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9-1-1 Magazine: A History
Author: Randall D. Larson, Editor
Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content
Originally Published in the Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, and May/Jun 1999 issues of 9-1-1 Magazine and online March 2010 and March 2011, with new postscript.
Start-to-finish. The first and last issues of our printed magazine.
9-1-1 Magazine was the brainchild of publisher Jim Voelkl, whose family had owned Official Publications, Inc. (OPI) since 1945, publishing periodicals for, public safety and veterans associations and various other organizations. With numerous trade magazines serving the needs of the various components of public safety – Firehouse, Fire Engineering, American Fire Journal, Fire Chief, Police Chief, JEMS, Law Enforcement Technology – the communications field was represented only by association journals like APCO Bulletin and NENA News.
“OPI saw a niche within the public safety communications industry that was not represented by an independent magazine,” said Jim, who sought to create a magazine that focused on communications while serving the needs of law enforcement, the fire service, and emergency medical services.
9-1-1 Magazine was born with a 36-page issue, dated Winter 1988. The cover depicted two Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters attacking a garage fire. Two handfuls of short articles filled the pages; illustrations were mostly drawings or the advertisements that were necessary for the magazine’s existence. Contributing correspondents included Rick LaValla and Skip Stoffel of the Emergency Response Institute, Harry Lewelyn, and Steve Rottman, Director of Prehospital care at the UCLA Emergency Medicine Center.
“Our initial goals were to be recognized and accepted among the industry as an asset,” said Jim Voelkl. “And to provide quality and factual information. This meant assembling a cadre of knowledgeable Advisory Board members, columnists, writers and photographers from within the industry.”
A second issue appeared Spring, 1989 (pictured, right). Larger by a dozen pages, additional correspondents like LAFD EMS Chief Alan Cowan and more photographers were brought onboard. A color section was added. “We seek to be the most respected publication for the emergency response community…” wrote Jim Voelkl in his editorial.
Jim Voelkl initially served as both editor and publisher, with page design by Lori Loucks. Jim’s wife Richele served as the magazine’s Systems Manager, insuring the necessary behind-the-scenes tasks were accomplished to get the magazine out. Jim’s mother Jackie, co-founder of OPI in 1945, came aboard as the magazine’s Public Information Officer. A frequent traveler, Jackie would often write articles about public safety agencies in the places she visited.
I recently asked Jim Voelkl what it took to get the magazine off the ground. “Lots of all-nighters!” he told me. “Since OPI's background was publishing house-organs owned by others, we were unfamiliar with what it would take to launch. In an effort to produce a first rate magazine we were way over budget our first issues.”
The Red Covers
The Sept/Oct 89, issue saw a major overhaul of the magazine’s appearance. The newsprint quality paper of the first year’s issues was replaced by slick magazine paper. More photos – black and white and color – were used. Departments were expanded to inaugurate Product Profiles and From the Field, the latter seeking photos and news from readers; it would eventually become a popular photo page. Covers were now red with white lettering and an inset color photo. Sep/Oct 89 featured a story on “The Dynamics of Medical Care for Structure Collapse Victims.” Nov/Dec 89, focused on California’s Loma Prieta earthquake. Frequency was increased from quarterly to bi-monthly. The magazine’s scope expanded from California-specific to national.
1990 dawned with a cover story on EMTs by San Francisco Paramedic Chief Robert Navaro and a feature on the Law Enforcement Incident Command System by Vic Thies and Greg Cooper. Regular contributor Dr. Stephenie Slahor gave us her first story in this issue. We debuted our subtitle, “For the Emergency Response Industry” (changed in March/April to the more apropos “Emergency Response Community.” The “9-1-1 Calendar” of seminars, conferences, and other happenings of interest to public safety personnel was expanded to a full page. Major vendors like Positron, STS, and PowerPhone began to take notice and support the magazine through advertising. In what would be his last editorial, Jim Voelkl wrote: “We plan to keep our readers up-to-date well into the next century on further developments in telecommunications and new uses in computers, management, and equipment.”
New Editor, New Look
The Mar/Apr 90 issue saw Jim step back into the publisher role, and Joe Bergman came aboard as editor. Ray Weaver became the magazine’s Advertising-Marketing Director. Writer John Hoffmann, who would contribute 15 articles over the years, began in May/June 90 with a story on a tragic explosion in Missouri that killed six firefighters and a report on the fire service in China.
