Thursday, November 16, 2006


This blog has moved ----------> here!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cover your Betts, please...

You know, my wife and I recently found the hilarious videos produced by Wayne Betts, Jr. I was at the NAD conference working at CEPIN/TDI's booth and it was next to HOVRS who had a TV playing and replaying Wayne's commercials for them.

When the exhibits reached a lull, I could always count on the commercials (unfortunately, they don't seem to be online @ HOVRS website) to give me a chuckle.

So after all the seriousness at Gallaudet these past several weeks, I thought the video below was particularly appropriate (and funny as hell) considering the "Not Deaf Enough" theme that often distracted from the real issues. You can see his other videos at Mosdeux or on YouTube.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Crisis Management Team (CMT) at Gallaudet : A constructive criticism

This has been an issue that's long been on my mind. With the changes that are upcoming, I am posting this as a suggestion for revising the way emergencies on campus are handled.

These suggestions are modeled after the current fire service Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System (NIMS). Both models have an individual ultimately responsible for all aspects of managing the crisis (called Incident Commander) as well as very clearly delineated areas of responsibility.

There are several important concepts entailed within these two systems:
  • SPAN OF CONTROL: Ideally, one person can actively manage 3 to 7 people (5 often cited as the ideal number) . This allows vast amounts of information to be effectively managed by a small group of individuals
  • UNITY OF COMMAND: This principle basically states that every person reports to one supervisor. There should be no confusion among all participants who they should be giving information to. This information, in turn, should be reported up the chain of command.
When I look at the documentation for the Crisis Management Team, it does not clearly identify:
  • who has ultimate responsibility for dealing with the ins-and-outs of an emergency on-campus. (It says the Provost is "chair" but what does that really mean?)
  • who is responsible for which functions during an emergency
  • Furthermore, if the Provost is the "supervisor" then that person has as little as 21 different people responding directly to that person (see two items listed above)
  • does not clearly identify when these functions are triggered
I should note: I don't have greater knowledge than what is published online but I'm advocating for structural change AND distributing the plans to the campus community.

Of course, one can easily say that the President of the University should have the ultimate responsibility of managing a campus during an emergency but is that really wise, given the recent turmoil on campus.

I would sugggest that a position should be created specifically devoted to a person who understands the nature of emergencies and the unique needs of the campus community. Likewise, it should be someone who is removed from the political brouhaha that often surrounds the campus (ie: President/Provost's offices) . The CMT Director should also have a dedicated planning staff who can manage the different "what-if's" and identify resources as needed.

Any emergency team needs to have clearly identified triggers, resources, and action plans for resolving the situation. I don't see any of that available at this time. For example, in the current CMT guidelines, a trash can on fire out on Hanson Plaza could qualify as a "trigger" for the CMT but it wouldn't be a good use of resources. I would argue that the CMT guidelines need to clearly identify when the Emergency Operations Center will be activated.

For example: let's take an hurricane approaching DC.
  1. Emergency Operations Center opens
  2. PPD would obviously start by securing items that can become airborne missles
  3. DPS and PPD work together to secure unused facilities
  4. SHS would call on-duty staff to staff the center on-site
  5. DPS would establish dedicated personnel to patrol dorms and buildings kept open on foot
  6. As storm winds down, DPS and PPD do damage checks and cleanup as needed
  7. Finance/Logistics sections keep track of resources used to respond to the hurricane
  8. Debriefing sessions to critique response
  9. Emergency Operations Center closes
Most of this is common sense, but the absence of clearly written and EASILY ACCESSIBLE (to the community) plan hurts confidence in the campus administration to effectively manage crises.

Given today's post-9/11 climate (and the post Plunkett/Varner climate as well), I believe the University is not as prepared as it should be for the next BPN, the next severe weather incident, and god-forbid, the next terror-attack in DC.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Its Happened....

I had dinner cooking (penne alla vodka .. mamma mia!) when my pager buzzed with the news.

The Board voted to terminate Dr. Fernandes as President-Designate.

From my reaction, you would've thought I was on campus jumping around too but my kids looked at me like I'd been sniffing magic markers all day. Yes, I jumped up and down and said to my wife, "Its happened".

