By Scott Freitag
Dane County (Wis.) Public Safety Communication Center and the Salt Lake City 9-1-1 Communications Bureau took a mutual bow on stage at NAVIGATOR, as the sixth and seventh centers, respectively, in Academy history to become tri-Accredited Centers of Excellence (ACEs).
In my dual role as communication director of Salt Lake City’s consolidated EMS, police, and fire 9-1-1 center and president of the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED), I was in the position to experience multiple layers of the ACE process. The Salt Lake City 9-1-1 Communications Bureau was a recipient of the intense scrutiny familiar to the centers where I’ve gone to present the ACE certificate.
As director, similar to those achieving tri-ACE before us, you could say I was personally party to the “blood, sweat, and tears” the Academy’s Twenty Points of Accreditation tends to impose upon the team assigned to complete the detailed task. Believe me, we were never shy about seeking the advice from the Accreditation Board chaired by Brian Dale.
As the Academy’s president, I had basically staked my reputation on the promise made last year at NAVIGATOR to be in the position we were honored to announce in Salt Lake City before a crowd of peers. This was not something that could be easily dismissed if I hadn’t followed through. For this, I am particularly thankful for the work provided by many individuals within the center, above and beyond my earnest expectations.
As I’m sure my counterparts at Dane County would agree, tri-ACE is not easy but, then again, neither is achieving a singular medical, fire, or police ACE. What does it take, as defined by the Academy, to rank among centers providing “superior, up-to-date public care and efficient resource utilization to achieve maximum results in emergency situations”? Is this a standard you have the conviction to pursue?
While the process involves many steps, the first step, the one preceding anything else you do, must be buy-in from city/county officials and center staff and administration. Nothing the magnitude of ACE can be achieved without acceptance to the ACE concept and the commitment to follow the prescribed course of action.
For many, particularly those wary of moving from the accustomed way of doing things, transition takes time. There must be willingness on their part to accept the Medical, Fire, and Police Priority Dispatch Systems™ for the benefits they will provide to the public and agencies depending on you for emergency communication support. If you’re the leader, respect for their concerns must be at the core of your strategy.
While most of my staff was already using the protocol, there were others new to the system. To help ease their transition, I encouraged their engagement in the project and made it absolutely clear that I relied on them—their knowledge and background—as a valuable resource, rather than a nuisance taking away the chance for success. I cultivated super-users to champion the system. I made it known that this change was for the better and that they were part of that change.
Granted, not everyone will be quick to jump on board. But don’t set aside the challengers, dismissing perhaps contrary behavior because it doesn’t fit into your agenda. Don’t ignore them or downplay their reaction. They are not the enemy. Sometimes, it’s fear behind the discontent; an individual might be apprehensive because of the potential failure involved in change or the possibility of losing whatever edge s/he held in the current environment. It’s your job to convince them of their ability to succeed in a project fitting the agency’s mission. The considerations you provide will payoff in the long run. They could become your greatest supporters.
I didn’t intend to present a motivational “lecture.” However, as I learned early in the process and from others “who have been there and made that a presumptive mistake,” ACE is not about me. It’s not about the goals I’ve set as the director of the Salt Lake City 9-1-1 Communications Bureau. It’s not about my reputation as president of the IAED. ACE is about the citizens we are sworn to protect and serve. ACE confirms the great work our people do every day. ACE is recognition for the frontline folks. It’s about them.
As I said during my opening remarks at NAVIGATOR, everyone who has made their career in this “most noble profession” deserves a round of applause. We are about compassion and service. We use the best tools available in the form of the medical, fire, and police protocols. Each one of us will save more lives than we are able to count. If that makes us different by nature, I’m proud to further our appeal in the validation ACE signifies.