Chris Kindelspire, a communications person for Grundy County, was asked to travel to Dubai to speak at a communications conference on public safety for the Middle East.
Kindelspire, director of electronic operations for the county and a captain for the Morris Fire Protection & Ambulance District, spent the first week of May in Dubai, an emirate of the United Arab Emirates.
The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) global conference was called "The Middle East Link to Global Public Safety." This was the second year for the conference in Dubai, but it is the first time Kindelspire has attended.
The event brought together experts from around the world to discuss and show the technology and education available for public safety officials, according to apcoglobalcongress.org.
APCO is one of four Federal Communications Commissions designated public safety frequency coordinating bodies. Each state has its own local chapter of APCO, which have one or two frequency advisers. Kindelspire is one of Illinois' advisers, so when an agency applies for a frequency or FCC license through APCO, it goes through Kindelspire and/or his counterpart, Bill Carter.
"It helps broaden people's exposure," said Kindelspire of APCO. For example, it provides trainings and publications for any person in the communications field that is a member, such as dispatchers.
Kindelspire presented on Project 25 Digital Radio, the United States' public safety digital communications standard, and another person presented on Europe's Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA). The presentations were followed by a roundtable discussion, providing information for the agencies present to decide which would be a better fit for them.
Project 25 is trying to expand globally and TETRA is trying to expand into America, Kindelspire said, so the program compared the two for the Middle Easterners.
"I got a call out of the blue one day," he said about Loredana Elsberry Schwartz of APCO, asking him to participate on a Project 25 vs. TETRA roundtable. He was asked just before the dispatchers were getting ready to move into Grundy's new 9-1-1 dispatch center.
"It was one of those things where you jump and say sure, but then are like 'maybe I need to find out more about it,'" Kindelspire said. He spoke to some communications colleagues who attended last year to see how the audience reacted to them and decided to take the opportunity.
People from Arab nations, the U.K., Australia, the Philippines and other countries were present. Holding it in Dubai two years in a row was to help pull in the Middle Eastern section, Kindelspire said.
"As one of the fire chiefs, you always are proud and expect your employees to excel and represent their place of employment with a job well done," Assistant Fire Chief Tracey Steffes said. "However, with Chris, he has brought great pride to the Morris Fire Protection & Ambulance District by representing the United States in a global position through radio communications,"
Kindelspire's passion for what he does always shows, he continued.
"Because of people like Chris, other people from around the country can look at the map ,and when they see Morris, Illinois, they can say I have heard of that town," Steffes said.
It took Kindelspire 14 hours from Washington D.C. to get to Dubai. There is a nine-hour time difference between here and there.
His first impression was that it was smoggy.
"I asked someone, and they said no, that's sand, that's dust," Kindelspire said. In certain months of the year, the wind blows in off the desert. From September to November, it is clearer.
Everything is big, he said. Their malls and even their highways are three times bigger than in Illinois. The larger malls offer parachuting and downhill skiing. And the highways have 16 lanes and no off ramps. The weather was hot. It was 104 to 106 degrees while he was there, and it was humid, too.
As a firefighter, he was especially interested to see how their ambulance system runs. He was able to spend a day at the ambulance corporation headquarters. It's more of a corporate business there than a service, he said.
The residences do not have addresses, and the buildings are named so the ambulance personnel have to know the area. The ambulances are separated by gender, because certain nationalities do not allow men paramedics to give females care, Kindelspire said. Dubai has 360 different ethnicities.
They each shared how firefighters and ambulance personnel overtime works. They told Kindelspire overtime hours are their "gift to the government for having a job," he said.
The fire department is run by the country's civil defense, not by the locals.
The culture traditions were also unique, he said. You're not supposed to sit in a position where the soles of your shoes can be seen, and you are not supposed to initiate handshakes, but wait for the native to acknowledge you for a handshake.
Women are expected to have their shoulders covered, and no skirts above the knee, but it is more liberal there with women than some of the other emirates.
Kindelspire's favorite part was getting to talk with communications people from other countries. He got to visit with the woman in charge of London's main dispatch center during the riots last year.
"Here I am from little old Grundy County, if they only knew it was the corn desert," he said.