By Skip Welsh
Why are symptoms still treated while the disease continues to fester? Look at the majority of entries on the Fire Radio / Communication section of www.firefighterclosecalls.com
Intermixed with these “negative” entries are the “positives”, i.e., “Back to Basics”, by Chris Carver of Fire Alarm Headquarters, FDNY, who offers constructive answers to problems that exist in communication centers across the country.
Many administrators have treated ‘symptoms’ by way of “…training and/or discipline…”; however, are those solutions quantified? What are the results of the training and discipline? “Training” should begin with how personnel for communication centers are recruited. Are you simply looking for warm bodies to fill seats when you should be looking for those dedicated individuals who possess the desire to enter a segment of public safety that is widely taken for granted? Those individuals who will demonstrate the “passion” for the profession combined with the “compassion” for humanity that enables them to provide the strong initial link in a chain that makes up every emergency incident. These individuals will be able to bring the intimacy needed to every call for help that will put the caller at ease; put the caller in a mind set that the person they are speaking with is a trained professional who knows why they are sitting at that console and how to provide the best possible assistance.
Treating the “symptoms” of mistakes, screw-ups and errors of commission and omission is a waste if you don’t take the time to look more deeply into your “mission statement” (do you have one?) to see why you exist and if you are meeting the goals of that statement. Is there a “disease” in your organizational philosophy that is causing
these “symptoms” to arise on too frequent a basis? More important, is one “symptom” surfacing too many when the life of a citizen or rescuer is involved?
Chief Goldfedder, in a recent emailing of “The Secret List”, stressed the importance of having communication personnel observe first hand what goes on in the field and vice-versa. This would apply to firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel. It is a viable and necessary initial step in the training process. You can’t deliver a service if you don’t know how the service is being delivered. This is especially important in this day of multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional communication centers. There are many centers in our country operated by agencies other than the fire service. I’ve spoken to many staff members in these centers who don’t even have the knowledge of basic fire service or EMS terminology. Can this cause delays or confusion?
One question that may be asked in the quest for ‘disease’ may be: “….can these centers provide more to the community and public safety…”? The answer to this question is a large, resounding, “YES”! If you just look at the basic type of calls for service your center responds to every day, i.e., law enforcement, fire, motor vehicle accident, emergency medical and hazardous materials, you will find not only a wealth of training opportunities, but also areas of professional development that can justify existing budgets and provide roads to expanding your staff, their worth and need. All you have to do is ask the right people.
In order to move forward you have to strongly consider breaking the “training paradigm”. Go back to the beginning and recruit, select, train and continually educate communication personnel in a new, more professionally oriented light. Continually educate your staff on a regular basis…challenge them…don’t allow them to become complacent…don’t allow them to become one of those listed at the beginning of this article. Inter-active training is the answer…combined with a strong quality assurance program that never stops in its review of incidents flowing though your center. These are the tactics that will prevent the spread of ‘disease’ in your center. Keep it healthy!