The other day I succeeded in putting a U.S. Army SAR Technician together with a state US&R asset in Tennessee. I supplied my girls’ swim instructor names of friends who have run the Chicago Marathon. Later in the evening, I was contacted by a friend who had another friend needing examples of state mutual aid agreements. Years ago, not only might I not have known the people to put these friends in touch with, but I might not have even known the people asking either.
While I created Firehouse Zen to educate others, my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Firefighter Nation accounts have become essentially my “research sources”. The more minds I can get exposure to, the more likely it is I am going to get an idea from somewhere, or be able to answer a question, or just generally help. While there are still a few skeptics, I know of many who find this new frontier exciting and intriguing. It is apparent that electronic media and social networks have really begun to find a place in the emergency service world, if used correctly.
Knowledge is most certainly power; your network is the essential element in communicating that knowledge. It used to be that you would have to attend dozens of conferences a year to connect with others, now I can do it from the desk in my office, or on a good day, on my porch with my toes in the pool. Day after day, social media is revolutionizing our industry. The more people you can connect with, the more likely you are to have an answer if called upon.
Although these applications were designed for socialization, many of us realize the utility of having access to names from all over the globe. These contacts are not only from within our ranks but from business, NGOs, military, and a host of other classifications we once didn’t have ready access to, people who may have faced similar challenges and can provide insight, or people who might at least know a source for further inquiry. While there are downsides, there are upsides we haven’t even begun to touch on yet. I continue to add pretty much anyone who asks to “friend” me, mostly because I’m not looking for exclusion, I’m looking for inclusion. I want anyone who wants to gain access to what I know to be able to, and likewise if they have something to share with me, to be able to do so easily.
So here’s to you, my Facebook buds, my LinkedIn compadres, and all of the rest of you out there who provide me a secure base of information, education, and friendship. And to those of you who aren’t yet, feel free to come by and friend me, because while today you might have something I need, hopefully someday there’ll be something I do to return the favor. Reach out and meet some people. Like they say at Disney, “It’s a small world after all”.