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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends, and Transitions

Coming out to Baltimore, MD, this weekend was a bittersweet occasion for me.  I had plans to come out with a team of paramedics and EMT's from our Department to compete in the JEMS Games.  Unfortunately, the plans for the team to compete could not come to fruition at the last minute.  Compounding the situation was the fact that I had already bought my plane tickets for EMS Today and something sad had been weighing on my mind since Monday, earlier this week.  The thought of just staying home crossed my mind.  However, I am glad that I came out because I got to see an old friend with whom I used to work with back in San Francisco.  It was always a joy to come to work and see him because he had such a positive attitude and was an uplifting person who was very supportive of our mission working as paramedics in San Francisco.

It was also energizing to  meet a group of young men and women that I think are on the cusp of, if not having already moved the future of EMS ahead many leaps and bounds through the power of social media.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts like the EMS Garage, and the whole medium is a very powerful tool in the hands of these young professionals.   I remember reading nationally syndicated EMS authors and columnists and they would pontificate about one issue or another.  While back in our home jurisdictions, we would have had the same discussion and conversation and either suffered under the dilemma or found our homegrown solution to the problem.  Many of the finest young minds in my EMS generation could never get heard because they weren't in the right geopolitical location or in the right EMS club to find a national publication or conference circuit to share their gifts.

Well,  JEMS, EMS Magazine, Rescue 911 and everyone else in the comfortable national EMS Scene, prepare to be rocked with force of a revolution that rivals that in the descendants of the Persian Empire.  These young minds are out and growing and from the looks of the growth or non growth of JEMS Connect, EMS United,, and others, I don't think the people are going to be satisfied with just hearing from someone just because they have written a textbook, speak regularly at a national conference, or have a lot of alphabet soup initials behind their names.  Quiet and unassuming professionals like a firefighter paramedic from San Francisco and a paramedic from the United Kingdom helped with the creative genius of a paramedic/filmmaker in the private ambulance sector have set EMS Communications on a national and international arena on its ears.

Getting to meet all these new and bright minds with cool names after their @ symbols was heartwarming for me because I have seen the future of my profession and the future is bright.  They are not tolerant of chicanery, flattery, or cow chips when they blog and write, they have a message to share and they tend to tell the truth in a plain, unvarnished manner and format.  Many of them have insights into the problems of our profession that rival those of the alphabet soup professionals who have gotten nice initials like EFO, PhD, CMOD, CFOD, JD, MEd, MA, MS, MPA, MBA, M (whatever).  It might happen one day that we won't need to buy EMS management textbooks any more, just type a question in to the EMS Cloud Computing network and someone will have an answer for you.  I'm daft you say?  Well, maybe, but who would have thought that a small internet event  list started by San Franciscan, Craig Newmark in 1995 would have decimated the viability of brick and mortar print media by killing classified ad revenue.  I for one am going to pay attention to the new clarion call.

The reason for my bittersweet reaction this week was the juxtaposition of meeting all these new friends and trying to cope with the loss of a good friend.  My friend, Jack Grogan, whom I respected greatly, died last Sunday night of a cardiac arrest coming home to his family in San Jose, CA.  He arrested at the airport and was the recipient of the highest level of pre-hospital care.  Bystander CPR, AED readily in place, rapid arrival of ALS.  In my mind, he should not have gone, San Jose did everything right and yet he was not able to be resuscitated.  What makes it so ironic is the fact that Jack had a Sudden Cardiac Arrest many years ago on an airplane and was successfully revived.  Jack was a passionate and tireless volunteer for the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association as a co-Founder and member of their Board of Directors.  Jack worked hard with the San Jose Fire Department to get San Jose recognized as a Heart Safe City.  He came out to San Francisco last year in August of 2009 to help the San Francisco Fire Department and SFGH Base Hospital with a symposium for the paramedics and EMS community to learn about best practices in cardiac arrest management and improving survival in the field and in the hospital.  Jack and his wife Anita brought out many survivors to share their experiences with the many paramedics and nurses attending the symposium.

