NASAR wants to be the “go to” for SAR. Not just nationally, but internationally as well. In order to be the “go to” we have to provide you with some value for coming and a place for us to share. We also need to reach out to you and make you knowledgeable about what we have to offer, and how that is of value to you.
This initiative is about building the foundation for us to share, inform, encourage and build rapport.
Develop An Online Collaborative Space For Members
The old NASAR website was pretty static. It was hard to modify or to post on daily. We recently invested in moving to a new website that has a more flexible capability and has content tools that are simpler to use but provide lots of options for presenting material. The new website move has also brought us some challenges, like the mistaken “your membership has expired” messages that some members got incorrectly when I set up the memberships wrong initially. Change has some pain associated with it, and I hope you will be patient with us, because it will be worth it when we have completed the website move completely this month. You should check it out, there are some surprises hidden in the website, you just need to search for them.
Develop A Space Rich In Communication Tools
The new website has a lot of cool tools for us. On the front page there is the ability to provide blog style updates on what is happening with NASAR, and you have the ability to comment on the blog items right there for everyone to see. Please, use this capability to let us and other web visitors know what you think.
We have a better calendar tool that show where courses are in relation to your location on a map, as well as the old grid style calendar and chronological list of courses. The calendar also allows us to have students RSVP for a course, and that RSVP sends the instructor an email immediately letting them know who signed up for their course/examination. We will be working over the next few years to enable signing up and paying for courses on the website as an enhancement to the RSVP tool.
Both the President and the Executive Director now have a location for blogging. This should provide us the opportunity to share our views on SAR related subjects, and for you to share your opinions as well. I look forward to a very rich and probably exciting set of exchanges as we move forward.
We are adding a Gear Review / Book Review space. When I first joined SAR, I realized that I was going to search for money in my wallet a lot more than I was going to search in the field for a while. I really wanted to get the best gear for the job, and gear that was worth the price. I turned to team members and asked them what they used, and that was very helpful. This is an extension of that concept where you can get useful reviews from the hundreds and thousands of years of experience that the SAR community has. It is a place where you can offer up your experience to assist those that are looking for help. If you have a review of some gear or a book, please forward it to me so we can get it up on the website.
Make Information Globally Accessible As Appropriate
The new website has a tool installed that makes it multilingual capable for our international members. The Google translate tool isn’t perfect, but it works pretty well for most languages. This is a huge step towards making NASAR internationally recognized and valuable to the international SAR community.
The Board is considering posting our quarterly financial information as well as a brief explanation of what it means on the website for members to view. All members have the right to view our financial information, and this is a step towards providing it proactively to build trust with the membership and show that we are engaging in transparency as an organization.
One of the big complaints I have heard over the past year is that instructors and lead evaluators never know if they have the latest and greatest course and examination materials. We have solved that with the implementation of DropBox. Each instructor and lead evaluator has access to the DropBox folder containing the course and exam materials they are qualified to get access to. Whenever there is a future update, the new material will be placed into the DropBox folder and all instructors and evaluators will have access to it at the same time (no more favoritism, throttling of information, etc.). This is another step in which we are trying to build trust with the organization through transparency and global access to information.
Recognize And Honor The Regional Nature Of SAR (Environment, Legislation, Response Structure)
SAR is very different from state to state, province to province and wildly different from nation to nation. NASAR is committed to supporting the ASTM national level standards with certifications that meet or exceed those standards. However, NASAR realizes that we also need to recognize and respect the differences in SAR nationwide.
One of the ways we are doing this is with the pack list. What is needed in a SAR pack isn’t and shouldn’t be the same for searchers in hot and humid Southern Texas versus searchers in cold and dry Nunavut. A search in the winter in the Italian Alps requires different gear than a summer search in the same location. Running with a trailing dog in downtown San Francisco requires different gear than a wilderness dog team in the forests of the Argonne. To deal with this specific dilemma, we are taking the “pack list check” out of the SARTECH examination as a station. You will still be required to carry some basic items when you test, but would won’t have to show anyone a safety pin, quarters or a big foam sleeping pad! You will see this update in 2015, and it will include a new Recommended Pack List that will be used as an education tool during our coursework, and be provided online as a guide for members to use, not as a sign off or check off requirement.
I think that many members would say that NASAR has not been as transparent as it could be over the past years. This has bred mistrust among the membership and suspicion that an “old boy network” rules NASAR. If it was true, it isn’t any longer.
I think that in the past NASAR wasn’t considered transparent because it really didn’t do a good job of communicating to the outside, not because we intentionally were hiding anything. We are trying to be better at pushing information to you. In addition to the website, Board members and I are attending regional and local SAR conferences this year to address SAR responders and their questions. My cell number (925-586-3357) is widely published and you can call me anytime with any question or to discuss anything.
NASAR has always published the Board meeting minutes as required by Virginia law (they are on the website). The Board uses Webex to hold the monthly meetings and they continue to be open to the membership. At the last general membership meeting I provided an update on our finances, initiatives and answered member questions. I hope that you will consider attending the next general meeting to hear about our progress.
I have already mentioned some other actions that will provide transparency earlier in this document. If you have a question, want to know something or see something, please contact me and I will answer your questions, and work towards making all reasonable requests happen as quickly as possible.
It helps if we have good solid policies and we apply them fairly to all members. Being predictable about how we handle issues builds trust and hopefully loyalty among members. We are now using the Crisis Care Network rules for decision making to assist us in predictable response to issues. These rules are:
- Well being of people first
- Assume appropriate responsibility
- Address the needs of all the stakeholders in a timely manner
- All decisions and actions based on honesty, legal and ethical guidelines
- Available, visible and open communications with all stakeholders
Being predictable also means applying a reasonable set of rules and doing it fairly to our policies and procedures. We can’t foresee every situation that we will need to address, but you should be comfortable and trust that everything we do moving forward will be with an informed and open mind that has what is best for SAR at the forefront.
I have spoken with hundreds of members and past members of NASAR over the past 14 months. Almost all of them have observed that NASAR has not been very responsive to the membership historically. I believe that time is over. We exist to service you, and I think you will find us much more receptive to that mission.
Pretty soon you will start seeing emails directly from NASAR with news and special offers included in them. This is something that we haven’t done well over the past few years, but look forward to doing better. This is just one tool that we will be using to over-communicate with you and make up for some lost opportunity.
You can see from this second strategic initiative that communication, listening to you, carrying our message to you, transparency and building trust are big issues that we are tackling. Each of these initiatives should provide you with better information, communication, access and service.
I hope these articles help you understand where we are heading and how you can help us all get there together.
Thanks for being a member and holding on for the past year while we developed a strong foundation for NASAR to succeed. I appreciate your patience, and if you have any questions please feel free to call me or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.