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Hagen Embodies New Fire Service Professional

As the newly appointed deputy chief of operations of the Seattle Fire Department, Jay Hagen embodies the new fire service professional embracing the traditional first-responder role of the job with an eye towards the still-burgeoning duties of homeland security.

Hagen has worked his way through the ranks during his 23-year career while serving on varied committees related to emergency service. He is a 2006 alumnus of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security and was a CHDS Distinguished Fellow in 2006 where he worked for one year with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Grants and Training.

As an early graduate of CHDS, Hagen has witnessed and participated in the fire service’s foray into the homeland security intelligence enterprise. That effort is still a work in progress. As funding decreases interagency collaboration is crucial for fire departments to maintain their seat at the information-sharing table.

"I still feel we have a role in prevention although our primary role is response," Hagen observed. "It’s becoming more and more challenging to maintain a balanced focus as financial pressure increases. I have also come to appreciate the importance of interagency partnerships and networks. Two or three agencies can get things done when it appears impossible for a single agency to do it."

His new position affords him work in both worlds of the modern fire service. As deputy chief, Hagen is tasked with managing special educational projects for the department’s 25 battalion chiefs, managing the departments technical teams (such as hazardous materials), overseeing a post-incident reporting program designed to document lessons learned from events and disasters as well as overseeing the fire service’s role in special events.

The latter was illustrated just a couple of weeks into his stint with the city’s Independence Day celebration called Family 4th at Lake Union, which is one of about 300 special events hosted annually in the city.

He cited his CHDS experience as helping build the tools needed for the new job.

"CHDS really challenged me and forced me out of my comfort zone," Hagen said. "It forced me to use critical thinking skills. I am able to be able to triage my work and I am very grateful I was able to learn the importance of strategic planning."

In addition, Hagen works on two outside committees. Hagen was recently elected chair of the InterAgency Board, which comprises first-responders and policy makers from around the nation and is composed of representatives from the federal, tribal, territorial, state and local levels. The board’s mission is to strengthen the nation's ability to prepare for and respond safely and effectively to emergencies, disasters, and CBRNE incidents.

As a member of the Puget Sound Area Maritime Security Committee, which advises the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security on issues facing that area, Hagen chairs that committee’s Infrastructure Security Subcommittee. The subcommittee reviews grant applications and Hagen’s time as a fellow with FEMA provided a valuable glimpse into that process.

That experience will be advantageous as the department navigates shrinking budgets faced by most cities. A goal will be to sustain the capabilities the department has developed through grant funding, now that those moneys are less available.

"With shrinking public safety budgets ---- - we have to demonstrate value and worth at every turn," he noted. "FEMA was very helpful to be able to explain the grant process from where it originates at the state level on to the (FEMA) region and to the national level."