Jul/Aug 90 was a milestone in the magazine’s appearance. Completely revamped by Lil Fox, our new Art Director, this issue featured our new 3-color logo and the cover format we’ve used throughout the decade. The magazine’s focus continued to be toward the future – reporting on significant incidents handled by public safety while looking ahead at trends, technology, and techniques that will affect the emergency response community. We started three regular columns – Police (Martin C, Brhel, Jr.), EMS (J. Franaszek, D. Lemak & J. Ratko), and Communications (Martin Stilman).
“This decade will see considerable advancement in equipment, its use and the methods underway for improving all aspects of communications,” wrote Bergman. “Of equal significance is the advancement of training methods for communications people.”
Notable fire service author Paul Ditzel came aboard in Sep/Oct 90 with a cover story on fireboats and the start of a stint as Fire Service columnist. Frank Potter-Cowan reported on the use of emergency Public Information during Santa Barbara County’s disastrous Paint Fire of that summer. Steve Hermann, Arizona DPS Hazmat Specialist, began a column on hazardous materials response. The Communications column rotated authorship.
Richele Voelkl (Jim’s wife) assumed Advertising Manager duties with the Jan/Feb 91 issue, increasing the magazine’s opportunities for the advertisers who were its economic lifeblood.
The same issue announced a First Responder Photo Contest, with cash prizes awarded to three winners. We published the winners in May/June. Retired police officer Arlan McGregor assumed the role of law enforcement columnist. An Editorial Advisory Board was created in Mar/Apr 91 consisting of Alan Burton (retired Sheriff’s Captain), Alan Cowan (LAFD), Dr. Jacek Franaszek (Medical Director), Stephen Hermann (Arizona DPS), Jeffrey Munks (AT&T Language Line), Frank Potter (CSTI), Billy Prince (LETN.) and Vic Thies (Irvine PD).
Enter Alan Burton
The biggest change, though, came with the introduction of Alan Burton as editor, in May/Jun 91. A retired captain and 25-year veteran of the Contra Costa County (CA) Sheriff’s Department, Alan had begun a dispatcher’s newsletter in 88 called Dispatch Monthly and serves as a consultant on various 9-1-1 projects. An Editorial Advisory Board member since its inception, Alan brought a new tone to the magazine’s editorial direction and scope, including a direction away from response toward the communications specialty.
Alan also established formal, written editorial and photo guidelines, and encouraged the use of style manuals to improve written submissions. Initially, Alan recently reminisced, “I ended up writing or ghostwriting pieces for several reasons: too few writers available, too few who could write, too few who could write what I wanted them to write. It took some time to develop my own writers.” Alan also computerized the editorial process. Joe Bergman had submitted his editorial material on paper, which the production office would process. Alan, from his home in Oregon, submitted the magazine’s content on floppy disk. Art Director Lil Fox and Page Makeup artists Lori Loucks and Cheryl Hamling took Alan’s text and photos and transformed them into magazine format. Galleys and final page proofs were overnighted to Alan (Jackie Voelkl also was an important part of the proofreading process) with corrections returned to OPI before each issue went to press.
Roanne Rubin Tall (Seminole Co, FL, 9-1-1), J. Ross Sherohman (Deep East Texas Council of Govts), and Patrick LaValla (Emergency Response Institute) were appointed to the Editorial Advisory Board, joining their seven colleagues in offering counsel about the magazine’s scope and direction. We began our regular features “Funny Side” (cartoons) and “Glancing Back” (vintage photos).
May/Jun 91 also saw our first look at GIS and exciting applications for public safety. Jul/Aug 91 focused on aviation emergencies and safety with several articles. Cheryl Hamling was promoted to Art Director with Sep/Oct 91. The same issue saw the first of several reports on mobile command posts we’ve run over the years. Nov/Dec 91 saw our first Buyer’s Guide, an extensive directory of manufacturers and distributors who market products or services to the public safety industry. Intended as a tool to assist managers in making their purchasing decisions, the Buyer’s Guide has remained an important annual feature in each succeeding Nov/Dec issue. Frequent writer Richard Morrison and his photographer wife Kathy came onboard in this issue with a look at the “Objectives of 9-1-1,” and Medical Consultant Joseph Ferko joined the Editorial Board. Oakland dispatcher Marc Liggin gave a lengthy report on the Oakland-Berkeley Hills Fire, followed up by firefighter Jeff Rusteen’s flame-side report in Jan/Feb 92 and Frank Cowan’s PIO retrospective in Jul/Aug 92.
