The SafeCities™ team is built from former first responders. When asked what would have helped them succeed and reach even greater achievements during their time on the front line, these were their answers.
I’d be more successful if….I could access the right resources
We can only be as impactful as the knowledge we have to make an impact. Additional training and learning opportunities expand our capabilities to serve the public as first responders.
Scholarships provide a great advantage, specifically because they come at no cost to the agency. The application process often requires some initiative on the part of the individual, but most of them are valid for one year and can be used for training and conferences. APCO, IACP, NENA, and other national or international organizations offer their own resource pages for those who are willing.
- International Association of Chiefs of Police University & College Police Section Annual Scholarship Fund
- IACP Foundation: Scholarship Awards for Professional Development
- APCO Silent Key and CAC Scholarship Programs
- NENA Gold Line Scholarships
Additional and advanced training
There are many free training opportunities, including the Denise Amberlee Foundation as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Additionally, NENA maintains a list of free training opportunities. There is so much knowledge beyond the basics, and access to that knowledge represents a greater opportunity for growth and to elevate the level of service to the community.
- Denise Amber Lee Foundation
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- NENA: The 9-1-1 Association
Career pathing and succession planning
Successful succession planning requires clear organizational goals and should include personal goals for the employees to make the biggest impact. As a department, initiate dialogue and facilitate a transparent evaluation process to assess where you are, and collectively decide where you want to go. This is a place to recognize team strengths and areas of opportunity, as well as advocate for yourself as an employee, to communicate your skills, interests, and desired career trajectory.
- Engage your manager. Build rapport so they become invested in your success. And it may be you have a manager who is not interested in that success, but it won’t happen without trying.
- A no today does not mean no forever. If there are obstacles between you and your denied request, ask your management team to help you understand them so you can bring solutions to the table, too.
I’d be more successful if….my agency leveraged specialized tools
The right tools built for public safety will always generate a big impact, supporting the agency as well as the employees who work there.
For example, our product Schedule Express is designed by first responders for first responders to reduce the risks, costs, and complexities of workforce management in your unique agency environment. We help you streamline operational workflows for improved productivity, saving time and labor lost on traditional scheduling methods. Many other products are built to do the same specifically for public safety environments, which represents a significant area of opportunity.
Additional software training
The small nuances of a focused tool built for public safety can make a big impact. If there is an upgrade or additional feature on a tool used in your agency, provide training or refresher training. Continue to prioritize education which is more comprehensive than a crash course. It’s a standard of professionalism that supports comfort and confidence in the tools and resources available to your agency.
I’d be more successful if….I had supplemental support
If your agency doesn’t have a formal mentorship program for employees, then on an individual basis you can identify someone you have a connection with, and would like to work with – whether it is a formal relationship or an informal one. While formal programs exist, they are less common rather than a norm. However, initiating these dialogues can push them to the forefront and support their development industry-wide.
Cultivating relationships with team members is paramount to your success, whether it’s for one call or the entire shift. We work independently but we work as a team, and so the team culture can make or break the success of the individual.
Facebook groups for frontline workers, blogs dedicated to public safety professionals like this one and others, or even an Employee Assistance Program can be great ways to remain connected in the ways that matter most to you outside of the agency. In addition to formal EAP, even informal agency actions can help. This may include debriefings after critical incidents as well as noncritical incidents that can have an agency-wide impact, keeping in mind everyone will have different responses to different situations.
I’d be more successful if….I acknowledged the boundaries between my personal and professional life
Stress management is paramount – you have to find a way to decompress. Recognizing your limit, especially in regard to mandated and voluntary overtime, is essential for our essential workers. Don’t just do it, communicate it: “I’m struggling. I need help. I need a break.” Then there’s always The Generic Stuff that we’ve all heard before, but it matters, even when it’s easy to overlook. Hobbies, interests, anything you are passionate about can bring much-needed balance. It may involve discovering a new passion, or you may find in exploring new interests that it’s the exploration you enjoy and not the hobby itself – there are no wrong answers when it comes to what brings you joy. More than anything, remain self-aware – changes in your own behavior can be difficult to acknowledge but the best indicators of when you need help.
Support from spouses and/or family and friends
For many, it can help to have your family and loved ones tour the agency so they can increase their understanding of what you do. For some, confidentiality can be a challenge, and it’s unfortunately not uncommon for loved ones to ask about potentially traumatizing experiences without proper considerations for how it can affect you. It’s important to have both professional boundaries and personal boundaries to establish respect for you as a first responder – teach people how to treat you.
Public safety is a career like no other. Those who live it are so committed to being the best resource they can for their community. In order to do that, it’s important to be equally committed to being a resource for yourself, and being unafraid and able to ask for the support you need. Allow yourself grace and patience, and remember it’s okay if your goals change as you do.