Sunday, January 30, 2011

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

I’m departing from my usual weekly posting about Challenge-related stuff to talk about lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the not so famous. This past week, we were hit with a snow storm that created as much chaos, if not more than the aftermath of the 9.11 attack on the Pentagon. That event resulted in my brother taking about 8 hours to get across the 14th Street Bridge. (He hasn’t reported his experiences of Wednesday yet, but I know I’m in for a treat.)

This past week’s event was equally devastating because the temperature was hovering just below freezing, instantly making highways icy, coupled with the mad rush of hundreds of thousands of federal civil servants dashing for the exits. I, on the other hand, have beaten the masses- as I’m working from the home office. But, I did have a short errand to run- just a mile away and so, what the heck. It didn’t take long, but confirmed the advice of the sagacious: if you don’t have to go anywhere, don’t.

Around 9PM, I heard what sounded like the clap of a 155mm round. And, instantly, darkness. Actually, not darkness inside because the TV is on a UPS. But, I knew in an instant that a transformer had shut off. However, I knew that this was not a mere interruption, but more likely the real deal: major outage. PEPCo, the supplier to DC and most of Montgomery County has been excoriated in the Washington Post for their poor performance in restoring power. They went from one of the best in the nation to a place near the bottom. This started about the time that they stopped their preventive tree-trimming program, and I live in a forest.

Temperatures have been well below normal for the past 8 weeks and I was reasonably prepared for the siege. A black walnut tree that was near death had been taken down, aged and split and stacked in preparation. Twenty gallons of water was staged in the closet, and about 10 gallons of gasoline stored with the reliable Honda generator in the garden shed.

The first thing you do in this situation is call PEPCo and get into the cue. But, with 200,000 households, that’s pretty much a futile exercise. Most of these people were well ahead of me. The lesson learned from the three days without power is that we have it so easy today. Central heating, indoor plumbing, etc. Think about what our ancestors did to survive. Food, fuel and water dominated their consciousness. I’m sure someone has done the research on the time spent on sustenance activities. I could see where it could occupy over half of your waking hours.

The absence of electricity changes everything. The Internet does not work. And since all my TV content comes through the router, you’re out of luck there. This is a total electric house, so even the family room fireplace has a heat-a-lator which runs on 110v. So that fireplace is pretty useless. The downstairs one, however is an insert and will crank out a lot of BTUs, but has to be fed about every 35 minutes!

The other essential household product is the Honda snowblower. Forget the shoveling exercises; this is the “must have” man toy! It makes short work of the seemingly acres of driveway and sidewalks- and adds a great feeling of superiority when you drive by 40 of the neighbor’s houses, with their kids hand shoveling the tons of snow. Throwing snow 50 feet is way cool. But after last year’s 5 plus feet, it has lost some of its allure.

We’re on a well; you can use the toilets, but you must flush them with the backup, 5-gallon water bottles. The Honda generator serves the important role of keeping the refrigerator running. It can handle a few other tasks, based upon an assemblage of extension cords strewn through out the house. This is hardly primitive living; after all, with the insulation rating, the house retains heat for a very long time. But yesterday when I heard the HVAC unit kick on, it was like a miracle, as though you fast-forwarded through 150 years in an instant.

In the 1800’s, if you were very wealthy, you had servants who stoked the fires, drew the water, and did all the menial tasks. Today, we have electricity that does all this and so much more. Being reduced for a few days to survival mode is a great learning experience, making me more appreciative for the modern miracles that are a part of my everyday life. We’re doing things today that I could never have imagined while in college, or even a few years ago. In the height of the storm, with the power out, I was still checking my email- on my iPad!

I had a professor who had to be 80+. He used to talk constantly about the “good old days.” I think this guy had attended Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. His take on things: “You want the good old days? You can have them. I like my shirts that come back from the laundry all wrapped up.” That was 40 years ago. Now, you just take them out of the dryer, ready to go!

Taken in context, these small crises make us reflect on how much we have and how good we’ve got it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Check Out What $45M Gets You

Friday, January 22 I had the privilege of getting the “Cook’s Tour” of the Indian River State College public safety campus. I have to admit that I was completely unprepared for what met my eye. Just a few miles off the intersection of Florida Turnpike and I-95, the back roads that meandered past some stands of pines and a few structures seemed to be taking me to yet another remote training academy.

When I made the left turn onto Kirby Loop Road, the “Taj Mahal” of Public Safety training academies beckoned. Not to spoil the suspense, but you’ll want to bring your Ez-Up, lawn chairs and coolers for our three-day culmination of Season 20. This is the first drill tower that I’ve seen with stainless steel railings, windows and doors. “Built to Last” is a moniker that quickly comes to mind.

I signed the contract, so, we’re a “Go” for this event, October 28, 29 and 30.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Blog vs. the Forum & More Team Discussion

To the fullest extent possible, we want to provide all of our Challenge athletes the opportunity to be connected- to know what’s going on, and where we’re going. The Blog does have a feature that allows readers to post their comments. In response to my last editorial, I received three such notes. The forum is more free-ranging and affords a very relaxed environment to share opinions. We try to monitor the content, and provide responses when possible. I’m always available by email or telephone. I have never knowingly ignored either.

To further clarify my last posted remarks: We have elected to follow the Olympic model in our attempt to make the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge a truly international event. The analogy to the Olympics is universally understood and pre-dates our 20-year protocol with a century of experience.

As the number of foreign teams rise, so will the attendant interest from the general media increase. This creates much more sponsorship opportunities, since a team trumps the focus on a single individual.