Don't get me wrong, I truly feel bad for Drs. Jordan and Fernandes because they've seen any hope of a legacy or even having a positive footnote wash away with the Board's decision today. Likewise, I know the Board is now in a very difficult position: They have to reopen a costly presidential search process and hope 9thPrez#2 is acceptable to the community. Not only that, but they've practically given in, for lack of better word, to mob rule.

This is the second time in two consecutive presidential selections that the Board has faced and acquiesced to student/fac/staff protests. They have to be feeling very nervous in regards to their ability to effectively govern on campus.

Likewise, given all that's happened, who the hell is going to be 9thPrez#2? Given all that we know is wrong with Gallaudet (over-dependence on federal $ amid increased gov. scrutiny, lagging educational standards, etc. etc.); who would be willing to address these issues. More to the point, who would be able to convince both the campus community and more importantly, Congress and private donors that the University is still worthwhile even in this age of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What has to happen now?

1: The Board must ensure the next presidential selection process brings a candidate who can address the issues noted above and is considered an acceptable representative of the University's unique place in the deaf community

2: The Board must ensure that students have a greater voice in campus matters and must also ensure that alumni have greater voting representation

3: Students must realize that institutional change will not come quickly. If I remember correctly, it took about 4 years for the Board to reach its intended makeup post-DPN.

4: Students will need to recognize by re-opening the Presidential Search, there exists the possibility that the next president is someone who's "better" than JKF in terms of leadership but also could be someone who doesn't fit a "deaf ideal".

5: Dave Evans says it best: There are no winners or losers. The entire fiasco has been utterly divisive and the dreaded red state/blue state mentality has been painfully evident. Posts like DeafEye's only serve to further rub salt in the wounds that are left bare.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: This is the time for moderation, patience and tolerance.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Best analysis in the MSM by far!

From Monday's Washington Post!:

Source of Gallaudet Turmoil Is Up for Debate
Protesters, School Officials Disagree on Why New President's Appointment Is Opposed

By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 23, 2006; B01

Months into a bitter dispute between protesters and leaders of Gallaudet University, the two sides disagree not only on whether Jane K. Fernandes should be the next president of the school for the deaf -- but even on what the fight is about.

So as protests paralyzed the school this month and prompted mass arrests, hunger strikes, lockdowns, support rallies across the country and a march to Capitol Hill, many people outside the campus are still asking:

Just what are the protesters so mad about, anyway?

To Fernandes and her supporters, it's one issue. She's trying to lead the school forward at a time when technologies such as cochlear implants are dramatically changing deaf culture, while her opponents are clinging to a separate deaf community reliant on American Sign Language rather than immersion in the hearing world. They say Fernandes has become the symbol of a future that her critics are resisting.

Her opponents say she's distorting their arguments -- and in a deliberately divisive way. They say the protests are fundamentally about her inability to lead, an unfair selection process and longstanding problems at the school that have been ignored.

During her tenure as provost, critics say, morale among faculty and staff declined. She asked for input but often ignored it, they say. She was dismissive, unfriendly. They point to troubles such as a scathing report from the federal government including details of chronically low graduation rates.

Fernandes's handling of the protests the past month, with the situation worsening rather than being resolved, only proves her failure as a leader, opponents say. After asking for change for so long , they're fed up with being ignored.

Either way the dispute is viewed, there's no question that the 1,800-student school is in turmoil over whether Fernandes should become president in January. The debate continues to evolve and broaden, with protesters directing their anger increasingly at outgoing President I. King Jordan and the board of trustees that picked Fernandes.

Her supporters have been shocked by mean-spirited personal attacks and threats. She described the protests as "anarchy and terrorism."

But the protesters keep asking: How can Fernandes lead, if no one is following?

Standing in front of the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, junior Chris Corrigan looked at the 2,000 or so protesters, students, faculty, alumni, staff, and asked: "Have you ever seen anything stronger, more united?"

* * *

The last time the Gallaudet board picked a president, in 1988, a revolution of sorts was provoked.

Students were so angry that trustees had chosen yet another president who could hear -- the school had never had a deaf leader -- that they took to the streets demanding a "Deaf President Now."

