Dutch folklore recounts the story of a little boy who plugs a hole that formed in a dike, using only his finger, to keep his town from flooding — he stays in place through the night despite the cold and becomes a hero. If this story were applied to today’s 911 community, the boy would need to use multiple digits or would need a few of his pals to help out.
For more than a half century, the 911 system in the United States has performed admirably, saving countless lives in the process. But today it needs some work. A migration to Next Generation 911, which represents a quantum leap forward in terms of capabilities compared with the legacy 911 system, is what we hear about most often. But several other key aspects require equally rapt attention.
Recently I participated in a podcast with Laurie Flaherty, the recently retired coordinator of the National 911 Program, and John Chiaramonte, president of Mission Critical Partners' consulting business, in which a few of the most pressing needs were discussed. (Click here to view the podcast, or view it as video here.)
A problem long has existed in the 911 community, which is that telecommunicators working in emergency communications centers (ECCs) from coast to coast are wrongly classified by the federal government. This has a profoundly negative effect on their self-esteem, compensation, and career development.
The National 911 Program created a toolkit, with Mission Critical Partners’ help, to address this. More on that soon — but first a little history.
At MCP, our mission is to help clients improve emergency response outcomes.
Depending on the client and its unique environment and resources, this could mean providing guidance regarding technology, operations or governance, and often all three. The overarching goal is to ensure that 911 callers receive the most appropriate emergency response as quickly as possible. Lives often are on the line in an emergency, and every second matters.
Achieving a balance between sending the optimal response to an emergency and having it arrive as fast as possible is tricky. In fact, it is analogous to walking a tightrope. To achieve the former, many emergency communications centers (ECCs) rely on standard protocols developed for each type of emergency call that they receive, typically law enforcement, fire/rescue and emergency medical services.
Leadership has been defined by many people in many ways. A definition that I like goes like this: leadership is the ability to get people or organizations to do what they don’t naturally want to do, or to get them to do things that they don’t believe they can do.
At Mission Critical Partners, all of us are expected to “lead self,” i.e., to take ownership of one’s thoughts, actions and statements, while also having the discipline and drive necessary for meeting one’s responsibilities, both personally and professionally. But effective leaders understand that they can’t achieve their objectives by themselves. In other words, they need a team. And when leading a team, one’s mindset needs to shift from leading oneself to leading others. This is especially true for those working in the public safety sector.
Profound challenges often spur great progress. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Not only is the public safety community staring an enormous challenge in the face, but also is looking at a tremendous opportunity to move the community forward.
Traditionally, public safety has been slow to adopt new technologies and embrace new strategies. However, the pandemic has forced agencies to do things they likely would not have contemplated before. The collection of new concepts not only will enable public safety to handle the pandemics and mega-disasters of the future, but also will enhance day-to-day operations personnel performance. Public safety is up to the challenge, as long as officials can get comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while.
Without question, the role of telecommunicator in an emergency communications center (ECC) is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. Having to deal with distraught, even hysterical, callers who are having the worst day of their lives, and then making split-second decisions regarding the appropriate emergency response to dispatch—all while maintaining one’s composure—is no easy task. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the stress considerably.
We’re six weeks into a new year and a new decade, and public safety leaders are focused on pursuing more funding, implementing unconventional approaches related to staffing, recruiting and retention, and implementing innovative strategies to modernize their public safety communications technologies and networks—all while keeping them secure from cyberattacks, which are increasing in frequency and complexity.
Recently, we hosted our first webinar of 2020, during which more than 100 public safety professionals shared their top budget priorities and marketing challenges. Upgrading public safety technology, such as legacy computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and records-management systems (RMS) was a prominent theme, with more than half of participants citing this as a key priority in their organization for the coming year. Transitioning to Next Generation 911 (NG911) and staffing, retention and organizational planning also were reemerging topics from previous years.
When we launched MCP a little more than a decade ago, we established some pretty aggressive growth goals, especially for a firm that was operating out of a garage and had no clients at the very beginning. Nevertheless, each goal was met with room to spare. Our ability to do so hinged on a single, overarching, inflexible focus on delighting the client.
This year has brought a lot of change, and excitement, to the public safety industry. From the announcement of 911 grant funding for states and tribal nations to advance their efforts to implement next generation 911 (NG911) to an increased, industry-wide focus on cybersecurity and preventing cyberattack, the groundwork has been laid for continued improvement for emergency response in 2020 and beyond.
On December 8, Mission Critical Partners (MCP) kicked off its tenth-annual, two-day extravaganza in Pittsburgh, an event that brings together all 125 MCP professionals from around the county, as well as keynote speakers and several clients. The purpose of the event is to discuss in detail emerging and industry-changing topics, network, inspire, and educate MCP professionals on the biggest topics impacting public safety.
The key theme that emerged at this year’s end-of-year event was the need for the public safety community to figure out ways to harness the tremendous amount of data that could be available to first responders in the nation’s emergency communications centers (ECCs) and in the field.