Scott Freitag

Scott Freitag

Presidents Message

By Scott Freitag

Anyone at NAVIGATOR surely noticed the purple lanyards worn by attendees from IAED Accredited Centers of Excellence (ACEs).

And if you did, I thank those of you who approached those wearing them to extend a handshake, knuckle bump, or high-five.

Academy Associate Director Carlynn Page said the lanyards provided visual acknowledgement to every agency that has been through the process—and not only those receiving onstage acknowledgement at this year's conference—and opened a door to non-ACE members interested in learning more about becoming an ACE.

The lanyard designed with the ACE logo also came in handy for providing quick introductions; the lanyard branded a potential mentor. People wearing the lanyard were available to offer advice about their ACE experiences, recommend contacts (mentors), or extend a congratulations. Anyone seeking information and advice about achieving ACE status can go to Page or Brian Dale, the Academy’s Accreditation Board chair.

As many of you know, ACE signifies a top position in emergency dispatch communications. Accreditation requires documenting completion of the “Twenty Points” maintained by the Academy’s Accreditation Board and upholding those same standards for the three-year period before the reaccreditation deadline rolls around.

No one has ever said the process is without challenges. Some might describe the ACE achievement as similar to steps taken one at a time to reach a mountain’s summit—you might be breathless from the climb but once there, the view is worth every step.

The Salt Lake City 911 Communications Bureau is tri-accredited (accredited in the fire, police, and medical protocol systems), and that results in answering lots of “how-to” questions from other agencies interested in single, double, or triple accreditation. While each agency is unique, here are my recommendations.

1.Calculate your readiness to begin the process Self-assessment will provide you with a simple overview of how you currently fare against the Twenty Points of Accreditation.

2.Find a mentor The accreditation standards are detailed, and the learning curve can be rather steep. Recruit an organization or individual willing to review their process and critique elements of your documentation. You can ask about the ideal composition of the in-house ACE committee and tips for motivating dispatchers to keep the momentum going.

3.Attend the Academy’s ACE Workshop (always a pre-conference session at NAVIGATOR) The generally four-hour session, held pre-conference, reviews the Twenty Points and provides tips for making it through the list without becoming overwhelmed.

4.Elicit staff buy in from the start and enlist their assistance No one can do this alone and without staff support; I was grateful to have the people willing to run with the project. Laurie Wilson-Bell, who was at NAVIGATOR, held the reins of accreditation for us at Salt Lake City. It’s a process we repeated after a consolidation that brought police/fire/medical dispatch into the same room. Our newer staff had minimal exposure to ACE except, perhaps, what they had heard from others. We had to bridge their perceptions of communications to the logic for accreditation. We needed to provide relevance and meaning to the new information, motivating them to buy in to the ACE perspective.

5.Be ready to make tough decisions We didn’t put a choice on the table. ACE confirmed our dedication to using critically evaluated, high-quality processes, and those unwilling to recognize the benefit did not fit into our vision.

6.Track progress Documenting accomplishments motivates everyone involved and you can make it simple by creating spreadsheets and forms that require minimal effort to fill in once the activity is completed.

7.GET INTO IT The accreditation process improves nearly every aspect of your comm. center. When staff members are better trained, they begin to get used to the idea of following specific processes, quality of care improves, processes improve, and the public notices. Centers willing to make the most of the process will reap the benefits far into the future.

The lanyards at NAVIGATOR celebrated the vision Dr. Jeff Clawson, IAED co-founder, had many years ago in the advancement of emergency communications. If you had the chance to give a pat on the back or a handshake, thank you. If you are from an ACE, and the recipient of a high-five, thanks for helping to spread the word.