They not only got what they wanted in Jordan, who has led the university since, but started a movement that helped lead to the passage of the sweeping Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now, a generation later, deaf people have a right to equal access and an expectation that the president of Gallaudet will mirror Jordan's reach.

But "Deaf President Now" was easy for outsiders to understand: three words, obvious concept.

Fernandes sought to define the current protests when they broke out, immediately after her selection in May, with three more words. She said she was "not deaf enough" for her opponents because she grew up speaking and didn't learn ASL until she was an adult.

A long-standing debate continues over whether deaf children should learn to speak or sign, accelerated by the increasing numbers of deaf children getting implants, going to mainstream public schools and immersing themselves in the hearing world. Fernandes said friends have described the idea that the core community of deaf people using sign language will dwindle away as "genocide."

There's no doubt that some students, faculty and alumni want the president to be more fluent in ASL than Fernandes, who is not a native signer, and a proponent of preserving the school as a place apart, where traditions and everyday life are based around sign language. After all, Gallaudet is arguably the center of deaf culture worldwide.

But most say that's not why they're protesting. Some compare Fernandes's explanation to playing a race card -- subverting the real issues with a volatile and provocative argument. Gallaudet, and the deaf community, have long had all different types of hearing and communication, a diverse mix of people signing, speaking or both.

By defining the protests as she did, Fernandes "effectively pressed the red button and nuked the credibility and reputation of the very constituents she was selected to lead," senior Ben Moore wrote in a blog. "She conveniently left out that the mostly hearing faculty have repeatedly expressed no confidence in her in the past and a majority of the student body graduated from mainstream high schools," rather than residential schools for the deaf. For years, Jordan had been revered on campus -- and he's not a native signer, either.

Even before she was named president, Fernandes was a controversial figure at Gallaudet.

Teachers at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, which includes the elementary and secondary schools on campus, were angry that she eliminated tenure when she helped run the center in the late 1990s.

When Fernandes got tenure, some professors thought she was given an unfair advantage, saying in effect she was able to skip a review step that everyone else went through. There was a procedural error that was later explained in full to the board, a university spokeswoman said.

When Jordan suddenly appointed Fernandes provost in 2000 without a search, faculty members registered their outrage with a formal vote.

Protesters say she has been part of an administration that has allowed long-standing problems to continue. Fifteen years after a student died after being restrained by a campus security officer, misunderstandings between students and officers who don't know ASL well continue.

Fernandes established a day devoted to diversity on campus and has been developing a sweeping diversity plan that would include minimum standards for ASL competency, but the faculty and administration remain predominantly white. Roughly 25 of 221 full-time faculty members are people of color.

This year, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget released a study of Gallaudet that labeled it "ineffective," citing declining or stagnant performance in key areas: From 1999 to 2005, undergraduate graduation rates hovered at 42 percent. From 2001 to 2005, the percentage of graduates who found jobs the first year out of Gallaudet dropped every year.

Early complaints about the presidential search process came from black students upset that the candidates weren't sufficiently diverse. A strong African American candidate, Glenn Anderson, the longtime trustees chairman, was not one of the three finalists. Others said Jordan was overly involved.

The real outburst came in May, seconds after the board announced Fernandes's name. Students were shocked that she'd been chosen despite surveys in which the vast majority of faculty and students who responded said that she would be "unacceptable."

"This crisis happened largely because of loss of trust and leadership over the years," said Nancy Bloch of the National Association of the Deaf.

In the standoff that has followed, protesters say that Fernandes has avoided meeting with them and has been dishonest, most recently when she said she was up all night negotiating with students who had shut down the school.

Fernandes disputes that, and her supporters describe her as a smart, visionary, eloquent leader who has been unfairly targeted.

Fernandes said, "If you talk with the protesters, it seems like it's something different every few days. It just seems to be relentless in throwing out different issues of concern."

Standing in front of the Capitol this weekend, just as protesters did 18 years ago when the rallying cry was so much less complex, protest leader Leah Katz-Hernandez asked demonstrators if they were protesting because Fernandes was not deaf enough. "No, no!" the crowd signed.

