A NATURAL FIT
June 7, 2013
By Audrey Fraizer
The 2013 U.S. NAVIGATOR lived up to its billing as both a gathering and a place “Different by Nature.” Like migrating wildlife returning to the high-altitude spring grasses of home, attendees came in droves and seemed to take to the place where the seeds of the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) first rooted.
April 17–19 were three days of natural habitat for a record 1,329 attendees who had traveled from as far away as “the land down under the land down under”—Tasmania—to the most diverse selection of workshops, continuing education, and the widest array of emergency services vendors.
Conference-goers also got a taste of Utah’s famous outdoors indoors during “The Big Adventure” get-together the first night that featured requisites for any decent campsite—barbecue fare, live music, tents, lanterns, a campfire, real logs, bark chip trails, and foam animals including cougars and bears.
The faux-rustic environment countered conditions at the conference site itself—Salt Lake’s largest and only five-star hotel. For a collection of folks who work behind-the-scenes and sometimes in spaces not much larger than a sheriff’s office custodial closet, the flower-festooned granite and fat-carpet hallways of the Grand America became a source of comment as soon as attendees stepped beyond the granite-encased lobby and a bouquet of fresh flowers as big as a hot air balloon.
“Posh” is probably not ever a word used to describe the day-to-day work environment of most emergency dispatchers, but it was the description heard repeatedly the first day. Despite initial reactions such as, “These elevators are nicer than any hotel room I’ve ever stayed in” and “I feel like a Beverly Hillbilly, and it’s great,” attendees quickly found comfortable nesting sites for lunchtime chats and breaks between workshops. Those asked for departing thoughts said they felt an unusually strong sense of community this year. Some said they felt recharged and uplifted. A group from Long Island, N.Y., said the conference had been as inspirational as the purple mountain majesties of the Wasatch Front that lie directly to the east of downtown.
The largest number ever of NAVIGATOR attendees selected from pre-conference classes including the new and timely Active Assailant Workshop and fifteen tracks offered during NAVIGATOR, which included the arcane and always lively (read “sometimes heated”) exchange of ideas at the Q Forum Live workshop.
Inspiration and personal achievement in the workplace and at home were primary themes of the opening and closing ceremonies’ keynoters. Jim Shea, Jr., a 2002 Winter Olympics Gold Medalist in Men’s Skeleton—that’s the event where you slide down a mile-long bobsled run at 80 mph facedown on a sled the size of a cafeteria tray—kicked off the conference during the Opening Session.
Shea, who called skeleton “the moonshine of thrills,” said he achieved gold because he was never satisfied with good enough. “It’s that commitment that helped elevate me. Every time I went down the track I was never satisfied.”
Between songs and letting his facial features break ranks and jitterbug, closing keynote speaker Jason Hewlett, a singer-impersonator/comedian/motivational speaker, told the crowd that what they see as weakness might be their biggest strength. His mouth, which he showed he can open wide enough “for my dentist to use both hands” has gone from being an embarrassment in high school to his livelihood as an adult.
As Hewlett bid a rubber-faced farewell to the NAVIGATOR ’13 crowd, he urged them to each figure out their unique “signature move” and put it into practice at work and at home every day.
Training and Quality Assurance Manager Scott Emergency Communications Center, Iowa
For Becker, coming to NAVIGATOR 2013 was not only a chance to get up on stage with his fellow CCM graduates at the Closing Lunch on Friday but also an opportunity to not reinvent the wheel at his center. “We are just getting our QA program in place so we are getting information to make it easier—not go down a road someone else went down that didn’t work well for them.” Becker and two coworkers were on a mission to split up the classes to make sure they also absorbed information about their center’s recently implemented fire and police protocols and had the chance to network with others in attendance.
Keith and Kimmel of Aspen-Pitken County Communications Center, Colo., had both been to NAVIGATOR in years past and were looking forward to seeing familiar faces and soaking in information to use back home at their center. “It’s nice to see people again,” Keith said. Kimmel chimed in that “it’s just really great information to take back.” Keith said one conference can provide six months of continuing education at their center. She was particularly interested in attending the QA track sessions and special interest session PSAP Planning: Lessons Learned From an EF5 Tornado. Kimmel mentioned looking forward to Fifty Shades of “Q” because “that one really jumped out at me.”
Support Services Manager
With Dane County (Wis.) Public Safety Communications receiving tri-ACE recognition at NAVIGATOR it was no surprise Jennifer Foth, Timothy Ehlenfeldt, and Paul Logan were in Salt Lake City. All three were proud of their center’s tri-accreditation and looking forward to ACE recognition during the conference. For Foth and Ehlenfeldt it was their first time experiencing NAVIGATOR and they were planning to attend police sessions and network. Logan agreed the networking opportunities are one of the best parts of gathering at the conference. “To hear we have the same problems and concerns is pretty amazing,” Logan said. “That’s one of the huge benefits.”
EMD Instructor/QA Coordinator Metro/Nashville Emergency Communications Center, Tenn.
After attending more than 10 NAVIGATOR conferences, Perry continues to come year after year because to him NAVIGATOR, unlike other public safety industry conferences, is geared for the people who sit at the consoles in the dispatch center. “That’s what I like. Also, my favorite thing is seeing all of the people you’ve come to know over the years and get their views of what they are doing in their centers. Everybody has the same problems with different names.” Perry attends the quality assurance and medical tracks with a sprinkling of classes from the others offered. He planned to take the tour of the IAED/PDC headquarters just a few blocks from the Grand America. “I’m looking forward to seeing the new offices.”