Profound changes are coming to the public safety sector, particularly to 911 centers. Next Generation 911 systems and the nationwide public safety broadband network—which is being implemented by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)—will generate a tremendous amount of new, actionable data in real-time that dramatically will enhance situational awareness, in turn improving emergency response by leaps and bounds. In time, even more usable information generated by the billions of data-collection sensors already in place—whose numbers will reach into the trillions in the not-too-distant future—will be leveraged by 911 centers, which will become the center of the information universe, at least as it pertains to public safety.
An epidemic is afflicting the entire United States. It involves low-acuity emergency calls to 911 call centers that are overburdening the emergency medical services (EMS) provided by municipal governments. This burden is even extending to the emergency rooms (ERs) to which these patients are transported. The result is that emergency medical technicians (EMTs) increasingly are suffering from stress and morale issues, ambulances are falling into disrepair, and ERs are struggling to keep up with the demand.
Low-acuity calls are those that do not qualify as Basic Life Support (BLS) or Advanced Life Support (ALS) incidents, such as sprains, the flu, a cut requiring stitches, stomach cramps and the like. The problem is that when someone dials 911, the municipality is obligated to dispatch an ambulance/EMT/paramedic to the incident to assess the patient’s condition and, given some patient bill of rights, transport the patient to an ER. This is required regardless of the severity of the incident, even for low-acuity calls, which require neither a visit from EMTs or transport to an ER.
Ten years ago this month, the United States Congress recognized April as “National 911 Education Month”, and ever since the 911 community has organized dedicated events throughout their communities to support public education about this vital, life-saving service. This month also is a fitting time to look inward and focus attention on how much emphasis is placed on education within our own organizations, whether it be a 911 center or a company like ours.
At MCP, we view professional development and mentoring as an integral part of our culture. Not only does it help our staff members cultivate their knowledge and remain current on technological and operational developments, it also plays an important role in employee retention. Every year, we invest more than a million dollars in development and training because we recognize that not investing in our staff could negatively impact how we serve our clients.
For our clients, and public safety professionals in general, the same holds true. Invest in yourself and / or your agency and you will reap the rewards.
Professional development and mentoring in emergency communications has never been as important as it is today for two reasons.
Swatting, the practice of falsely reporting an emergency to elicit a response from a police department’s special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team, is not a new phenomenon for the 911 community.
What is new is that a death has occurred as a result of a swatting incident.
On December 28, 2017, a dispute between online gamers turned ugly. Media reports say that one group, seeking retribution for some perceived wrongdoing, contacted a known swatter in Los Angeles and convinced him to act on their behalf. The swatter placed a call, spoofing his telephone number, to an administrative line at city hall in Wichita, Kansas, and a security guard transferred the call to 911. The caller told the 911 telecommunicator that he had shot his father in the head, was holding his mother and sister at gunpoint, had doused the house with gasoline, and was contemplating setting the building ablaze.
The telecommunicator dispatched a police response to the address provided by the caller. When police arrived, a 27-year-old man answered the door, and immediately was told to raise his hands and walk toward the officers. Regrettably, he lowered his hands to his waist, and an officer found the action threatening enough to fire a single shot at the man, killing him.
When one stops to mull this for a moment, especially considering the type of response that is dispatched to such incidents, it seems amazing that a swatting death has not happened before.
As if this event wasn’t tragic enough, the man had nothing to do with the online gaming dispute. In fact, he reportedly wasn’t a gamer at all—the swatter had provided a wrong address for the actual swatting target.
A previous post presented, on a high-level, the approach we take to finding the A players for our public safety communications careers, known as “Topgrading,” a methodology developed by Dr. Brad Smart, who is considered by many to be the world’s foremost expert on hiring practices. This article will explore some of the nuances of Topgrading, and contains tips for public safety leaders looking to find A players to add to their organization.
Unlike the yeti, the A player is no mythical creature. Indeed, the A player—who is defined as a person among the top 10 percent of professionals in his or her chosen field—has numerous discernible traits such as:
- Best-in-class achievements—A players are results driven, exhibit consistently excellent performance, and often are award winners
- Superior problem-solving abilities—A players are quick studies and able to perform complex analysis
- Outstanding leadership skills—A players not only are self-starters, but also self-leaders; typically, you give them a direction, and then get out of their way; they are highly adaptive, they execute needed change, and they inspire others to higher levels of performance
- High passion and energy—A players are driven to succeed and work at a fast pace; they will do whatever it takes—within the bounds of ethics—to get the job done.
Having a roster of A players is vitally important to every organization, but none more so than public safety agencies, which every day encounter situations where lives are on the line and every second counts. So, how does one identify the A players in the public safety sector? It all starts with the Topgrading prescreen interview.