"She's too deaf," Katz-Hernandez signed. "She's deaf to us. She's deaf to the community. She's deaf to the world."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Signs that the Protest Message is Finally Understood by MSM....

(MSM = Mainstream Media)

A very good friend of mine (hearing, runs with my fire department) sent me the message below on my pager this morning. He's president and owner of a medium-sized business and has had positions as general counsel for large corporations in the past so he knows a thing or two about leadership.

SUBJ: Galaludet Protests
Holy Cow! What a mess. Am in DC and watching the news which is filled with the protests. Where do we stand on this issue of the President? Should she resign or not? I am ready to pick up a sign and take up the cause.

I replied:
Please do!

If you asked me 5 months ago, I would've said give her a chance. Today, I believe she needs to resign so the university can get back on its feet again.

Instead of working to mend fences and working with the community, she practically withdrew from the public eye and assumed the protests were over after the summer break began.

Don't get me wrong, I disagree with many of the tactics the protesters have used (closing the academic buildings and campus) but her response (or lack thereof) have been troubling. She may be qualified but she's not the right person to lead the campus.

What really bothers me is how pigheaded and obstinate she's been. She's said repeatedly that's she s the "only" person who can lead the Univ.

He replied back to me:
I agree 100% and all I know is what was on TV. If 82% of the faculty is walking on Capitol Hill to protest that she does not have their confidence then it is time to go - no matter who is in the right.

My final note back to him:
Actually 82% of faculty voted no confidence in her ability to lead and demanded her resignation.

There are six ppl on a hunger strike including a good friend of mine. I'll be heading to dc on wednesday to teach a class and stop in and pay my respects.

Gallaudet obviously is like no other college. In addition to being a higher ed institution, it also has a model elementary and secondary school on campus and is literally the center of the deaf community.

So this is an issue that runs deep. There are people who frame this as a old deaf / new deaf issue. The "old" deaf would be people who went to residential schools for the deaf, center themselves around sign language and the deaf community. The "new" deaf are people like myself, moving in and out between deaf / hearing with respect to communication modes and socio-economic circles as well (my work with FDMT is an example of this).

So there's a greater paradigm shift at play. Yes, the Gallaudet admin is trying to paint this as a battle along those lines but it really isn't. Its simply an issue of managerial imcompetence.

**I should correct myself because it's not "managerial incompetence". Dilbert's pointy-haired boss is an incompetent manager.

I'm pretty sure Dr. Fernandes doesn't fit this stereotype. However, I would say "incompetent leadership".

I do believe there is a paradigm shift starting in terms of the old/new deaf. I don't mean to sound like the guy out in Orange County but this is reality. The progress that has been made these past 18 years since DPN as well as the technological progress has empowered greater numbers of people in the hearing loss continuum to become active and demand their rights.

This isn't bad and it's had some notable successes so far. The CEPIN project is one of them (disclosure: I'm the national coordinator for this project). We have a variety of hearing loss and accomodations on our team ranging from hard of hearing/non-signing to deaf-of-deaf ASL users. I won't lie and say its peachy keen, no problems. But hell, it works pretty well if I may say so myself.

In any case, the paradigm shift is not something to be feared but rather managed by the deaf community. The administration has been successful so far in spinning the message into an us vs. them between the two groups. Unfortunately, some bloggers have manged to reinforce this perception.

As I've noted, I prefer to believe that a rising tide floats all boats. Until our organizations (NAD, AGB, HLAA, AADB, TDI, and the rest of the alpahabet soup) start working together for the common good, we're going to continue to have balkanized results with distrustful eyes toward each other.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Blogs - The Boss Is Watching...

In a recent article, the New Scientist magazine explored what is happening today in IT and what expectation workers and job applicants have when it comes to privacy.

Article: The Boss is Watching your Every Click...

In reading the article, I was thinking of how the blog-o-sphere has exploded in the wake of the Gallaudet protests. People who normally have never written a single word online are now posting daily updates.

But in particular, I'm thinking of people like Mike McConnell, Elisa Abenchuchan, and perhaps the most notorious deaf blogger (hell, he even says it himself!), Ricky Taylor. It's easy to look at what's going on today and place the blog postings in their proper context but 2, 5, or 10 years down the road?

