AN INCREDIBLE JOURNEY

By Scott Freitag, IAED President

This year begins my ninth year as the Academy’s president. It’s been an incredible 16 years since first becoming acquainted with the medical dispatch protocol, Dr. Jeff Clawson, and a staff that has since more than tripled.

The word “incredible” applies to more than the years spent in NAED positions introducing me to hundreds of dispatchers each year. It’s incredible to think of the work the Academy has accomplished and the number of countries (40) now using the protocol that made its debut at the Salt Lake City Fire Department 33 years ago. It’s also incredible—and humbling—to think that I played even a small hand in transforming emergency dispatch into a recognized component of emergency medical services.

When I accepted the position of president in early 2004, the Academy was celebrating its 25th anniversary. The first quarter century established our reputation, and the next 25 years would further cement our position in the dispatch community. At that time, the NAED was sharpening its curriculum for the recently released police and fire protocol systems and developing the most important changes in phone-instructed resuscitation practices in the past 20 years. We were focusing on the Accredited Center of Excellence (ACE) program and pushing local, state, and federal recognition of dispatch certification and training. There was a lot going on.

An interview published in the Spring 2004 issue of The Journal listed my qualifications and cited major goals the Academy hoped to accomplish.
The article covered all the right questions but never mentions the force drawing me to the Academy in 1996. His name is Brian Dale, the dispatch quality improvement officer for the Salt Lake City Fire Department at the time. He is now a deputy chief.

Brian, as many might know, is not “Mr. Subtle,” particularly when it involves issues of public safety, efficiency, and logic. Let’s say he strongly suggested that as the new face in the Salt Lake City Fire Department (having just moved here from Illinois), it was only reasonable that I immediately attend the EMD training and certification course to hasten my involvement with the Academy.

The emphasis was on the “immediately.” It was already a given I take the course and certify since the SLCFD was the first agency to use the MPDS. Perhaps not quite by coincidence, Brian was my classroom EMD instructor. He believed in protocol and—as his colleagues can tell you—that’s the reason he was there. Brian wasn’t selling a product; he was championing a cause. He was my mentor.

At the start, I taught EMD classes, spoke at NAVIGATOR conferences, and served as the NAED governmental affairs director. My experience at the Academy mirrored my then 17-year EMS career: It moved right along with increasing responsibilities.

Through the years, Brian and I have remained close friends and colleagues. We travel in much the same circles, taking every chance we get to advance the Academy’s goals and explain the benefits of standardized emergency dispatch. During this coming year, I anticipate frequent trips to the podium, considering the six conferences scheduled to accommodate our international partners. The places and dates are listed at the end of this column.

The conferences strengthen and unite our international community. We might speak many different languages, but we’re all delivering the same message. The protocols that were developed before our younger dispatchers could even pick up a phone are the standard for safe, efficient, and logical dispatch. They’re time-tested. Do I hear Brian in any of this?

The past 16 years have been good ones, to say the least. I am still inspired by a protocol system compatible to a global stage and I never hesitate to strongly suggest the need for dispatch certification and training. I still get a kick out of attending NAVIGATOR. I relish the job’s challenges, knowing that the results are a full measure of what we put behind our words and actions.I also look forward to the inevitability of change in the coming years.

I look at my picture published in the Spring 2004 issue of The Journal knowing that the guy staring back believed in the path he had taken. The medical, fire, and police protocols forever turned the page on emergency communications and I’m one incredibly lucky guy to be a part of the destination.

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