Public Safety Insights Newsletter – December 18

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December 18, 2013 VOLUME 1, ISSUE 4
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How to Change the Public Safety Conversation
Public Safety Insight:

To change the conversation about public safety, change the question.

The way you define and discuss any issue determines the likelihood that you can resolve or address it successfully. "Framing" means to put something in perspective so you and others can understand it quickly and accurately. Consider these two questions:

            "How much should we cut the public safety budget?"

            "What level of public safety do we want to provide our community?"

Although both questions address the same resource allocation issue, the conversations they provoke will result in entirely different discussions and solutions. Which conversation is in the best interests of your community?

In the above situation, you have a choice: engage in a discussion limited to the amount of money to cut, or ask a different question that invites people to search for ways to ensure their safety and well-being.  While the resulting conversations do not guarantee that public safety agencies will get everything they want or need, they do increase the likelihood that (a) community members are much clearer on what they want and what they are willing to do to get it, and (b) those responsible for resource allocation decisions will make much more informed choices.

Similarly, framing skills can be used to educate stakeholders about the value your agency provides.  Instead of reporting on and talking about the tasks you perform (e.g., putting out fires, arresting criminals, responding quickly to medical calls), you can choose to talk about how those actions enable you to provide the desired public safety outcome – i.e., a safe, healthy, economically viable community. Putting your service in this broader context catches people’s attention and helps them connect the dots in ways that highlight your agency’s contributions to their personal and collective well-being.

Inside your own organization, framing skills can help you increase morale, reduce conflict, and improve teamwork by showing your employees that they can choose to see their situations from a different perspective. In turn, they can help re-shape the conversation about public safety by the questions they ask and the words they choose. Your job can be easier, and your communities safer, if you model some basic framing skills and teach them to employees at all levels. After all, front-line responders are those who have direct contact with the community every day, and thus the greatest opportunity to get out the message YOU intend to send rather than one dictated by others.

Whether your task is to win community support, justify new resources, gain stakeholder backing for new initiatives, resolve conflicts, create a shared vision, improve employee morale, increase workforce diversity, or change your organization’s culture, one way to begin is to focus on possibilities rather than on problems. For seven tips on framing skills you can use to teach employees how to focus on opportunities rather than challenges, take a look at my December 15, 2013 On Scene article, From Problems to Possibilities: 7 Tips for Focusing on Opportunities.

To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at

Public Safety Insights is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help first responders maximize their performance. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.


©2013 Pat Lynch | Public Safety Insights


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