I could go on for many pages of the accomplished life that Jack led but please take the time to read his obituary here:  John "Jack" Grogan's Obituary in the San Jose Mercury News

As much as Jack was a hero for dedicating his life to the service of others, I have a plea for my new friends that I met his weekend to dedicate their lives with a new mission in his memory.  Please use your power to share Jack's story far and wide.  Share the mission that Jack was passionate about to make all our communities the best that they can be in improving cardiac arrest survival.  Thank you for reading. 


Monday, March 1, 2010

The responsibility of a blogger and the accountablility of social media users.

The social media community is very concerned about a situation in South Carolina where a firefighter paramedic was terminated from his employment by the Chief of his department for a posting to his social media site.  Many people have filled the blogosphere with comments expressing outrage over his termination and disagreeing with the actions taken by the Chief of the local county fire department in South Carolina.  One of my colleagues whom I respect very much and is partially responsible for me to even begin to write in this environment has weighed in with his opinion here:

The Happy Medic - Letters in the files are flying today

I am going to stick my head over the parapet or my neck out and state that I do not agree with Happy Medic but not for reasons of just standing by another Chief.  I believe that while all citizens of our United States of America have the inalienable right of free speech, that right does not bring with it absolution from consequences of our speech.  Then the next question is whether or not the punishment fits the crime or is the disciplinary action excessive compared to the severity of the violation.  It is in that question that I believe that one needs to go to the community where the offense occurred and to the organization where the offense was recognized, investigated and acted upon.

Colleton County Fire - Rescue

When I went to the site, I read that this is a rural/suburban ISO Rating Class 4 county fire department that has responsibilities to provide fire suppression and EMS to 1054 square miles with 68 paid cross-trained personnel and 250 volunteer members in the South Carolina Lowcountry; and was created in 1994 by aggregating many of the local fire districts or departments.  The Chief appears to be family oriented from my assessment due to his recognition of three occasions in February 2010 where there were births to members of his department.  The Chief or the department also trusts in God.  I also saw that the Chief and the Department supports a Fire Explorer Post (#661) that follows the strict guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America.

I looked into whether or not South Carolina was a "Right to Work" state and it appears that it is by virtue of legislation and not due to incorporation into the South Carolina State Constitution.  I then looked at a local news feature that had links to all the documents that were made available to the public at this site: story by Hatzel Vela

Maybe by now, some of you are getting what I am trying to say.  Many departments have different standards for what is considered to be "conduct unbecoming" or "unacceptable behavior".  There is a great deal of variability from agency to agency and region of the country to region of the country.  A California sheriff's department has terminated deputies in the past for calling in sick when they were not sick.  I don't believe that a member of my department would be fired for such a transgression but the Sheriff of that department made a business case reason for his policy and created a nexus to the professional standards of his administration and the need to maintain the public's trust in his peace officers and their truthfullness and veracity.  I heard him defend his policy once by stating that if a deputy was willing to lie about their status to get a day off, where would the officer draw the line about lying in regards to evidence found on a criminal suspect or the elements of a crime that he or she was describing.  In this day of public distrust of law enforcement, and challenges to the objectivity of police officers such as Brady and Pritchess motions, the mere perception of untruthfulness of a police officer can damage a law enforcement career.

I understand the concern that the other EMS bloggers have about this case involving the firefighter from South Carolina.  It even gave me pause to think about whether or not I should continue or to just pack it in.  I came to the realization that this individual's lack of understanding of the political landscape of his own department and community may have done him in.  The power of media is great, everyone has heard of the adage, "Never argue with a man that buys ink by the barrel."  And there is another, "God created all men and Samuel Colt made them all equal."  I look at the power of social media on the internet in an analogous manner with Samuel Colt's .45 Peacemaker.  What used to be the purview and domain of newspapers and traditional brick and mortar media, is now the capability of everyone with an ISP account or access to the internet.

Instead of arguing about the merits of the individual's termination or not; that is a matter for his legal representation and the employer/employee relationship between the respective parties.   I think it is more important to recognize this as a reminder that all our comments in the open forums require us to be cognizant of what we post and how we post.  Yes, many of our profession may have felt the feelings expressed by the firefighter paramedic from South Carolina but would a member of the public feel the same way?   Would a member of that community in South Carolina feel the same way that I do when I smile and think to myself, I have been there?

I can tell you that I will continue to post but I am now reminded of my responsibility to my profession, my department, and my colleagues and I will hold myself accountable for that.