A new column surged forth in Mar/Apr 92, Donald Marcella’s Aquatic Report, about water rescue. Authorship of the police and fire chiefs’ columns were rotating between various writers. Photo Contest Winners published in our May/Jun 92 included Brian Wilker’s moving cover photo of a Cleveland (OH) EMS crew attempting CPR on a 4-year old boy found trapped in a house fire. Dispatcher trainer Francis X. Holt would see the first of many stories appear in this issue. Brookhaven (PA) Police Chief, Garrison (IA) Fire Chief Steve Meyer, and St. Louis (MO) EMS Chief Gary Ludwig began to helm our police, fire, and EMS columns.
Frequent writer/photographer Howard M. Paul took a look at Denver’s new Comm Center in Jul/Aug 92. Orange County Fire Capt. Rodney George reported on the Los Angeles Riots in Sep/Oct 92. Francis Holt took a perceptive look at RESCUE 911 and the dispatchers-on-TV trend (titled “A Double-Edged Sword?”) in Nov/Dec 92, also our second annual Buyer’s Guide issue. Carlsbad (CA) Police Comm/Records Supervisor Sheila Tarvin began a communications manager’s column. Former APCO Advertising Rep Bonnie Underwood came on board as our Advertising Sales Rep.
We got a makeover in 1993 with the appointment of Bob Payne as Art Director, and his associate Vera Milosovich handling typesetting and page makeup. Their splendid work continues to make our issues look great. Jan/Feb 93 spotlighted Arlington Heights (IL) Northwest Central Dispatch System and featured the first article by a shy San Jose (CA) Fire dispatcher named Randall Larson, writing on setting up a communications Critical Incident Stress Debriefing team.
Berkeley (CA) dispatcher Gary Allen wrote about public safety and GPS in Mar/Apr 93 and authored the first of our annual “State of 9-1-1” articles in May/Jun 93. The two cute models in Randall Larson’s story on “9-1-1 and the Poison Control Center” are, in fact, his two young daughters. Sheila Tarvin traveled to Japan and reported on the Tokyo Police in Jul/Aug 93, which also featured our 3rd annual (and final) photo contest winners. Sep/Oct 93 saw Alan Burton reporting on the Goodyear Blimp’s reconnaissance duties in Florida after Hurricane Andrew. Unfortunately he didn’t get a ride. Writer Berry Thomas got one, in a fire service Hummer. He wrote it up on Mar/Apr 93. We don’t know if Howard M. Paul got a ride or not, but he did report on how Denver public safety prepared for and handled a visit from the Pope in Nov/Dec 93. Gary Allen gave readers a profile of the distinguished Mr. Burton in the same issue, but didn’t note any special arrangements Denver may have made for him. Consultant Bill Parker began a 3-part series on government procurement for Comm Managers.
Jan/Feb 94 took a look at three exemplary PSAPs (Henderson, NV; Richardson, TX; Portland, OR) and also featured Stephen Wallace’s moving tribute to fallen Niagara County (NY) sheriff’s deputy Jefrey Incardona. Jackie Voelkl visited South Africa and returned with a story and photos on a PSAP in Johannesburg for Mar/Apr 94. Lynda Bloom took a look at the NEXRAD weather tracking system. Contra Costa County (CA) Sheriff Warren Rupf (Alan Burton’s old boss) joined the Editorial Advisory Board, Roanne Rubin Tall departed.
Randall Larson came back for May/Jun 94 with a story on PSAP preparations for a presidential visit. Gary Allen took our first look at logging recorders. Washington Consultant Bob Tall began a column focusing on national legislative issues of concern to public safety communications. Stanly County (NC) Comm Director Lisa Linker replaced Jacek Franaszek on the Editorial Board. Alan Burton interviewed telecommunications expert Stan Harter for Jul/Aug 94, discussing packet radio and public safety. Gary Allen wrote about trunked radio. Sep/Oct 94 reported on California’s Northridge Earthquake and took a new look at mobile command vans.
