Finding solutions to performance challenges starts with the recognition and definition of the problem. For Center of Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) Emergence 1702 alumnus, Firefighter Cody Lockwood of the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Service (DC Fire and EMS) Department, recognition of gaps in training for frontline firefighters began with an introspective look at his own experiences. Following the first, one-week in-residence session of Emergence 1702 in October 2017, Lockwood’s Emergence project began to take shape.
His project focused on improving the training from Fusion Centers for firefighter response during terrorist attacks, active-shooter scenarios, or any of the non-traditional, high-risk environments presenting challenges to firefighters nationwide. Lockwood noted “the prior training provided by the Fusion Centers was outstanding. However, it did not capture all of the frontline firefighters…maybe it was my day off…maybe I missed the past few sessions due to bad timing…but every firefighter needs to know this information.” His solution created a Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) for each of the 34 DC Fire and EMS houses. The TLO position would be selected from those firefighters within each house volunteering to serve as that station’s primary conduit of information and training stemming from the Fusion Centers.
Lockwood’s approach called for a train the trainer approach to solving the on-going challenge. His vision focused on bringing the most capable subject matter experts from within and external to DC Fire and EMS to provide the best possible training to the cadre of TLOs. Thus, the construct of the envisioned TLO program provided the means for standardized training and an effective conduit for information sharing. Lockwood leveraged existing programs in other departments commenting, “this TLO program mirrors other programs such as those in Los Angeles, however, I molded it to fit with DC Fire and EMS.” However, implementing a department-wide program originating from a firefighter with less than four years of service with DC Fire and EMS is a hurdle for even the most progressive and communicative organization.
Overcoming such difficulties within an organizational change initiative is at the core of the Emergence program. For each agency sending a student to Emergence, there is a standing requirement for the leadership to provide the student an opportunity to present their project for review. Following the first in-residence session and before returning in March 2018 for the second session, Lockwood seized upon this program requirement to deliver his training plan. “It was a bit nerve-racking…originally it was just going to be the Fire Chief (Chief Gregory Dean – CHDS Executive Leaders Program 0701) and the Deputy Chief of Special Operations (Deputy Chief John Donnelly CHDS Master’s Program 0601/02 – currently the Assistant Fire Chief for Professional Development) in attendance, but I walked into the meeting and it was the entire executive staff of the fire department.” According to Lockwood, by the end of the presentation, the main question from all of the assistant chiefs was “why aren’t we doing this already.”
The presence of CHDS alumni within the department, specifically Assistant Chief Donnelly, who served as Lockwood’s mentor throughout the Emergence program, played a critical role in the development and presentation of the TLO concept. With such mentorship, Lockwood pursued a collaborative approach in implementing his initiative. “I was able to design the training with the support of the chiefs and Special Operations…additionally, I worked closely with the Fusion Centers as improved dissemination of information and training was something they [Fusion Centers] wanted as well as they recognize self-paced training and quizzes are not always the best ways to learn.” In addition, the TLO approach to training brought new opportunities.
The train the trainers approach centralized the education to a single facility. In doing so, Lockwood stated, “this forum allowed us to bring in the true experts from the FBI and other agencies to talk about explosive devices or other potential threats and scenarios that we might face in the future…by bringing the TLOs to them [subject matter experts], we provided a cost-effective solution to improving department-wide training.” For the Fusion Centers, the TLO program provides a more personal and effective conduit for disseminating time-sensitive information and training to each house within the department. This vital link between intelligence and operations delivers unique opportunities for maximizing readiness across the DC Fire and EMS Department.
As stated by Lockwood, “we want to be the best … we should be the best at responding to any terrorism incident in the city and this approach helps ensure the latest in tactics and lessons learned make it to all of the frontline fire fighters.”