I have written in the past that we should be purple people. When you take the blue from law enforcement, add the red of fire service and mix the green from EMS, you get purple. Don’t forget our corrections colleagues gray and yellow from emergency management. All of the purple people should be playing nice together in the same sand box. Most of the times we do play nice, however there are some of those days that it needs to stop.
Starts at the Top
All of the chiefs are rivals for their respective budget. Budget hearings between emergency services can be adversarial. At the same time, we all clamor for public support. Everyone wants to be loved and overly funded. However, we are our own worst enemies at times. I will couch this comment; the chiefs and command staffs are the ones that do not play well with others. Most of the time the men and women in the streets getting it done have little or no issues. This clash of management with off-color remarks can jeopardize our relationships. What is done in the hearings will spill into the streets. Although, our relationships should be strong often times they are fragile. Too many chiefs fighting over a bigger slice of the budget pie will create needless drama and ire.
I can understand the camaraderie of the different emergency services and disciplines. It is much like our brothers and sisters in the military and the rivalry that goes between the various services. Which service is the best and crack jokes about the other one. Now, I get it that we must instill pride in our staff and support our vocation. Our academies drill it into a recruit’s DNA. We do need to couch our outward conversations that could hamper at working relationships. All of this is occurring on a blue-sky day. Again, it is the administrations who are warring with the others. These conversations will at times come down from headquarters and get to the officers in the streets. Idle words could fray working relationships.
Bad Day Business
However, we are the ones who respond to the bad dark stormy days. Emergencies are not the place for lines to be drawn in the sand. What happens when relationships become frazzled because of frat house style humor - can equate to a bad service delivery. Our customer base on their worst day in their life does not care what color or type of vehicle you stepped out of. Most pay little attention to what kind of uniform that you have on. All they want at this particular time is for their life to get back to normal. Emergency services has built up a trust with its citizens and businesses. We are the ones that a mother will hand their child to a total stranger in uniform for help. No other group can say this, a distraught mother will not hand over this child to anyone but purple people. We earned the trust, do not lose it. When it is all said and done, we must be a unified team. This is our public that we are going to serve. Do not allow a rivalry, even though it might have been a totally frivolous statement to stand in the way of service. Currently, we are training and responding with an integrated response to active shooter events. Police, fire and EMS are responding as a team. We need to stay a team for the ultimate bad day.
Often times, I have community organizations and houses of worship ask- how we can get to know you? My standard answer is to host an emergency services cook-out or informal gathering. Have your employees/parishioners host the police, fire and EMS members to a meeting, food is the key. This way the primary first responders will be the ones attending. Several things will occur, of course the community outreach – kids get to see the vehicles and interact with first responders. The first responders get a tour of the building and grounds. It is called ‘preplanning’! We are always the visiting team, now if there was an active shooter in a house of worship, the first responders will have familiarity with the complex. We are no longer the visiting team and know the lay of the land. The employees/parishioners have the opportunity to meet their first responders. Chiefs do not matter here, for the first ones to the incident are the important ones for them to know.
Emergency services should exhibit to its customer base that we are united and have are working collectively to help them on their worst days. Meet the team on a blue sky day and hope they never have to return on a dark sky day.