves in a web of support with all the trees around them.  Their literal support system ensures that they can ward off invasive pests, pass along nutrients, and care for sick relatives.  This underground structure is the key to their very survival.  

Even in the event of a fire or flood, the roots stay connected and it is then that an even greater insight occurs.  It is only from the fires and floods and the tragedies that new Redwoods can grow.  Otherwise, the undergrowth is too deep and thick to permit the seed to reach the forest floor.  Life must come-- does come-- from death.  And in the sad event that a Redwood does manage to fall, from its trunk will spring the start of new life. On every fallen Redwood trunk can be found the sprouts of a new Redwood that will, in time, honor its parent by climbing higher and taking its place in the canopy.   

The system is beautiful and complete.  It is is Life, Death, and Life again, all in perfect harmony, exactly as it should be.  

In our season of rushing.  In our time of trying to be perfect, finding the right card, the right gift, or the right word, let us take just a moment and marvel at the wonderful world we are a part of. The reality that life can spring- does spring- from the darkest times and that life and our future depends not on us weathering alone this crazy world, but on us all seeing the value connecting with each other. Let us take from these beautiful ancient beings the understanding that we will only reach the possible of just how high we can rise when we live as one family-- caring and supporting each other. No matter what may come.  Fire or Flood.  Sunshine or Rain.  They go on, so must we.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Map of the Future

When people talk about the need for additional fire stations in Columbus, I don't think they realize just how big the scale of the issue is.  Much like in the late 1880s and the late 1950s, Columbus finds itself needing at least ten new fire stations.  

To provide some idea of where they are needed, check out the map this link: Proposed CFD Stations  You will find some suggestions that might be new or perhaps controversial.  Not the least of which is fixing the location of Station 28 and placing a new firehouse on the north end of Easton.  Additional "in-fill" stations are identified for Marion-Franklin, Frank Road, and Trabue Road.  As a reminder, in developed areas, the standard is that every address should be within 1.5 miles of a fire station.  

In some of these cases, it may be time to work with surrounding departments to identify ways to cooperate on firehouse construction.  For example, a new 12s could be built to house both CFD Station-12 and Franklin Township 192s.  Same on Frank Road where a new firehouse could serve both the needs of Columbus and Station 193.  In the growing area west of Station-34, located not far from a proposed Washington Township fire station, a cooperative effort may also be the way to go.  

No matter how the solution is reached, however, Columbus is far behind in its need to add fire stations in both the outlying areas of the city as well as some of the urban core.  The impending construction of Station 35 on Waggoner Road is a start, but it must be followed up by a concerted effort to catch-up or response times to fires and emergencies, as well as dependency on mutual aid partners, will only increase. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

10 Things for CFD

After being asked a few times since my return home about things that CFD could potentially do to address some of the current challenges I jotted down a few ideas.  Some are old and familiar to those who have followed me.  Others may be new. 

But, what I would like to start by saying is this: The CFD does an amazing job and has an excellent group of women and men who are among the best Firefighters and Paramedics in this nation.  Nothing that I ever write should ever be construed as me suggesting otherwise.  I only offer my ideas because of my unique background and the experiences I have had over my twenty plus years in Public Safety.  

When you dispatch in the busiest department in the country and for some of the craziest days in that busiest department's history, you learn a few things.  And I feel those things are worth sharing.  Even more than from the busy days, I have learned from my mentors in the fire service.  Many of whom served right here in Columbus.  It is from them I learned how to do relocations, even before I made it to the FDNY.  It is from conversations with "Township Medics" that I first learned about the importance of having a priority based EMS system, and it was from a few really nasty Central Ohio Thunderstorms that I first learned about resource management.  

Take these suggestions as you will.  Hopefully they start a conversation.  The one truth that is inescapable is that Columbus will keep growing, the calls will keep coming and that some improvements in the System will yield positive dividends for responders and the public. 