I can not say with certainty when we will reach critical mass and allow only one US Team to participate in a truly World Championship, but I do believe that the day is coming. In all likelihood, the event will be held in Berlin, where each of the EU members will be sending a team.

The interests expressed in increasing the numbers of open class, non-team affiliated competitors would be one of the logical extensions of an expanded US National Championship. Of course, at that time, we’ll be in the same boat as the USOC in trying to sort out who’s on the representative team; will it be comprised of the best, or the team that won? Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's a TEAM Sport

Our World Wide Vision for the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge

Paul O. Davis, Ph.D.

Creator, Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge

©2011, On•Target Communications

For those of you who took the time to send us your comments about how we structured the playoffs, I want to take this opportunity to provide you with our perspective on where we want to go with the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.

From its inception twenty years ago, the competition has been built around the Team category. As you know, you can have up to five members on your team. For teams who earn either a bye or a slot in the final day, all of their members, regardless of an individual’s time, advance into the finals. Sometimes, the unexpected happens and a person who had not thought to be “in the zone” ends up adding to the total.

Several years into the competition, we recognized that there were individual athletes who had a shot at winning the King of the Jungle title, but were not on a team. The Individual category was then created to address this inequity. Since the majority of the fastest players were already on teams, the number of “open class” individuals was not very large. By allowing the 3 fastest individuals a slot, we were pretty sure that the fastest competitor would be allowed a shot at the title, even if they weren’t on a team. This last year, we had considerably more than 3 people competing as an individual. In fact, we had 64 competitors not on teams running on the final day.

As the interest in the Challenge began to expand globally, we began to look at the competition as a true, World event. To encourage foreign growth, we tendered offers to foreign national teams to attend our event. They were awarded byes to ensure that we would take on a truly international flavor. After all, if we’re going to call this the World Challenge, then we need to have teams from outside of North America in the event.

The interest expressed by foreign national teams now numbers to be more than a dozen. Ultimately, the World Challenge will be comprised of only one team from each participating country, much like the Olympics. You’ll have to win that spot and represent your country. Each nation’s team will be their country’s champion, regardless of their time. Some like the Jamaican bob sled team won’t be very good. But they will have earned the right to represent their country.

In all likelihood, the World Championship will move around the globe. What we presently call World Challenge will become the US Nationals. And just like MLB, the NFL, etc., if you’re a member of a team, even if you’re the water boy, you get a ring if your team wins.

There is no intention to denigrate the stellar performances of anyone in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge who has a time less than 2 minutes, 100 seconds, or less. It’s just that the structure of the Team competition is foremost in our promotional efforts.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Picking World Challenge Venues- first in a series

This post is the first of several that will analyze the responses to our World Challenge XIX on-line survey; this first one will address the Myrtle Beach venue, and compare and contrast it to our five-year stint in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas offered a number of attractions, not the least of which is the ambiance of an internationally-recognized venue. Fremont Street, with its $100M, five-and-one-half block long VivaVision is an incredible backdrop for the show. Everyday, 25,000 people walk under the impressive canopy, providing us with a built-in audience. Hotel accommodations are literally at the doorstep and the pricing was very attractive. However, Las Vegas is not without its distractions. Specifically, to get to your room, you need an Air-Pak®. There is no place to erect our own Tent City and bunker gear cannot be strewn about, impeding the very narrow corridors for the foot traffic. We work diligently to keep the epoxy-coated surface dry and strategically place “Water Hog” mats to mitigate against the slip hazards.

We are also required to provide the casinos with unobstructed access to their bars and we cannot encroach on the entrances to the casinos. The nightly show takes a almost 10 minute bite out of every hour of competition since we have to shut down our operations while the VivaVision goes live. Getting course helpers is also a major challenge. And then, some people just don’t like the atmosphere.

Myrtle Beach, on the other hand is “family friendly” and far less intense. For a week, we owned a parking lot of some several hundred thousand square feet, thereby allowing lots of living rooms for the small army of day-campers. The infrastructure was the best ever with great assistance provided by Horry County, Myrtle Beach, the National Guard and the Civilian Emergency Response Team. Aside from the orientation of the tower (regrettably placed under heavy overcast), this perfectly flat venue provided a platform for tons of personal and new World Records.

The crowd distinguished themselves from the Las Vegas spectators in that these were people who were invested in the event. They stayed till the end. We had bleachers for nearly everyone. And to prove how dialed in the audience was, when Clayton County set the new World Record, they knew it before we could announce it. While some of you commented that this was just a “glorified Regional,” I would disagree. The vast majority of the respondents greatly preferred Myrtle Beach over Las Vegas.

When people complained about costs, they did not provide any details. I do know that lodging deals were very attractive. Airfare pricing might be what people are referencing. Since 48% of attendees drove (a new high), then the other half took an airplane. Getting way out ahead of the typical escalation of costs is the best way to mitigate the expense. Wherever we are going in 2011, we’re going to give you plenty of “heads-up” time to do some price shopping.

We recognize that we simply cannot satisfy everyone’s first place selection. Some of you will vote with your feet. If due to other factors beyond our individual or collective control your selection is not available, we apologize.

There are a lot of factors involved in selecting sites for hosting the World Challenge, the first being that the host actually wants you. In the context of all the acts in Las Vegas we are a very small event and hence, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) does not provide any financial support. This is a very expensive event to put on. Myrtle Beach CVB and their partners collectively raised half of our operating costs.

Go to the head of line.