A while back I brought up some discussion about this idea which has evolved into the Emergency Service Information eXchange (E-SIX). I was originally thinking of something along the lines of TED for the fire service. But as I spoke with many of you, there were a lot of important opinions on where it should all go and I realized that maybe that wasn't quite the type of venue I wanted. I knew what it was I envisioned, but I was struggling with the way we could get a bunch of people together to have round-table type discussions where we could white-board ideas, or just throw out random stuff and see if any ideas came out of it. Of course, along came my colleague, Chief Pete Lamb, who had an idea that we have run with and in the process, gained some new friendships as well.
I have been very fortunate in my life, but even more so in my network among the fire and emergency services. Having literally grown up in and around a firehouse, having a father, grandfather, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. in the fire service and EMS, then working with chiefs who were connected and forward-thinking in my career, I have been exposed to the best in the business.
Some of the best moments I have had on this job have been sitting around a table after conferences or meetings, having a beer, and rubbing elbows with people I personally admire, like Alan Brunacini, Greg Noll, and Carl Goodson, to name a few (and that is very few). It's not that I was anyone special. I'm a firefighter, just like the rest of you. But I had opportunities that maybe not all of you have. I have connections through my family, or I happened to work at a department forward-thinking enough to bring in a lot of experts, or I participated in committees or work groups not everyone has access to.
In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell suggests increased access to opportunity is directly associated with the likelihood of success. Bill Gates just happened to go to a high school where they had gotten a computer with access to a mainframe and he was able to program to his heart's content. The Beatles happened to be working in Liverpool at the same time an agent was seeking talent for bars in Berlin and they ended up with opportunities to practice together a lot, honing their skills and developing their talents. You can go far on a certain amount of talent, but it is access to opportunity that will make the difference.
That all being said, emergency services are at an interesting point of change right now. Technology is evolving daily. Expectations change according to what is considered today's best practices. We can feel the pressure to move forward and can't seem to grip the ever-moving end point. There are a lot of ideas out there and you may very well have that idea. But if you aren’t provided an opportunity to bring that idea forward, or even part of an idea (maybe you have an idea but can't see how to implement it), how will we ever discover that idea?
Pete, who has become a great friend by way of this wonderful place we call the World Wide Web, a while back created a Google Hangout and invited me to join in. A light bulb went off. Here was a free way to put anyone who wanted to contribute into a room (in this case, virtual room) and to talk about issues. There is the ability to have a presentation, to use a whiteboard, to share approaches. This was what I think we were all looking for.
I have no plans of retiring anytime soon, but I have spent a long time on this job and I have brought some really good stuff to the table. I know of others who are in the same position. I know people who are educators, leaders, and people who have dreams about this business and what it could be. So why can't we all get into a place where we can talk and move our ideas on the future out there where they can be seen, and possibly even acted upon.
We are doing this every Sunday night at 2000 hours, but of course, with the holidays upon us, there will be a few weeks where we will be taking some time off. However, after the first of the year, I'd really like to push you all in this direction, if anything, to help spread the word using ideas you have used or seen, or making observations on the current state of our industry, or even just listening and learning. But in the meanwhile, share this idea with others and see if they are interested. Start banging the drum and if you are interested, or know someone who is, point them in this direction. Let's use the power of the Internet for what we dreamed it could be: a means to improve us all and to find better ways to serve. Feel free to comment here or on the Firehouse Zen Facebook page or on Twitter. Let's keep moving forward!