TAKING THE CHALLENGE
July 17, 2012
By Journal Staff
Scott Freitag is every bit the quick-witted, entertaining, debonair, and absolutely dazzling ladies’ man he claims to be.
Or, at least, that’s the challenge the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED) president must live up to following his opening presentation at Navigator 2012.
“Someone had to give my introduction,” Freitag said to the nearly 1,200 people staring at him from the other side of the podium. “I decided why not me? Who knows me any better?”
While his opening comments might have fooled a few—after all he wasn’t going to let anyone else do the introductions—Freitag did underscore the word “challenge” in relation to the choices he’s made during his career and the choices that determined the path of emergency communications.
“What does challenge mean to you?” he asked. “Many have taken the ultimate challenge in becoming an ACE [Accredited Center of Excellence]. Others are working toward that goal. We all have our own challenges in maintaining the sharp edge required for this profession.”
“Take the Challenge” was the theme behind this year’s Navigator conference, held April 18–20 at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore, Md. From a record number of pre-conference attendees (282), educational tracks (15), individual sessions (91), and formal conference attendees (1,247) from all over the globe (13 countries), the fourth decade of emergency dispatch appears ready to scale future challenges brought on by technology and inevitable chieftains of change. Challenge will stay the constant.
But, how do you define challenge?
NAED Co-founder Jeff Clawson, M.D., finds challenge in maintaining and continuing the high levels of practicing emergency dispatch.
“We have a unified set of protocols, widespread throughout the world and, in many places, institutionalized,” Dr. Clawson said amid a brief Q&A during Freitag’s opening presentation. “The protocols are a self-sustaining, perpetual motion system and, to me, our greatest challenge is maintaining a process that can be refined and, at the same time, continue to succeed. We have to dedicate ourselves to maintaining that interest and passion.”
Dedication in itself is a challenge. How do agencies decide the focus—where do they invest the time, talents, and funding? The list only grows from the demands of new technology, limited budgets, center consolidation, and baby boomer concerns over an upcoming generation that might view the workplace differently.
There are also the challenges of functioning as an international Academy. The International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) has to take into consideration cultural and language differences, geographical distances, cultural dictates, government, and the response system configuration. Part of the distance solution has been solved through the addition of five Navigator conferences outside of the United States.
“That’s what Navigator is all about,” Conference Coordinator Claire Colborn said. “Immediately after one conference ends, we’re onto planning the next, looking at issues that will impact the next year’s sessions and choosing the speakers who can best deliver the information.”
New education tracks—Next Generation 9-1-1, Human Resources, and Motivation—joined existing ones that included topics in leadership, management, quality assurance, and what to do about the stress the profession tends to produce. The 46 exhibitor booths highlighted the latest and greatest technology—including ProQA Paramount—and the softer side of emergency communications—such as education and public awareness.
Entertainment included an Opening Gala, a Rock Star Lounge sponsored by TriTech, the 11th Annual Navigator Golf Tournament, and off-site tours of the SYSCOM Helicopter Comm Center.
The 29 graduates of the 2011 class of the Communications Center Manager (CCM) course received certificates, and Monica Million was presented the first annual David E. Connolly Leadership Award. Accreditation Chairman Brian Dale announced 48 re-accreditations and 15 first-time ACE accreditations; with the addition of Johnston County E-9-1-1 Communications and Prince George’s County Public Safety Communications Center, there are five centers in the world with triple accreditation.
EnRoute sponsored the Dispatcher of the Year Award and the Closing Luncheon featuring the presentation of the Dr. Jeff Clawson Leadership Award. You could hear a fork drop it was so quiet when Staff Sgt. Matthew Eversmann described the 1993 United Nations peacekeeping mission featured in the film Black Hawk Down.
“Taking the challenge often demands that first leap of faith,” Freitag said. “Look at all of you. Dispatch is a profession because you took the challenge and led the way for the rest of the world.”
Navigator 2013 does bring the challenge back to Freitag. Although a quick wit at opening presentations, his challenge lies in rolling out the red carpet for attendees of next year’s conference in Salt Lake City. Not only is the city constructing a new Public Safety Building to house administrative offices, central dispatch, and a disaster/emergency operations center, but Freitag is pushing his department to become the sixth tri-accredited ACE in the world.
“We’re going through the same experiences and challenges as everyone here,” he said. “And everyone is going to smile and be happy when we’re done.”
Navigator 2013 will be held April 17–19 in downtown Salt Lake City. The call for presentations is already open.