Many of the blog entries I read today try to be straightforward and civil expressions of opinion and/or fact. Unfortunately, a number of them are also quite uncivil and/or borderline slanderous.

I know Ridor from Gallaudet and we've butted heads before but I'm glad to see him online. I've always believed that more speech is better than the alternative.

(long story short: I was trying to help a very drunk friend of mine get back to his room when he peed all over Ridor's door. Ridor and I talked about this a few months ago and *I think* we had a laugh over it. I'll also admit that during the frequent flame wars on the old VAX NOTES system, I was one of those people who referred to him as "Twinkie Toes". Given my immaturity back then and his recent weight loss, I hope he forgives me)

I have to honestly wonder though: since bloggers are basically puts themselves "out there" online, are they harming their chances for future employment? Are future bosses going to look them up and go, "this is good stuff but s/he ain't workin' here!"

Or are they going to take the Google path and say, "This person can write and communicate effectively. They would be a valuable addition to this office."

More interestingly, will our deaf bloggers find restrictions on what they can and cannot publish? I'd be interested in seeing how some deaf / HoH workplaces address this issue.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Philly Tent City - 10/18/06

Neil at left, Sarah in pink sweater
(Neil in blue on left, Sarah in pink on right (All pics taken by Patty available at:

Sarah and I took a trip with our sons, Ethan and Ben, to see Tent City. In retrospect, I've learned some very important lessons:

1) GPS units may be great but when they suck, they really suck. It took me about an hour to make (for other people) a 9 minute drive from PSD to the Tent City site.

2) It was nice to see some people I knew and meet some other new folks.

3) More importantly, I was heartened to see Cren Quigley make a very important acknowledgement: That yes, Dr. Fernandes is qualified to be President "on paper" but she's simply not the right person for the job. I was happy to see they weren't engaging in demonization or mockery of the principals in this sad state of affairs.

Sarah had been on her feet covering two classes all day at PSD so she was pretty dang tired. We left after about an hour and 15 minutes but it was fun nonetheless.

Congrats to my good friend Mark Drolsbaugh, Karen Feldmann, and Cren Quigley for a successful event!

Monday, October 16, 2006

As further evidence that FSSA needs to re-tool its message...

... In my earlier blog post this morning, I said the administration continues to win the PR war with the larger community.

I got this article in my email from DeafTimes that shows how the Administration continues to run PR-circles around the FSSA.

DC Examiner : Enough is enough at Gallaudet

Before we go bashing the media for reporting before completely understanding the issues, I refer you again to Sandman's Sandbox:

FSSA was still missing in action; many expected the resumption of Tent City, or at least the re-emergence of FSSA in August. When that didn't happen, some assumed it would happen with the actual start of classes. That too didn't happen. August turned into September, and the weeks dragged on. FSSA still didn't have a mission statement on the home page of its web site, nor was there a coherent explanation for how everything began, what had happened, and where FSSA was going. There was no real summary of what FSSA had done the past three months. A small suggestion for FSSA: try developing a mission statement, and link this to a timeline, which should also be on your site. Not only will it provide clarity for people with no prior knowledge who are visiting your website, it also might clarify a lot for you as well.

The website still doesn't clearly explain (beyond a simple outline) the core issues and doesn't provide any single place to rebut the administration's PR.

If there is any hope for the FSSA to take on the administration in the battle for the larger community's opinions, they need to start developing coherent and simple messages beyond the cultural issues and doing a better job of making sure everyone follows the same script.

Post-10/13 Protests & Arrests

On Friday night, I came home after celebrating a friend's 40th birthday to the news that the arrests had started on campus. Waking up on saturday to the news that 135 students had been arrested was quite sobering.

Dave Evans over at Sandman's Sandbox has put up two excellent posts analyzing what's happened the past few days in the larger framework of the entire FSSA movement (here and here)


I accept the following as true:
1) President Jordan and Dr. Fernandes have the responsibility to keep the campus open at all times

2) Jordan/Fernandes are ultimately responsible for ordering the arrests that took place on 10/13/06

3) In order for the campus to heal and move on, Dr. Fernandes must resign in order to preserve the BOT's credibility as a governance organization

4) The BOT, in turn, must re-evaluate the University's role as a educational institution and as a cultural institution

5) Finally, Dr. Jordan must understand that his legacy has taken some serious hits. To see Merv Garretson questioning the presidential search process is a kick in the head. To see Father Tom Coughlin leaving the typical Roman Catholic priest's rectitude at the door in his recent open letter should convince him how profoundly this has impacted Deaf people.


