Will the Real `expert` Please Stand Up!

Disclaimer – The following blog may offend some persons…it shakes the tree that needs shaking.

Holy forking shirt piles – enough now!

 Will the real `expert` please stand up.

`Emergency Management Expert` ‘Emergency Response Expert’ The word `expert` gets thrown around way too much these days.

Responders are now `managing` experts; Workplace and Mining occupations are now experts in both emergency managing and responding, as are all of the ex-forces regardless of their previous uniformed job. I say this with the utmost respect for these people and these occupations as in their particular spaces, they deserve lots and lots of credit and regard.

Im in the business of emergency management and emergency response it’s my bread and butter… daily, I either read about self-proclaimed experts, authorities and whizzes on our space or I have to deal with them. Each advising where I need to reset my knowns to theirs.

In a business that requires  laser-like focus, along with exceptional qualifications and experiences Im flabbergasted on how many other occupations truly believe they’ve got this.                                                                                                                         No matter their back ground or qualifications or not, it seems emergency management and response is somehow encapsulated; somehow these two very specific and exclusive spaces are part-the-parcel to all other occupations and all other qualifications.

Emergency management and emergency response in themselves are linked and yes dove tail, but being an `expert` at one doesn’t imply or suggest you are at both.

“Emergency management is the organization and management of the resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies (preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery). The aim is to reduce the harmful effects of all hazards, including disasters”

Emergency response is an obvious one.. “Emergency responders typically include paramedics, emergency medical technicians, police officers, firefighters, rescuers, and other trained members of organisations connected with this type of work.” 

This facet involves the `hands-on`- the applied aspects of emergencies (preparedness, response, mitigation, and recovery).

These guys are the skilled craftsman to all the planning’s application.

Capable and proficient responding is a daily commitment, a duty, a hard learnt skillset; it’s all about the preparation in underpinning knowledge (the why) and the underpinning skills (the how) its preparing professionally and physically. It is not just about qualification and a certificate, these do not guarantee expertise and certainly not proficiency.

“You can never overdo it when it comes to emergency preparation, not in a job that can take your life.”

Doth One Maketh the Other?                  

My experiences have shown that donning a breathing apparatus and running fire hose efficiently and effectively doesn’t set you for emergency management nor so as a trainer;  you need to study hard, learn and listen and hang with the real operators.  Effective and applied experiences enables a transition beyond qualification and academic into `proficiency`.

Don’t dumb down emergency management by thinking any old responder can do it; Then again don’t dumb down emergency response by thinking any old manager knows it.

Experts Never Stop Pursuing Expertise

What does “expert” even mean? ex·pert: a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area

That writer’s an expert, and so is that Mine Manager. That firefighter is an expert. That one LinkedIn member will teach you HOW to be an expert with a 7-step program.

Try the company who can train you in all things response in 80 days less than most fire departments recruit courses; or why study at all, just apply for recognition of prior learning where you can provide real or fabricate evidence to get your qualification? One company gave away an Associate Degree in a 8 day course – Im obviously slow on the uptake it took me 18 months.

Most of my studies as in other peoples required me to work through Work Health and Safety and Environment aspects, although giving me a wonderful understanding it certainly doesn’t prepare me for a WH&S (HS&E) Mine Manager; the position understandably requires me to have full WH&S qualifications. My Emergency Management and Response qualifications most certainly delve into this space, but not to the degree required for a senior WH&S position let alone high manager.

Are they fake or do they truly believe themselves an `expert`? Just like the rest of us, be wise enough to know that you don’t know everything – take advise from those that live the subjects, that have grown with the true qualifications. Be wise enough to listen rather speak.

Reclaim the Space

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
― Stephen R. Covey, author `The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People`

Everyone’s talking but no-one’s listening: it’s time to reclaim the true art of emergency management and emergency response.

Saying less and hearing more about emergency management and response has huge benefits that most people miss.

In these two spaces don’t be fooled into thinking that being heard is more important than hearing.                                              The first rule in emergency management/response is to seek understanding of standards before seeking to be understood around your behaviours.

I’ve worked with some of the most noted emergency management leaders of our time, and to the person, they never miss an opportunity to listen. In fact, when I was part of one of Australia’s biggest more recent disasters, our incident  emergency management OIC aggressively sought out new and better ways to listen, despite his position and highly rated experiences.

When you reach that point in your career where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand that knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but more so by removing your `motive`, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled emergency operator.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Can it be that knowing the truth, seeing the truth and still believing your own opinion or behaviours is the problem?

A fact is a statement that can be proven true or false, ie legislation, law, standards. An opinion is an expression of a person’s feelings, this cannot be proven, just like bad behaviours; some opinions can be based on facts or emotions and sometimes they are meant to deliberately mislead others.

Facts and opinions are often uttered in the same breath; while a fact refers to something true or real, which is backed by evidence, documentation, etc., on the other hand, opinion is what a person believes or thinks about something.

The majority of most non-qualified, non-experienced people in industry are operating from a point of anchorage: they have a motive, be it costs, pride, or insecurity.

Fact, is based on observation or research or industry best practice. The untrained opinion comes from assumption or personal view, often it is also bias.

In all Seriousness and in Conclusion

Bad advice or counsel with motive can place your people at great risk; this can be knowingly or from lack of knowledge or the right information; which is ignorance. Consider this `Presumed Knowledge` of the law or requirements is the principle in which that one is bound by a law, legislation of rulings, even if one does not know of it.  (read more on vincible or wilful ignorance).

Also ponder that `fraudulent falsification` of responders training records; is not only wrong but again a rampant behaviour.

Can I suggest considering the importance of our subject that our `expert` must have both underpinning knowledge and underpinning skills, this means having a sound understanding and skillset of the hot zone (responders) requirements and actions; but closely followed by qualified know-how and varied experiences in emergency management.

Emergency Management and Emergency Response cannot be considered without regard for the each other; in my humble experiences the best of the best emergency managers, were once very good and proud responders; rather than just an academic.

For forks sake, step up; Learn and practice response with high-end proficiency; then become the emergency manager through hard work and lots of study, then get lots and lots of diverse experiences…

Or step back and step off.

Dean Hawkins ex-Senior Fire Commander / Veteran Fire Officer

Recent Posts