One of the biggest issues in interoperability is ensuring that first responders can communicate with each other, that the equipment works and is compatible across agencies.
Similarly, the interactions among the people involved on a team or at an incident—from those who develop, operate and maintain the equipment to those who provide the behind-the-scenes support and those on the front lines—must also be collaborative, trusting and seamless.
The best way to ensure this outcome is to invest the time and effort in establishing quality relationships with and among all the players well before they converge on an emergency.
This month’s article on developing excellent relationships offers nine cutting-edge tips. Although some of these may seem counterintuitive, they've proven to be exceptional ways to build capacity and trust, two key elements to fire and rescue leaders’ ability to keep their communities safe every day and especially when disaster strikes.
1. To catch people’s attention quickly, appeal to their enlightened self-interest. That is, tell them up front how they'll benefit from engaging in a given relationship—what’s in it for them?
2. Make it a practice to view every interaction as a chance to learn something that can help you relate better to others rather than as an obstacle to be avoided.
3. Although there are many relationships or aspects about relationships you can't change, you always get to choose how you experience them. That is, you can choose to play the victim or you can make empowering choices.
4. Take the time to assess your mindset; address any internal issues first so you can be most effective in interacting with others.
5. Treat relationships as processes, not events or tasks. Nurture and maintain them so they thrive over time.
6. Maximize your effectiveness in helping others by making self-care your top priority. Don’t let your personnel and your community down by becoming part of the problem.
7. Enter into interactions or relationships with a sense of openness and possibility by presuming good intentions by others—and by demonstrating good intentions yourself.
8. Be willing to trust others first, without knowing if it will be reciprocated.
9. Don't assume the other person is damaged.