Historically Speaking

Historically, technology has been known to advance at rates that keep pace with the needs of consumers and businesses at the same time. If you look deeply at the last twenty years, the explosion of growth in internet access and mobile technology has totally changed how things used to get done. Back in the 80’s, I remember 13175576-largehaving a console television, three television channels, and no access to cable. As the needs of the consumer expanded, cable companies began moving into remote areas and in the mid 90’s, our area finally had access to all of the, hmmm, wonderful? programming that was available in the more urban settings. This is how things used to evolve. What drives the daily expansion of technology today?


In the 9-1-1 Industry, any time during the 1990’s was a time of innovation. The need to receive location data from the caller was important and before long, it became the norm. Next came cell phone technology and the need to track locations via the handset to provide services that meet the expectations of the user. Today, the technology is advancing so rapidly, most in the industry can’t keep track. The 9-1-1 industry is no longer setting the standard, it’s along for the ride. CAD companies, telephony developers, and mapping software designers are building the next generation of tech that will drive the future, at least for the time being. Included in this rapid advancement is the expectation of text to 9-1-1, but what else is creeping. Systems are being designed to receive video calls, image transfers, and who knows, direct emergency contact from social media may not be far behind.

I don’t oppose any advancements, but I do question who is deciding to set the expectations? Are we at a point where we need video to 9-1-1? Can we effectively train personnel to answer social media contact? Where will the industry draw a line and say we are effective and all expectations cannot be met, no matter how far the tech moves forward, mainly due to the involvement of human operators?

It’s time for the industry to take a breath, develop a strategic plan for the future, and go back to guiding the technology companies, not letting them guide us.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.


Google Glass and Public Safety, a Good Fit?

Interesting article about Google Glass and it’s possible use in Public Safety. Is it adding a layer of protection or causing interference with someone doing their job?

GoogleGlass_wiki (1)

I like to think it has potential as a tool, if used properly, to assist emergency workers on the way to, and on scene of an incident.


Click on the picture of the guy with the nifty Google Glass to read the article





Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Social Media for Public Safety Tip #3

How many hands can actually fit into one cookie jar?

I don’t know the answer to that question, though I do know that even one hand can break up all the cookies.

How many people can run your social media program for your public safety agency?


That may be easier to answer than the cookie jar, but it’s still not a perfect science. You have to start by asking how often you are going to interact with your followers and how quickly you want posts or comments responded to.

For some agencies, one person can handle all aspects of the social media program. With clear information that the page is not used for emergency communication and that the page isn’t monitored 24/7, one person working 40 hours per week can handle the content creation and page management for a small to mid size agency. The perfect scenario would be for this person to be involved in public information or media relations, that way they understand the limitations of content and the importance of a consistent message.

For larger agencies, or those who want to make sure they respond in an appropriate time frame, they may use several people to monitor and post. This creates the possibility of inconsistencies in information and even how followers are managed. If this is the case, it’s vital to have a clear social media plan that is updated on a regular basis defining who is responsible for creating content, engaging users, and identifying types of information that can be shared.

Too many administrators can kill the effectiveness of social media.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Social Media for Public Safety Tip #2

social-media-billboardPage management is always critical for those using social media for branding and marketing purposes, and it takes on the same type of urgency in public safety. While Public Safety Agencies aren’t selling a product or trying to increase followers, managing the page is important to the customer service aspect of our industry.

What do I mean by page management?

First, I am using “page” in an interchangeable format. Whatever platform you are using, you must manage not only the content that you are creating and/or sharing (see tip # 1) but you must make sure that the page is maintained so that conversations don’t get out of hand or become inappropriate.

1. Remove inappropriate or vulgar comments as soon as you see them and send a warning to the user. Keep a list of those who are using inappropriate or vulgar language and when they repeat, block them. It’s your reputation as an agency that is on the line, not the one user causing the problem.

2. Respond to complaints or questions in a timely manner. You may not be able to answer the question directly, but you can provide contact information for someone who can. If it is a complaint, never address it on your page other than to provide the contact information for someone that can help. Starting a Twitter or Facebook argument is not good for your agency.

3. Remember #2? Never, ever delete a complaint or negative comment about your agency unless it is being disruptive, causing arguments, or contains vulgar or inappropriate language. Simply deleting a complaint does nothing to solve a problem and if you provide the contact details, you have given them an avenue for resolving their issue.

4. Use your page to provide information, not to lobby for a political agenda or comment on social matters. As an agency, you are providing a service for all of your area, let the politicians and news media pontificate, while you enhance your image as an impartial agency with safety of the community in mind.

Manage your page well and your followers will appreciate it and your agency will be seen as a professional organization that knows how to act in public.

Upcoming Posts: Social Media for Public Safety Tip #3: How many hands should be in the cookie jar?

Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Social Media Tip #1 for Public Safety


Public Safety agencies use social media for many objectives, but one of the most pressing is the quick release of emergency information. Whether posting a tornado warning, evacuation orders, or a crime in progress, always ask your followers to share the post.

The goal is to get the important information to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time, so your followers will want to help.

Agencies should also consider sharing content created by sister agencies. Especially in a large scale incident, re-posting information from other agencies can help spread the word faster and show the public that agencies can work together for their safety. Sharing content from other agencies should never drown out your own message or priorities, but if done right, your agency will gain the trust of your followers and the public safety community in your area.

Last but not least, share content that is beneficial to your followers. You are not a business, so you are not marketing a product or even a service. You should focus your content on your agencies purpose and scope. If you are a Fire Department, sharing critical information such as fire safety tips and severe weather awareness tips would be great, but don’t get into the promotion game and post ads for fire alarm monitoring systems or weather radios, this could hurt your credibility very fast.