1)      Move away from AVL based dispatching, especially for BLS EMS Runs
a.       Reporting should be divided into a more precise number of segments
                                                   i.      BLS, ALS, Other, Structure Fire, Non Structure Fire
                                                 ii.      Assignment of BLS and other should be to a CFD unit unless the CFD unit is greater than 10 minutes away
b.      Personnel should be trained not to assign township medics to city runs when those units are coming out of a hospital far from their service area)
c.       MCI units should be assigned additional medics that are close but that do not deplete resources in an entire area of town.  (assign every other medic, or assign from different areas of the city)

2)  Switch to ETA based assignments—which include average time of dispatch for Automatic Aid Units—improving response time and reducing reliance and dependency

3)      Improve Move-Up Functionality
a.       Only move up when companies are long term out of service (> 30 minutes)
b.      Utilize “1 in 3” rule (when 3 adjacent like type units are not available long term—move up one unit to cover that area)
c.       Do not assign move-up companies to the original incident unless there is a critical life safety need

4)      Assign EMT driver to outlying Medic Transport Units (5, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34)
a.       This can be accommodated in CAD to ensure they respond alone expect on Arrest
b.      Ensures Paramedics remain available for next incident in the same area.
c.       Extra firefighter available in remote areas in the event of a working fire

5)      Add 800 series medic units at additional stations
a.       Daytime 800 series: Williams Road; Station 241; Station 33; Station 162
b.      Agreements should be established to house CFD units at county stations until city stations can be built in underserved areas  

6)      Utilize the 800 Series Units to “Move-Up” into areas with depleted resources
a.       In the event that several adjacent medic units are transporting, the 800 series units can be redeployed to serve those areas without depleting resources

7)      Remove Engines from Difficulty Breathing and Chest-Pain Call-Types

8)   Improve coordination and management of resources as well as firefighter safety by streamlining radio channel operations
a.       Introduce Fire Operations Channel and EMS Operations Channel
b.      All Units will stay on these channels at all times
c.       Runs will be “aired” only one time—unless unit has not acknowledged
d.      Fire Units will switch to assign Tac Talkgroup on arrival at scene.
e.      Fire and EMS Voice Dispatch (Locution) will be for the benefit of stations only

9)      Alarm Office Personnel should be more consistently assigned to the FAO—“part-time” dispatching is not effective in a large city environment—this could include a regular rotation with gaps filled by Overtime

10)   CAD programming should be enhanced to take advantage of:
a.       Redirection of units to higher-priority units
b.      The display of a large map with firehouses, units and active incidents so that dispatchers and officers have improved spatial awareness and an understanding of the impact of incidents on response time. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Changes Coming to CFD?

     After frequently offering suggestions on how Columbus Fire could potentially tweak and improve its service delivery model, it just wouldn't be right if I didn't take a moment to comment on the recently released "potential ladder company moves". This is a good discussion and I am glad to see it happening. This is especially true given that I helped write a CFD ladder company study in 1997. Some of that study's recomendations are being mentioned in the current report.
     However, Columbus is a much different city today than it was then. People are moving downtown in droves, the short north and arena districts are many times more populated with almost constant new construction. In addition, the development in the outer edges of Columbus has slowed just a bit. Gone are the days of massive large annexations, although what does exist and what is being proposed in areas like the northeast side (Hamilton Rd &. 161); the Southeast Side (Gender and Lehman) and the far west side (Galloway Road) pose serious challenges to ensure proper fire protection. 
     The bottom line is that CFD can not "rob peter to pay paul" when it comes to Fire Protection. With the exception of a couple of medic units, most companies are where they need to be given the current fire facility locations. 
    This is most apparent in the talk about moving L1 to 7s; L13 to 19s; and L24 to 6s. Not only would that take one of two Ladders out of the ever more densely constructed downtown and short north, it would creat a massive ladder service hole centered on one of the busiest fire activity sections of the city. A fire at Hudson St and Cleveland Avenues for example would have a significant delay for Ladder Service. As would the surrounding areas. 
     An alternative would be:
     Move Ladder-1 to 7 (not ideal)
     Move Ladder-13 to 16
     Move Ladder-24 to 6
     Move Ladder-27 to 11

     Note, of all the potential Ladder moves, moving Ladder 27 to 11s is by far the most benefical for the city, IF Ladder-34 is not going to return. In fact, if not a single other move were made (which may be the best move) moving the Ladder from 27s to 11 would be worth considering. This puts the ladder in the middle of the service area, allows it to cover 34s area (somewhat) and the Olentangy River Road area. 

     Turning to the Northeast Side. With the massive development coming to Hamilton and 161, the process of building Station 36 should begin as soon as possible. This station, when completed, should have a Ladder. There is no other way around it.

