Category: Christy’s Corner

Rise Up

Rise Up

I keep reading about the Great Resignation and researching why there has been such a mass exodus from the workplace. Of course, I am particularly interested in the staffing crisis in the 9-1-1 call centers. I want to understand it better so we can develop some new strategies to recruit and retain amazing 9-1-1 telecommunicators. But this is not an article full of those answers. It is instead the sharing of information and some food for thought.

 

I recently learned about Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. and his service in both World War I and World War II. After serving in World War I he went into politics for a while and then returned to the business world and was the Chairman of the Board of American Express. He had made significant accomplishments by the time World War II broke out. In his 50s he could have stayed at home and maintained an easier life than the one he chose. He had a heart for service and felt he could contribute to the war efforts and after serving in the reserves, he returned to active duty. But he didn’t stop there, he wrote a letter begging for a part in the Allied invasion of Europe. He stated, “If you ask me, I will swim in with a 105 strapped on my back.” He stated that he knew officers and men in the units and believed that it would steady them to know that he was with them. His request was granted, and he was the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops and was the oldest man in the invasion at 56. While he didn’t have to swim in with a gun on his back, he landed at Utah Beach walking with a cane and carrying a pistol. He was calm in crisis and inspired his troops with humor and confidence, reciting poetry and telling stories of his father to steady the nerves of his men. As he stood on the front lines under enemy fire, soldiers stated they were inspired to move forward, for if a general could do it, so could they.

 

This story reminded me of something I heard following the Boston Marathon bombing. The presenter was telling his story and stated that everyone was running away from the scene. Everyone except for public safety professionals, who were running into the chaos. I have thought of that ever since. When everyone else is running to safety, the people in our industry run into the chaos. I have often wondered what those folks at the marathon were thinking. “I’ve got to get out of here. I need to get to safety.” And I imagine the public safety professionals were thinking, “I’ve got to get in there. I can contribute. I need to help”. . .

 

Recently one of my good friends retired after a very successful career of over 40 years in public safety communications. She left a legacy, had made a difference and left her mark. Not two years later, she left a happy retirement to become the executive director of a large 9-1-1 entity. When I asked her why she simply replied, “I realized I’m not done yet.” You see, during the Great Resignation when so many were leaving their jobs, Sherry Decker knew she could contribute and took up her calling – again.

 

I’m sure you see the pattern by now, people do whatever people are doing in society. And then there are a small percentage of great people who rise up and serve. Public safety professionals are those rising up and serving. You continued to do your jobs serving the public throughout the pandemic, you go to work on holidays and birthdays and you work the tough shifts. You work despite bad hours, low pay, and little recognition. You work because you love helping others.

 

I am so proud to work among all of these great people! You are all servant leaders, despite your job titles and you are all making a difference – every day. If you are in the industry and are considering getting out (unless it is for wellness reasons), I urge you to remember why you got into public safety to begin with. That memory is your mission, that is your calling. You are doing the good work and it is appreciated! They might not have told you, but there are people all over who have been helped or comforted in the worst moments of their lives through a 9-1-1 call. There are lives that have been saved and people who are thankful. You are saving lives and making a difference! You do not have to be part of the Great Resignation, you can be part of the Great Transition to Next Generation 9-1-1!

 

– Christy Williams, Director of 9-1-1

Reflections on 2021

Reflections on 2021

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!

Christy’s Corner: Innovation Is Not Just About Technology

Christy’s Corner: Innovation Is Not Just About Technology

Innovation is commonly defined as the creation, development, and implementation of a new method, idea, product, or service.  It is an idea that has been transformed into practical reality.  I would add that it is achieved with a positive outcome.  For me, innovation is revolutionizing 9-1-1 by enhancing the service we provide the public, improving safety for our field responders, and providing new tools for our telecommunicators.

There are officially four types of innovation and I believe 9-1-1 hovers between disruptive and radical innovation.  We have done things the same way in 9-1-1 for years and years.  Proven, reliable technology and 9-1-1 systems that were designed and built in 1968 still exists in most areas of our country today.  It was apparent several years ago that 9-1-1 needed disruptive innovation, which involves applying new technology and processes to our industry.  The changes being made today by early adopters in the 9-1-1 space could also be considered radical innovation as the changes have given birth to a whole new way of processing and delivering 9-1-1 requests for assistance.

