I cannot believe another year has flown by! Today I dedicated some time to reflection on 2021. My reflections are not only about the many accomplishments at NCT9-1-1, but also a chance to remember some lessons learned and set some new goals for following our strategic plan in the coming year. The word for the year has been “courage,” and we have needed that! Courage is not the absence of fear but facing your fears and pressing onward. It is exhibiting strength and perseverance in hard times.
Courage was exhibited throughout the year as our organization transitioned from working from home to a hybrid office environment. I thought transitioning to home was tough, but there were far more people struggling with returning to the office and settling into a “new normal,” which includes time at home, in the office, training, presenting, and even travelling. Our team demonstrated courage as they implemented our first cloud-based solution (dispatch mapping) virtually. They overcame numerous obstacles and worked through interpersonal issues as we forged through isolation and a lack of face-to-face meetings. Our team recognized that good mental health is vital to our telecommunicators and re-branded our training to be centered on the wellness of our people. They are courageous enough to talk about the difficult subjects and are gathering resources to assist our telecommunicator family. While not easy or fast, they hosted hybrid telecommunicator academies with necessary safety precautions and persevered through several interruptions. The team worked for several months overcoming roadblocks from multiple avenues in order to become a FEMA-certified IPAWS Alerting Agency in order to inform the public of 9-1-1 service interruptions. They conducted a 3D mapping pilot with a local university. While most people were still identifying the problems with federal Z-axis requirements and telecommunicators receiving unactionable data,, this team showed courage by identifying and testing potential solutions. Facing frustration after over two years of trying to implement Real Time Text (RTT) in the region, this team of technologists and operations experts worked with vendors and wireless providers to continue down the path, making many modifications along the way. There were few people ahead of them on this journey, so the team had to walk into the unknown and step out of all comfort zones in order to send requests to each of the wireless carriers to implement the service. We look forward to seeing this courage pay off with a successful implementation next year and sharing the lessons learned with ECCs around the country so they can implement RTT as well.
While these are courageous actions and impressive accomplishments, I would like to highlight who this team is instead of just focusing on what they have done. NCT9-1-1 is made up of amazing people behind the scenes that have a passion for 9-1-1 and improving services for the people in our region. They are compassionate, always checking on co-workers living alone and opening up their homes for peers affected by a crushing winter storm. They responded to victims of Hurricane Ida by sending a TERT team and adopting some ECCs and sending care packages. The NCT9-1-1 staff worked with Tarrant County 9-1-1 to collect over 1600 items for those in need in our communities this holiday season and many of them volunteered at the local food bank. They turned the National Early Adopter Summit into a virtual event with less than a month to plan and execute, which meant extra work and pulling together as a team. This team lives a “family first” culture, and they support each other through hard times and struggles. I am so proud of the members of our team and want everyone to know what wonderful people work day in and day out to support the 9-1-1 system in our region. They are not only courageous but also have heart and consistently display good attitudes. They are servant leaders!
Speaking of good people . . . I have been a champion for positive change in 9-1-1 utilizing new technology. I still believe in the technology, but I am changing my focus to a people first approach. I urge you to join with me in asking: “What do our people need to successfully implement Next Generation 9-1-1?” I know the industry will need to enhance our training, modify our hiring and retention practices, provide more mental health resources, revise our Standard Operating Procedures, initiate more wellness programs, and educate the public. However, I suspect there will be much more. We need to hold focus groups and determine what the problems are with 9-1-1 from the viewpoint of the telecommunicator. We need their input and suggestions. We need to focus on the people first!
That brings me to the word for 2022. . . “connections.” I challenge you all to make new connections, building relationships and a network. I hope you will also deepen the connections you have today. Reach out to someone and see how they are doing and if there is anything you can do to help. Even if you cannot help them, you can listen to them and support them through difficult times. Appreciate others and recognize what they are doing for our industry or your organization. Collaborate on projects that could be done jointly or brainstorm on common problems. Share what you learn with others. Pass on the information you have been privileged to receive. Don’t make others re-create the wheel. Let’s all work together to solve our 9-1-1 problems. We are “9-1-1 Strong,” but we can be even stronger together. Join me in saving lives and making a difference! Happy New Year!