     On the east side, the Ladder at 5 should stay at 5. It is in an excellent location for fire protection and to provide rescue services on 270/70/ and east broad street. Putting this ladder on Waggoner Road would, in my opinion, be a waste. The city can not grow further east or much to the north. Most of a Ladder-35s runs would be back towards 5s- might as well leave it in the best position. 

     More suggestions will follow, but I would encourage CFD folks to at least think about whats offerered here. Either way, its good to see CFD starting to address the challenges of a city that is growing faster than its fire and ems service. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What a World

It has been too long.  But I have a really good reason.  A big move. The end of a relationship.  The purchase of my first home.  The feeling that every single thing in my world was in motion at the exact same time.  Not a bad thing.  I suppose it could be called exhilarating or at least that will be my word choice.  I am certain some would call it fear.  Perhaps most would.  

And in the midst of this whirlwind of difference, what session did I end up having to present, last minute, at the recent NENA conference in Indianapolis?  Out of 101 sessions, which was the one requiring my intervention lest it have to be cancelled?  Change Management of course.  

Standing in a room of about fifty people, helping them see how to manage the unexpected opportunities of their professional and personal lives, what I really performed was a public self service.  Fifty-six minutes of reminders and assists.  Passionate declaration of the fact that all happens for a reason.  That some things are only for a season.  And that we have a role to play if only we choose to take the stage.  Any stage.  I think I only looked at the power-point a handful of times.  I didn't look at the instructor notes at all.  I doubt anyone noticed.  

There are moments where the stage might be big, with an audience of friends, family and strangers filling a great hall.  There are others were the stage may be a small room, with an audience and cast of one. No matter, when the time comes, we are judged, if we are judged, not by how well we followed the script (hint, there is no script) but how well we acted our part.  How true we were to our character.  The drama critic will silently ask and scribble an answer to whether we lived up to who we were brought here to be.  Did we take the chances?  Did we dream our dreams while awake?  Did we try to make our world to the image of something greater? 

If we know that the change we are living is to that end.  If we know that the missteps and the backtracks, the tears and the smiles are all a part of that mission to be ourselves, to live ourselves, then nothing else really matters.  As the British say, "A change is as good as a rest".  Well friends, here we are.  Another place on the journey.  And sitting on my front porch, coffee in hand, trying to figure out what that one birdsong is that is so distinctive from the others, I can safely say, I am on my path. But,if you truly believe all things happen for a reason, if you truly have faith, then you know that you never really leave the path.  We only sometimes forget to see it.  And change is really just a different view. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dispatch Basics: the worst phrase you will ever hear or say

You hear it in a variety of circumstances. Sometimes its the answer to: "why do we do it that way?"  Sometimes its a response to a proposed action that goes a little far outside the box, requiring a Supervisor's approval. Other times its said with the shrugged shoulders symptomatic of a career of frustration, indifference, or passing the buck. 

I would venture to suggest that it is reflective of much more than one person's potentially defective style of supervision. If anything, it is the canary in the coal mine language that serves as a flashing neon sign screaming: "there may be serious management or leadership problems here". 

What phrase does all this and more? 

"That's above my paygrade."

I can imagine no circumstance where that is a truly valuable or appropriate answer to a question or suggestion. In truth, it is a cop-out. Engineered to absolve the user from any obligation to either a) make a decision themselves b) route the suggestion/question to the proper person 3) or provide a proper explanation of why things are the way they are.  

Think about it like this. You are sitting at your local physician. You are curious about a new lump that suddenly arrived on your anatomy. Likely not serious, but still annoying. You ask the doctor about i and get: "thats above my paygrade!"  What confidence does that instill in you about their knowledge or their ability?  I think we all know by now there are chains of command in every institution. There are processes to follow. 

But to just throw in the towel. What kind of respect will that earn you?  After all, even if you don't know an answer, or arent authorized to make it, shouldn't the next step to be take it to someone who is able? 

How about some pride. How about some ownership? If the question is silly or has been tried or really shouldn't be escalated, then explain right there and then what's up. Do not take the easy way out. 

That's something that applies- no matter what your paygrade. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Dispatch Basics: Verify! (and Replace if Required)

I have to confess that I am surprised that this may be a revelation for some centers.  Granted, it may be a policy issue and not a dispatcher issue, but it seems like common sense:

(Part 1) Verify that the units you have sent to the assignment are actually going. 

(Part 2) If they are not responding in a pre-determined amount of time, replace them! 