It is my experience in 9-1-1 that when you talk about innovation, people immediately think of technology.  In fact, I have focused on technology in my educational and awareness activities for the past several years.

Technology can be used to implement innovation, but the technology itself doesn’t produce innovation.  In recent years the 9-1-1 industry has placed so much emphasis on technology that we sometimes lose sight of the reasons why humans create new technologies in the first place.  Certainly with 9-1-1, that reason is to help people, save lives, and make a difference.

While I continue to champion the new technologies in 9-1-1 that will solve problems, I also want to support the greater definition of innovation by focusing on the people.  I learned many years ago that we can implement the latest and greatest technologies in the PSAP, but if the telecommunicators don’t use the new technology or don’t use it properly, there has been no gain or positive outcome.  If the public doesn’t know how to contact 9-1-1, we have failed in our mission.   It is time for this industry to focus on the people side of innovation by engaging our users, getting buy-in, enhancing our hiring and training practices, focusing on wellness and mental health, and pouring into our employees so they understand how they fit into the big picture.  Let’s give them a sense of value and pride knowing they are part of something great.  And it doesn’t stop with our telecommunicators.  We need to educate our field responders, decision makers and yes, the general public.  It’s time to focus on the human side innovation and recognize:

Technology + People = Success

The Beginning

The Beginning

How can I possibly cover the last 30 years in a single blog post?  I have had the honor and pleasure of being a part of something great at NCT9-1-1 for the past 30 years. I got to start at the beginning (before 9-1-1) and have been amazed at the growth of this industry and the people. Speaking of beginnings, let me step back a bit. . .  

When I was in fifth grade, I did an assignment where I stated I wanted to be a nun when I grew up. Now this was particularly interesting because I was not Catholic. However, in reading the assignment as an adult I realized that what I really wanted to be was someone who helped others. Fast forwarding to college, I’m not sure how I planned to find a job to help others in the mass communications field (my major), but I knew I needed to understand people in order to communicate effectively, so I studied Psychology (my minor) as well. Then I got an internship at Tarrant County 9-1-1 (Fort Worth, Texas). I’m sure you have guessed by now that was all it took – I was hooked! That job not only gave me a passion for the industry and the experience to get my first “real job” at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, but it was also the beginning of building a purpose and developing my calling. 

I remember coming home after my interview to be the Public Education and Training Coordinator for this brand new 9-1-1 program. I told my boyfriend (now husband) I was unsure I wanted to take a newly created position in a new program where there was little direction for what they wanted me to do. He encouraged me that it was a dream opportunity to have the ability to develop my own job description, create a new program and stay in the industry that ignited passion and allowed me to help others. To think that I could have let fear, uncertainty, and doubt of the unknown keep me from my dream job still motivates me today. I was fortunate to have a support system and someone to encourage me to be brave and try something new. I have been trying to pay that forward ever since. I think it is why I am a champion for change and I have spent so many years encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and do something new that will improve 9-1-1 services in their area. Of course, each action of every individual will make our industry better and 9-1-1 services will be enhanced. But I hope that overcoming fear and doing something new will also inspire each individual to grow personally. Because it is the PEOPLE in our industry that make 9-1-1 great! 

30 years is a long time to work for an organization in this day and age. But it is not so long a tenure in the 9-1-1 industry. Have you been doing what you do for a long time? Are you feeling burned out? Does the new technology scare you a bit or does the bureaucracy frustrate you? You are not alone! There are many others feeling the same way. The 9-1-1 industry is filled with good people at all different stages of their careers (or calling) and that means you have a support system. There are others out there that have the energy and passion to support and encourage you at this very moment. Please reach out to others in our great industry when you need reassurance, ideas, or even a shoulder on which to cry. I consider it an honor to be faced with an opportunity to help someone in their time of need – so many of you have helped me in the last 30 years. If you answered yes to any of the questions above, please contact someone else in 9-1-1. Contact me. We are stronger together and there is plenty of good will in this industry. I am so blessed to have spent 30 years belonging – in a dream job, within an incredible industry that helps others, and working beside some of the most amazing people in the world!