But I want to address a point many people are missing. People are condemning IKJ/JKF for ordering the arrests of the protesters. However, I see things slightly differently. Yes, see #2 above and then see #1 above.

It seems to me he has no choice in the matter. Gallaudet is, above all, an educational institution. More to the point, Gallaudet is an educational institution that accepts both tuition and federal funds to ensure students are taught.

By shutting the campus down, the protesters were essentially begging to be arrested. Many blogs reported that protesters even encouraged the cops to arrest them.

So why are so many people so outraged today? The FSSA got what they wanted, which was to try and force the administration's hand. The administration, while taking a minor PR hit, can easily go back to its supporters and the media and say "we did what we had to do in order to reopen the campus."

It seems the ante has been upped but the game is still the same. The Administration continues to win the larger PR war while the FSSA gets more stakeholders (Fac/Staff/Students/Alum) fired up.

I refer back to my earlier post where I shared my concerns about the repercussions long after Tent City is gone and (hopefully) some new president takes over. Unfortunately, this trend of the two kids (the administration and the FSSA) pissing in each other's cheerios is likely to continue long after the immediate demands are met or ignored.

Friday, October 13, 2006

UPDATE: Captioned Video of KYW-CBS3 Coverage of Deaf Firefighter

Many thanks to Walt Hunter, the reporter in this piece for following through on this! He worked with the station's webteam to post the captioned version online. Hopefully they'll be able to do the same for ALL videos posted online!

Here's the link:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What went wrong at Gallaudet - A Tactical Analysis:

In this entry, I'm going to discuss where the Gallaudet protesters made critical mistakes in their current tactics and provide some guesses as to what will happen next.

Let me first preface this with a few disclaimers:
1) I'm not an expert by any stretch of imagination as it pertains to military/police maneuvers. While I have observed law enforcement training classes and discussed tactics at length, that in itself does not qualify me as an expert.
2) It should be clear that while I support the demand of Dr. Fernandes' resignation based on the circumstances at hand, I do not support the tactics of the students to bring about this result.
3) This is based on the internet entries over the past few days. I have no knowledge beyond what you can read on

The critical mistake was abandoning a position of strength (HMB) for a more attractive but less defensible target (the entire campus). Let me explain.

Hall Memorial Building (HMB) is a large brick building with a large atrium inside of it. There are 4 entrances and two exit-only doors for the entire building. Entrances can be barricaded (not safely, mind you...god forbid a fire should occur) and minimal human presence is needed to guard the main entrance. Since all manpower is in a small place, communication and control of manpower is easily accomplished.

In effect, control HMB and you effectively control the academic climate of the campus.

Gallaudet University, however, also has 6 entrances surrounded by 1.7 miles of fence. The entrances cannot be barricaded except by use of vehicles and are heavily dependent on manpower (ergo: you need a lot of bodies there otherwise tow trucks and other heavy equipment can remove barricades quickly). In order to effectively guard the gates, protestors needed to move most of the bodies from HMB to these areas. Additionally, by stretching the manpower to the entrances, the end result is lack of communication and control between each group of students.

Relatively few DPS officers were required (this is the sense I get from the blogs) to effectively retake HMB and cut off the protesters from their supplies (tents, etc.) This is especially critical as I write this because a cold front has moved into the region bringing temperatures from the 70's this afternoon to low 40's overnight bringing entries like this, and this.

I have to think the timing of the police department's actions were intentional. Knowing that cold weather was moving in and cutting the protesters off from their warmth and food supplies, the hope is very cold and very hungry protestors would be more likely to walk away from the gates allowing them to reopen the campus. It remains to be seen if this occurred.

