From the Chief’s Corner: Life’s Lessons from the “Crack-in-the-Ground”

Chief Alan Perdue

By Chief Alan Perdue (ret.), SBC Executive Director

Posted on June 30, 2022

Have you ever noticed that with many discussions that take place with individuals, companies, and organizations that those involved will often pick a particular side of an issue and dig their heels in so deep that they cannot see the value of what others may be trying to convey? This can often occur without us even realizing it’s taking place and when it does occur, we can be robbed of achieving something really powerful and beneficial to our overall goals or mission.

That process played out in my mind over the weekend while participating in a strategic planning session in what is known as the High Desert area of Central Oregon. The High Desert area begins at the eastern foot of the Cascades where most of the region has an elevation of 4000 feet or more above sea level.

The Location

One of our adventures took us to a small unincorporated community located in Lake County, Oregon called Christmas Valley. It was there we took time to visit an ancient volcanic fissure known as “Crack-in-the-Ground”. The site is managed by the US Bureau of Land Management and is approximately 30,000 square miles of public land within the region. The actual Crack-in-the-Ground is an established 2-mile trail along the fissure’s bottom which is approximately 70 feet deep whereby the temperature can be as much as twenty degrees cooler that at the surface.

By now I’m sure you are thinking…how the heck does a crack in the ground relate to ERCES and the work of the SBC? Let me explain, you see it’s not so much about the actual crack, it’s what a small portion of the site actually represents. 

In our day-to-day business and personnel lives each of us have the opportunity to participate in many various discussions centered around a lot of different topics.  For many of us who work in the in-building space, topics such as RF theory, types of in-building solutions, building evaluation/system testing techniques, legislation, codes/standards, what transpired with communications at actual incidents like active shootings and many others come to mind. During some of those discussions, it’s easy for us to quickly form a specific opinion or thought about how we as individuals think or believe something is best handled without all the important facts. In other words, it’s easy to become closed minded and dismiss certain information, information that may really be valuable.

For example, if one were to take a quick look at the “Crack-in-the-Ground” it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that there are simply two distinct sides at the site where the earth shifted no more and no less. However, if one were to spend a little more time fully evaluating the big picture (as in gathering all the information before reaching a conclusion) there is often more there than meets the eye.

Lesson #1: Identifying the Important Pieces

Oftentimes it’s that deeper look that leads us to a different perspective and ultimately a different outcome. So was the case with the Crack-in-the-Ground. 

As we made our way deeper into the opening it was there where I noticed that several individual boulders had collected and formed what looked like a massive puzzle. An amazing puzzle created by mother nature in such a manner that the boulders were leaning on each other forming a connection between one side of the crack to the other. 

It was in that moment; I was reminded that if we are not careful, we can miss opportunities of connecting important pieces of the puzzle. Our inability to see the big picture and have a meaningful discussion whereby each side listens to the other in an effort to reach a win-win outcome can truly be lost. 

 Lesson #2 Cooler Heads Prevail

As we made our way deeper and deeper into the opening it was noticeably cooler, about 20 degrees cooler than where our journey began. When it comes to spirited debates or conversations, often the opposite is true. When those discussions go deeper and deeper what was initially a meaningful conversation turns into a heated one. It’s at that time effective communication and listening has simply stopped. The Crack-in-the-Ground teaches us that as we drive deeper and deeper into a discussion, we should maintain a calm and cool approach towards understanding each other and ensure all aspects of the stakeholders’ thoughts and opinions have been considered. As Desmond Tutu once said; “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”

The Real Value is in the Middle

As all stakeholders continue to advance the need for in-building emergency responder communications enhancement solutions within buildings to provide the necessary tools for our first responders it is imperative that we can have those spirited discussions that provide the opportunity to develop win-win situations. By considering the insights of others we can form invaluable decisions that take us and our concerns to the next level. I am reminded by the quote by James Cash Penny that states “Growth is never by mere chance, it is the result of forces working together”. 

The forces of nature within this amazing site in central Oregon remind us of that important concept that to solve issues and achieve a common goal, we must be willing to lay aside our differences. 

I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such a great group of individuals and companies that make up the SBC. By continuing to work together we as a focused force can continue to move forward in a manner that will stand the test of time just like the boulders within the “Crack-in-the-Ground.” #feelsafeinside…

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