When I worked for the fire department, there were many instances and opportunities to interact with members of other municipal departments over the years.

For the most part, the encounters occurred day-to-day when working in the emergency response division. However, as my career shifted to the training center, I was assigned to the driver engineer instructor's position, and I was asked to get involved with presentations for different entities and other fire departments.

Probably one of the most common engagements during my emergency response days was with our police department/force. They would call us when needed and vice versa. Coming from our end, however, this was a "privilege" you did not want to take advantage of, even though it was in our standard operating procedures (SOPs) to call law enforcement when needed. In other words, you don't want to cry wolf when it wasn't needed.

Police officers, obviously, had certain powers that we did not. For example, they could use the Baker Act to deal with someone who is mentally compromised for any reason. When we felt threatened for any reason or were assaulted, we needed to call the police on "3," meaning lights and sirens, officer needing assistance. We referenced code 15, meaning feeling threatened, or code 32 for assault. Depending on the circumstances, therefore, it was either a 315 or 332.

Any other time the police department was needed for minor issues, there would be a waiting period, usually about 30 minutes or more. But when you called a "3," they would be there in an instant. And if it was not justified, you would have to hear an earful. As stated earlier, this was a privilege not to be abused.

Many times, we would be subpoenaed to court for various calls — domestic arguments, driving while intoxicated or under the influence, shootings, assaults, etc. Our interaction with legal representatives occurred on a regular basis, and your professionalism needed to be on its A game. You need to be confident, articulate, look presentable (clean, pressed shirt and pants, shoes shined, shaven, etc.). Remember, this speaks volumes not only for yourself, but also for your department.

There was always some sort of interagency drill we would be called to participate or to be an observer. There were also times where the event needed agencies to work with each other operationally.

We had a tunnel installed that would go to the Port of Miami. On one side, it involved the city fire department if a response was needed; on the other side, it was the county fire department's responsibility.

This also required a new policy/procedure for tunnel responses. My part was to write a policy/procedure for driver engineers identifying water supply, pressures with changes in elevation, communication across the agencies and maritime assets, etc. These were great learning experiences.

Being an observer is a great opportunity to learn and provide valuable input — and become an asset that can gain you respect in your area of expertise. You will more than likely get called again to participate, which is another way to represent your department and make it shine. It is also a great time to build contacts and working relationships for networking and resources.

One of our chiefs was contacted by our area's United States Coast Guard (USCG). They asked if there was someone who could do a presentation on holiday safety, and I was chosen. The presentation involved driver safety, cooking safety (fried turkey) and even Christmas tree ornamentation overloading of circuits, keeping real trees hydrated to avoid a fire hazard, etc. I would share driving statistics, incidents, techniques, driving habits, videos, Q&A sessions with the different groups of the USCG base.

Other entities were also invited. The Florida Highway Patrol (state troopers) would talk about impaired driving, local police department representatives, etc. Year after year, I would get invited back, which was an honor for me. I would have to change my PowerPoint with different content to keep interest. However, it was an honor to serve our frontline military services. I appreciated a nice letter of commendation, a challenge coin, a coffee cup whatever was given in return.

Regardless of the entity, you are doing a great thing not only for yourself, but also for your department. It also sets an example for your peers and others you encounter. These opportunities also open doors for future endeavors you may pursue.

Always build a respectable reputation inside and outside your organization. It can it lead to many good things.