Tonight, temperatures will drop to the 30's. It would not surprise me to see the administration making their move to retake the campus leading up to the coldest hours of night. One might argue the administration will have its justification for forcibly ending the protest with freezing weather approaching since they can cite "safety" reasons as their rationale.

Of course, the protesters can easily say by shutting down the entire campus, they have spread awareness of the issues facing Gallaudet to a broader audience. I won't debate that but as noted above, the protesters have traded long term strength for short-term exposure.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Coverage of Deaf Firefighter - Philly Area

Matt O'Brien, a young man who recently graduated from the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf recently joined his local Fire Department. There's been a good amount of coverage locally:

- Delco Times - 10/2/06 - Link

- WCAU / NBC10 - 10/3/06 - Link

The local news stations also covered his swearing-in ceremony today as well. I have encouraged them to post captioned versions on their websites and will update this entry with additional articles.

UPDATE: The video (sans captions) is now up on the website -

Congratulations and welcome to the brotherhood, Matt!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Whither the Buff and Blue?

Check out the links on Joey Baer's page:

When I was an editor there, we often chose our stories with the intent of effecting change, whether it be a deeper analysis of (then) DOSS's disarming, Kappa Gamma's hazing practices, and other forms of general idiocy on campus. But we always tried our best to make sure we were presenting some appearance of a fair and balanced article. I'll be the first to admit we didn't always achieve that but we at least TRIED. I'll also be the first to admit that the BnB wasn't always worth the paper it was printed on but when we hit gold, we REALLY hit gold!

Looking at Buff and Blue special editions #4 and #6, it appears that the FSSA / Students have basically hijacked the BnB with its 100+year history as its propaganda tool instead of allowing it to remain an independent body upon which readers can look to for analysis and reporting.

Looking at the loss of the BnB and reviewing DeafRead, it seems there is NO one source anyone can turn to to provide a full and unbiased account of what's going on at Gallaudet.

CLARIFICATION: I'm not saying DeafRead is a source of original material related to the protest. I was referring to the fact that the the blogs that currently take advantage of DeafRead's features are quite partisian in this debate.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gallaudet Protest Thoughts...

Since the deaf blog-o-sphere has been abuzz about the events of the last few days at Gallaudet (CNN, WashPost)) , I figured it was time for me to put my own two cents in. I'm a former Buff and Blue Editor in Chief and served as SBG President very briefly in the '90's.

By far, the best letter written on the issue comes from Roger Kraft and is posted on the GUFSSA.ORG website: Roger's Letter. Why is this the best letter written so far? Simply because he does not cast his lot among the conspiracy theorists or those who stick their heads in the sand and deny a leadership crisis exists.

I have to agree with Roger. I've only met Dr. Fernandes a few times and those were in relation to emergency preparedness issues. I'm not qualified to pass judgement on her ability to lead the University into its next era. In May, I was among those who sat on the fence on the matter. From a governance perspective (the Board Of Trustees), backtracking on their decision would have disastrous consequences for this and future BOT's.

At the time, I thought the students were overreacting and not giving Dr. Fernandes a fair shake simply based on her linguistic background as a not-very-good signer. (fair disclosure: I'm not a great signer either and learned ASL at 19 years old at Gallaudet) I wondered if she was not an acceptable choice to the FSSA, does that mean all persons like her (and myself) have no place in being leaders in the deaf community?

The events of the past several weeks have changed my mind. The intransigent polarity among all sides has led to a climax on Friday where protestors occupied the Hall Memorial Building and the administration attempted to re-open it using DPS officers.

The only reasonable conclusion to this mess is clearly obvious
: Dr. Fernandes must resign and spare the Board of Trustees the crippling (if not fatal) embarassment of having to reverse its decision at a future date. A new search must be initiated with equal FSSA participation.

What bothers me most is the you're either with us or against us mentality. I don't know if this is reflective of our polarized society as a whole or specific to this particular issue. My biggest fear is this polarity will carry over well beyond the conclusion of this sad affair.

The FSSA must publicly state (and live up to) its demand for no reprisals on all sides. When the dust settles, people who supported Dr. Fernandes and the current administration must face no reprisals for their support just as there should be no reprisals against the FSSA for their actions. Extremists on both sides must be marginalized and concrete steps must be taken to bring this badly-wounded community back together again.