This should not require permission from an IC or some sort of special papal dispensation. It is truly a matter of common sense.  The next step, after replacing the missing in action unit, is to notify the responding IC or the other unit (if there is one) that you were unable to verify the other unit and have replaced them with Unit XXX. 

Some examples:

You assign two patrol units to a disturbance.  The first unit acknowledges the call on their MDC.  The second does not.  Ten seconds later, you call the unit on the radio and they do not respond.  Call one more time.  Wait ten seconds.  Then assign the next closest car.  Immediately after, notify the first unit of the change.  This is a safety issue that may impact the actions of the first car.  Whether their back-up is coming from one minute or ten minutes away could have a significant impact on whether they go directly into the location, or wait.

You dispatch three engines to a fire along with a Battalion Chief.  The second due engine does not acknowledge their  run.  You must replace them, AND notify both the IC AND the second due engine of the change in assignment. In many areas, the second due engine is responsible for water supply.  The third due has a different role on the scene of the fire.  Disaster could ensue if the third due engine is not aware that they must now assume the role of water supply.  Granted, your procedures may be different, but this is just one situation where replacement and advisement are very important. 

The same situation could exist on an EMS run, where a BLS unit would wait on the scene if the originally assigned paramedic unit was coming from five minutes away.  However, with a critical patient, a hospital ten minutes away, and the paramedic unit coming from twenty minutes away, the EMTs may decide to transport immediately. 

In all of these cases it comes down to taking the simple steps to ensure the most effective outcome.  Verify assigned units are responding, take the correct action if they are not, and ensure that the people who need to know- KNOW.  Dispatchers can play a very important role in ensuring effective and timely response of units, no matter what the emergency and its starts with verifying that response. 

Dispatch Basics: 9-1-1 Center Design (Part-1)

Although this particular topic is directed more at the managers and directors of 9-1-1 centers, addressing this issue starts with dispatchers and the important nuances of how the job actually gets done.  For those centers who have call-taking, dispatch, and supervision on the same floor or in the same building,far too little thought is given to how the physical arrangement of the working positions either contributes to success or failure.
Here is the first problem.  Too many “modern” centers make too many incorrect assumptions about how we work.  Or they think that technology will bring about changes in how we communicate.  Case in point: having all of the dispatch positions facing a giant wall of TV monitors.  Yes, it looks like some cool scene out of a movie.  Yes, it gets more gizmos and wizbangs into the center.  But I know of no dispatch center were the personnel spend a large amount of time watching those screens. 
Should they be there, perhaps.  But the most important information for dispatchers should be visible from their position while they sit normally.  Ideally, if an alert, it should appear visually and audibly.  Distracting personnel with giant screens is a good first step towards diminishing the effectiveness of the center.  The best information to put on those screens are things that should be glanced at once in a while or that relate to everyone on the floor- such as weather maps, traffic cameras, or the overtime list.  These do not need to be front and center, just visible.  Far more important is to have easy visibility, at the position, of the active incidents, radio, and CAD while not isolating the dispatchers from each other. 
The next big problem. Many agencies try to use electronic messaging as  a replacement for old fashioned communication by voice or sight.  Although CAD to CAD messages are an important tool, especially in large centers, there is no replacement for line of sight or proximate communication.  Being able to look at, learn over, or lean back to speak to a coworker is important beyond all description.  This is much more "human", much more effective, and has a much lower failure rate than being forced to route simple questions through a computer system. 
The next big problem: we are not going paperless.  I'm sorry but its just not going to happen.  We need scrap paper, we need maps, and we need places to write important information.  Now, there shouldn't be 2,000 post-it-notes on the monitor, but there is a happy place where the necessary information is documented and we maintain our effectiveness. 
Along the same line, we must have an adequate amount of workspace, but we must also have everyone close enough that they can support each other when required.  This allows a more effective team based approach to the mission, instead of individual islands of Dispatchers all doing their own thing.  There are multiple ways to accomplish this and it depends on how many personnel are working, what job they are doing, and building constraints but facilitating “old fashioned communication and teamwork” should be a major goal of any 9-1-1 center position design. 
Speaking of positions, another disturbing trend is for more and more monitors crammed onto the desks.  This has to end.  No dispatcher can be expected to be actively or effectively engaged with more than three or four screens at their positions.  Directors need to make harsh decisions about what really needs to be on the position and what needs to go.  Vendors in the 9-1-1 space can help this effort with greater integration of software and technology, which saves having to have monitors by system.  Instead, we should be able to have our monitors arranged by function, a process that could radically improve the effectiveness of dispatchers and lessen the number of critical mistakes. 
Returning to the floor plan, more centers should also offer tables on the floor.  Having a simple eight-foot table next to dispatch area can serve both training and meal needs, keeping food away from the expensive stuff, but keeping personnel close enough to still be “in-the-mix”. 
In the end, it all comes down to the facility and the technology meeting the needs of the Dispatchers and the Operation, not the reverse.  Too often, Dispatchers and Supervisors are not even invited to the planning discussions. This is unacceptable.  No fire chief, police chief, ems director, or IT director would allow a new facility, police car, fire truck, or ambulance to be designed and built without a clear understanding of the mission or the needs of the user.  When it comes to 9-1-1 centers the same should be true.  So if your agency is planning a new building, do everything you can to become involved in the process and help make sure that what is built actually helps you work better. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dispatcher Basics: Valuing the Past