Sharing information is the point of social media, for public safety, it should be an extension of our primary goals of saving lives and protecting the property of the people that we serve, not something that doesn’t resemble your primary mission.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Are your expectations clear as mud?

In Public Safety Communications, training takes many forms; classroom, one on one, individual effort, etc. If you asked your front line employees, how would they rate the clarity of the expectations that you have set? expectations

F-Standard Operating Guidelines are in place but they haven’t been updated since the Clinton Administration. You can’t tell if that is the letter A or B due to the dust on the binder.

D-Guidelines are in place and partially updated, but never reviewed unless your communications center hits the news. No training is in place to review guidelines periodically.

C-Guidelines are reviewed, and discussed, but updates mainly include changes that are absolutely necessary without an overview of the entire process. Guidelines are handed out to be seen only in an “out of the norm” incident.

B-Guidelines are usable but other documents hold important information on call processes or dispatching procedures. Training is provided for guidelines if requested by the employee.

A-Guidelines are a living, breathing document, updated frequently, reviewed constantly, improved and clarified. All personnel are trained on guidelines as they are updated and allowed to question new procedures to adequately understand the information.

Does your agency need to define your expectations more clearly?


Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

perksNo, not the book, or even the recent movie adaptation………….though on a side note, you should really read the book and watch the movie, they are well worth your time, but have you considered how much a wallflower observes and absorbs in relation to those who are always engaged and active?

Ok, so I lied, lets talk about the award-winning book and critically acclaimed movie for a moment.

Charlie (though that is not his real name) is the voice of the story, the only viewpoint you see throughout. He is writing letters anonymously (hence not his real name) to an unknown person, giving updates and critiques of life as he knows it. Charlie has a group of friends that help him along his way, most notably Patrick (previously known as nobody) and Sam, the girl that he is head over heels in love with. Charlie is a quiet type, watching and wondering while the world is passing him by. He takes in every morsel and tries to analyze the meaning of it all. In the end of course he realizes that life is for living, but was his “wallflower” status really all that bad?

Flip the coin and jump into training. What do you do every day when you are training someone?

I know that I usually spend time trying to transfer information and skills through discussion and practice, but there is always a time when I step back and do nothing but observe. I observe how the trainee is using the resources available, how they are applying the skills that we have just covered, and how they are interacting with co-workers. I analyze what needs improvement and reinforcement and what expectations have been met. I compile all of that information; much like Charlie did in his letters; into a Daily Report and map out a direction for the next day, week, or month.

I am a Wallflower

I am also an opinionated, assertive, and confident worry wart, but it all starts and ends with the Wallflower part of me.

If I don’t watch, I don’t learn. If I don’t learn, I can’t help anyone else learn. If I can’t help anyone else learn, what am I doing here?

Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Michael Stevens answers “How much does a video weigh?”

imageseeMichael Stevens is framing interesting questions in order to draw attention to his educational videos, and it works. How can we use this in Public Safety to spark creativity and critical thinking skills?

Watch below and let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Social Media Context During Emergencies?

social-media-billboardOn April 29th, 2003, at 3:59 AM Central Time, I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing. Having started a new job in January, I was working third shift in a 9-1-1 Communications Center. I had stepped to the kitchen to find a snack, leaving my co-worker / trainer in the Communications Center alone. Having just sat down at the table, I was perplexed by the odd movement that I noticed in the ceiling tiles; they seemed to lift up slightly then settle back in place. Thinking that something unusual was happening, I walked back through the secure door to the Communications Center just in time. The 9-1-1 lines lit up with activity, so I quickly took my place and started processing calls.

All of the calls seemed to be the same; “someone is trying to break into my house”, “there is someone banging on my door” and so on. Per policy, we transferred the calls to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation, all the while trying to communicate with each other about what might have happened and one of us breaking off to make informational calls to see what was going. It was at least ten minutes before we were able to confirm that 54 miles away, a 4.6 magnitude earthquake had just occurred. Aftershocks of up to 2.0 magnitude were also measured.

Earthquake, in the south?

With good information in hand, our job became more akin to a public information officer, still processing the calls that sounded like break in’s but altering our initial questioning to determine if they could be feeling the effects of the earthquake. Within 1 1/2 hours, 2 people processed over 90 calls, all related to the earthquake. Things returned to normal by day break and we had handled every call with professionalism and concern, but had we had we known what was occurring earlier, the first 30 calls would have been handled more efficiently without tying up local law enforcement officers chasing “shadow burglars.”

Context is what we were missing, and as it turns out, it would have helped a lot.

The same can be said about the direction that Social Media has been taking in relation to active emergencies in the last few months. Context is key to forming a response and recovery plan, context is important in all aspects of emergency management, and while Public Safety Agencies are turning to Social Media to make public notifications, they are also scanning those same sites to help formulate their response. Whether they are gathering information relate to a crime or analyzing photographs posted to assess damage from a storm, social media is taking a front line role in response.

This is an open question and I am interested in your thoughts. How do we take the information from Social Media and place it into the correct context for the incident? Are  technologies available to integrate Social Media posts into a geospatial format that is immediately useful? How do we rate the importance of Social Media during an active emergency in order to apply the appropriate resources and man power to monitor? And what liability issues will agencies face if they “own” a Social Media site but it is not active during and emergency due to staffing issues?

I think these are important questions as the expectation for Social Media use in Public Safety is rising, maybe even faster than we are preparing for it.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog and any opinions, observations, or ideas are mine and not associated in any way with my employer, The Reedy Creek Improvement District.