Neil McDevitt

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Vehicle Fire - 9/9/06

DATE: 9/9/06
TIME: 1730

Station 18 (FDMT) was dispatched to a vehicle fire at the Montgomery Mall. Enroute, a large column of smoke was observed. Upon arrival, Squad 18 reported a VW Jetta fully involved with exposure to two adjacent vehicles in the parking lot.

Squad 18 put its bumper line into service and extinguished the fire as well as cooled down the adjacent vehicles. A secondary backup line was stretched as a precaution.

Units were in service for approximately 45 minutes.

PERSONAL NARRATIVE: I was driving home with my wife and kids from a family get together when the call came in. I pulled into the station and jumped into Squad 18 and donned my gear during the 90 second drive.

Upon arrival, I was still gettting my SCBA on so didn't get on the hoseline. However, I helped flake it out then went to get a halligan bar to gain entry to the trunk and engine compartments.

In all, a good operation. The fire was knocked down within 20 seconds.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Wakin' Up, Loooooord, I'm a-wakin' up!

A few months ago, I used to be able to wake up for overnight fire calls and on occasion, would easily get up for multiple calls and still be rarin' to go in the morning.

When I took the new job a few months ago and started working 50 - 60 hour weeks, that became really difficult after a while.

So it was surprising that after a rather difficult week (spent 3 days in DC, mucho mucho busy), I was able to wake up for an automatic fire alarm call at 12:15 this am. Nothing going on at this particular call.

What's interesting to me is that even though I'd stopped getting up for overnight calls for a while, I still kept an extra shirt and socks in the hallway in case I actually did get up. Its interesting how firefighting has changed my habits.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It really gets embarassing when....

...You look at your own blog and realize that you haven't posted for nearly 7 months!

What can I say? I've been busy.

Here are some recent calls I've gone on:

CALL TYPE: Elevator Rescue


DATE: 5-26-06

TIME REC'D: 0723

FDMT UNITS RESPONDING: Squad 18, Rescue 18

NARRATIVE: 1 person stuck in elevator. Secured power to both elevators, car was located on third floor. Used elevator keys to access car and remove occupant.

PERSONAL NARRATIVE - Neil: I arrived at the station after the career staff took Squad 18 out. My Battalion Chief arrived shortly after me and we drove together to add to the manpower pool for the call. When we arrived, the rescue was completed and all units were sent home.


DATE: 06-05-06


LOCATION: 100 Block of Canterbury Ln, Montgomery Township (PA)

Initial Dispatch:


Units were ordered to reduce speed at 1914, and held to Station 18 at 1922. Fire was held to a bathroom and attic was checked for extension. No extension found.

Personal narrative: We were in the middle of our monthly meeting. I was assigned to the Squad as the backup. We arrived on scene (4 of us on rig) and the nozzle man jumped off to grab the hydrant. Lt. Simes and I grabbed the line and stood by at the door. The crew from the Ladder was able to extinguish the fire with a 5 gallon can.


Friday, December 23, 2005

New stuff...

A few new things:

1: I've started a consulting business called The McDevitt Group that provides emergency preparedness consultling for people with disabilities. Feel free to check it out.

2: If you're a deaf firefighter, EMT or first responder, please check out
and contribute to the discussions. Even if you're not any of the above, join anyway: we'd love to hear from various perspectives.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Finally... some fire!

Yes, it's been almost 5 months since my last post. Yes, it's been that long since we had REAL action.

I know, I know.. I shouldn't equate "fires/rescues" with lack of activity; after all we're always training and learning new things.

First things first:
4:15 pm on 12/16, FDMT was toned out for a dumpster fire in a residential area. I jumped on the Squad along withFF. Mogenson in the back. Since Paul just graduated from Jr. Firefighter, he asked if he could take the knob (nozzle) while I backed him up. The Chief advised that the dumpster was 15 feet from a house and well-involved.

Upon arrival, we began to put water on the fire which darkened it down considerably.

However, keep in mind, the dumpster was half-full and the fire was likely burning under the trash so we had to move a good amount of trash around in order to find the seat of the fire.

Pictures to come soon.