A quick thought today about one of our greatest resources in the world of 9-1-1: those who have come before us. 

One of the reasons why the fire service and law enforcement are such proudnand storied organizations is the respect they show their traditions and their history. Show me an organization that understands and values its past and that organization will likely have a promising future. 

As a generally new profession, 9-1-1 (or whatever discipline of emergency communications you are a part of) often doesn't take the time to reflect on where it started or where it has been. In the chaos of the schedule of most 9-1-1 directors there is little room for "value our history" between meetings, calls, meetings and calls.  

However, this ends up costing us far more than we realize. As we look tohave a  better, more engaged, and effective workforce one strategy is to help our dispatchers grasp their role as part of something much bigger. As a critical piece of a public safety profession that has roots well over 150 years old.  Sharing with our new members their responsibility to help this proud group grow, succeed, and continue puts their actions into prospective.  It helps them to feel connected to something bigger. 

One simple way to do this is to value the senior members of our organizations and those who have retired. Too often, the last time a person is seen in the center is the day they retire. Too many never again step foot inside the center.  This is a sad and missed opportunity. 

Think of how much knowledge is potentially lost. How much support for new people could be found in the lessons or encouraging words shared by a long time veteran?  Why not have the retiree come back and speak to the newly hired- explaining just how valued their career and friendships were? Or serve as a mentor to those interested in the career? 

Many fire departments and police agencies have groups for their retirees. Seeing them at the table in the kitchen is an important event for everyone concerned. It connects the future to the the past and the present and helps to build the community that we should all be a part of. 

I encourage each of you to find ways to connect your agency to its history and your personnel to those who have served before and who are just starting out. Maybe its a retiree night at the center; a newsletter that shares "where are tgey now" or a display of memoribilia in the lobby of your center. Whatever forms it takes, being connected to our senior and retired members will pay dividends for all concerned and help us create an even better 9-1-1 profession. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dispatcher Basics: You are not paid to think

You are paid to know. 

That may sound a little outlandish or even risky, but there is a very real truth behind it. When things are going crazy, those in the 9-1-1 field don't have a great deal of time to ponder every possible outcome or read a binder full of disaster plans to find out what to do.  

Under the stress of an active shooter, a tornado, a greyhound bus accident, or a fire the Dispatchers on the team handling that incident must react instinctively and with minimal thought.  Those of you who have been in those situations probably know all too well the challenge (or horror) of working with someone or for someone who doesn't understand this.  They are wishy-washy, uncertain, or indecisive.  Often they do not trust anyone to do the right thing.  

There is a simple reason why people don't trust others or themselves to make the critical decisions during times of crisis.  They don't know themselves or others well enough to trust.  This is why training, learning, and teamwork are so important.  Building the knowledge and the skill BEFORE the big day allows you to be able to react from a position of knowledge, not a position of fear or uncertainty.  

The obvious parallels are responders in life and death situations.  They do not have time to consult the manual.  It is the memory of their training, the shading of their experience, and their attitudes and beliefs which help determine how they will react.  They will not have the time to consult "the book", and neither will 9-1-1 professionals have the ability to do a research project during the crazy times.   

So think about your training, knowledge, skills, and experiences.  Do you build these up as much as you can?  Do you jot down lessons learned from each shift your work or each major event you handle?  Do you share your lessons learned with others so you can gain from what each of you go through?  There are many ways to build your knowledge, but they are not all from your own ledger.  

This is what it means to "know".  You may not have all the answers, but you certainly won't have the luxury of time to do a detailed analysis.  If you have taken the proper steps before that crazy day, however, you may not even realize that thinking was and is overrated.  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Dispatcher Basics: The Importance of Faith & Spirit

It is a rainy Sunday afternoon and as I write this post the words from the Church Sermons from this morning and this afternoon are rolling around in the part of my brain that ponders the past, the future, and our responsibility to leave this place a better world. I had not darkened the door of a church for twenty-five years when I made my way into Riverside Church in 2012, but my life is infinitely better because I made that walk through fear and assumption into a community of grace, love, and support.   

The story of my faith is for another time and only relevant here  in the fact that, for me, finding a spiritual connection and community was essential for understanding my experiences and what my life was and is for.  It helped to provide a framework to  process the Blackouts, Blizzards, Sandys, and 9/11s that scarred my history.  No doubt you too have places where, as the poet Julia Kasdorf writes, the "world did not bend under our weight".

I firmly believe that, whatever the venue, finding a spiritual connection and community is an essential part of overcoming the challenges and difficulties associated with a career in the 9-1-1 world.  Faced with tragedies unimaginable and successes unbelievable, there is a very genuine necessity for personnel in this profession to find a center. A place that offers peace. 

Equally important is the need to find a community to share the spiritual  journey with.  Humans are social creatures.  We are not built to live a life alone in the dark, but rather grow as a part of something bigger. Having people around us who know and care about who we are and where we are on the journey helps us to achieve and grow in ways beyond what we could ever hope to by ourselves.  If we are fortunate, the people in our community will also hold us accountable, question us, and help ensure that we live to our potential.  Not in the manner of a well intentioned but overbearing parent, but as a fellow traveler, excited about the possibility of sharing the views from the mountainous peaks.

For you, this may be a religious community.  You may be Muslim or Christian, Jewish or Hindu.  The particular flavor or label of your faith is irreverent,  Your path may not be religious at all, perhaps it involves Yoga or Meditation (A practice I highly recommend for anyone, especially 9-1-1 folks).  It may involve reading spiritual books and meeting in book clubs or any of a million other possibilities.  Whatever your approach, finding that path to an understanding that goes beyond the call-type, sirens, cad, and rush to answer the phone will help you in ways you can not imagine. 

In these lives and careers that take so much from us, even on the "Routine" days, finding a way to refill your bucket again will help you be a better dispatcher, a better family member, a better friend, and a better person. Please take the time to find the people, places, and experiences that will help you bridge the gap between this crazy life that we all live and the peace that comes from a greater sense of purpose and community. 

Dispatch Basics: Uniforms Matter. Mostly

It is more than a little amusing that one of the most heated topics of discussion in a 9-1-1 Center revolves around a topic that some may see as trivial.  It should not be a shock to anyone that has watched the passionate and pitched battle that accompanies the introduction of school uniforms that this topic can result in arguments, cat-fights, hurt feelings, and bitterness. 

However, from my prospective, this debate is truly not a debate at all.  If 9-1-1 is a profession, then we need to express that: completely.  In our attitude, in our performance, and in our appearance.  Can you think of any profession that does not have some sort of uniform or standard of dress that is presentable?  If a doctor came into your hospital room or a lawyer into your courtroom looking like a slob then how much faith would you have in their talent, knowledge, or ability?

Looking into the mirror and seeing a well dressed professional looking back is an simple yet brilliant way to increase our own perceptions and expectations of our performance and share that message with the world. 

Perhaps your agency doesn't have a formal uniform.  That still doesn't mean you need to show up to work in shorts, flip-flops, and a tank top.  Buy some khakis at WalMart or Target, some plain polo or dress shirts of a matching color, and set the tone.  It may also be appropriate to wear shirts relevant to your discipline, but that is on case by case and local basis. 

More importantly, whether you wear a formal uniform or one of your own creation, keep it up and in good condition.  The only thing worse than not wearing a uniform is wearing one that is shoddy, tattered, and torn. 

It may seem like a simple thing, but if we present ourselves to the world in a professional manner, it is a good step towards getting the world to see us a professionals.  Granted, it may be an adjustment, but in the end its worth it.  And, to be honest, people at work don't want to see you in shorts or a tank-top anyway.