A member of Eisenhower’s staff during World War II, Jackie Voelkl (Jim’s mother and co-founder of Official Publications) was invited to the D-Day Commemoration in England and reported on the event’s public safety preparations in Nov/Dec 94. Gary Allen was promoted to Associate Editor with this issue, responsible for reviewing incoming submissions and compiling each issue’s “Glancing Back” photo feature.
Jan/Feb 95 came with an announcement from publisher Jim Voelkl that Alan Burton would be departing as editor in order to assume full time consulting duties for public safety communication projects. At Alan’s recommendation, the shy writer from San Jose, Randall Larson, was announced as his successor. Jim Voelkl introduced the new editor: “Not only is he an experienced writer and editor, he has more than 10 years of experience in public safety communications as a police and fire dispatcher.”
Said Burton recently, “It was time for me to move on when I ‘retired,’ and I was glad I had a chance to select my replacement. I’m proud to be the editor emeritus and remain associated, even in such a small part. It isn’t often that an editor leaves a publication and the management keeps his name in the masthead.”
As I noted in my first editorial, Mar/Apr 95, Alan had left me with extremely big shoes to fill. Not to mention an editorial calendar I had to meet! My first issue focused on disaster preparation; without a lot of time I drew from my own experiences in San Jose and focused on disaster response from a local level (“Emergency Contingency Planning for the PSAP”), state-wide level (“California’s Emergency Digital Information Service,” by Art Botterell), and national level (FEMA’s “Emergency Management Institute” by Stephen Sharro). We also covered three recent plane crashes and how they affected local responders.
May/Jun 95 introduced regular contributor and swiftwater rescue proponent Nancy J. Rigg, who reported on Southern California flood response. Pacific Bell’s Tom Latino authored our annual “State of 9-1-1” survey. I took a look at the Project 25 debate then raging between Motorola and Ericsson, and tried to stay clear of flying handhelds. Jul/Aug 95 inaugurated Art Botterell’s Internet Watch column as we took our first look at public safety and the Internet. This issue also contained our first report on the Oklahoma City bombing, from the perspective of the Phoenix USAR Task Force that was the first FEMA USAR team to arrive on scene. Sep/Oct 95 expanded our Oklahoma City coverage with reports from each of the PSAPs involved in the disaster (police, fire, EMS) , as well as Nancy Rigg’s heartfelt report on critical incident stress management provided for the responder. Gary Allen left as our Associate Editor and soon began doing great things as editor of Alan Burton’s Dispatch Monthly. Jackie Voelkl reported on London’s Metropolitan Police in Nov/Dec 95, while Sheila Tarvin rode along with Anchorage (AK) Police and gave us a report from the last frontier.
Expanding our Focus
Communications Managers have always been our primary focus, but I’ve always tried to provide material of interest to line dispatchers and field personnel. We also began to expand our focus to include disaster managers. With our annual disaster response issue in Jan/Feb 96, we examined the earthquake in Kobe, Japan; typhoons in Alaska; hurricanes on the Atlantic coast; a terrorist train wreck in Arizona; and wildfires on Long Island. Karyn Neklason Larson came aboard as Associate Editor, handling Product Profiles and Corporate News departments. We presented our first examination of dispatcher training in Mar/Apr 96 and I also had a chance to explore the concept of specially trained dispatchers operating as field communicators at incident command posts. Bob Tall’s last Washington column appeared in this issue, as did Sheila Tarvin’s Comm Thoughts. Knox County (TN) Comm Manager Barry Furey took over as Communications columnist in May/Jun 96 (a position he’s held through our reformat into digital e-publication). Ameritech’s Jim Asti wrote this issue’s “State of 9-1-1” report. Long-time contributor Joseph Louderback reported on NASCAR fire & rescue.
Media Relations was the focus of Jul/Aug 96, with several stories examining the tenuous relationship between public safety and the media. Stephen Hermann’s long-running hazmat column ended with this issue. Sep/Oct 96 inaugurated our regular guest column on dispatcher training, and also brought a behind-the-scenes look at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Ranch Fire Department. A hospitable invitation to visit the new Cayman Islands 9-1-1 Center resulted in a profile on the island’s public safety services in Nov/Dec 96. Jan/Feb 97 focused again on disaster preparations with several stories about tornadoes as well as a report on disaster search dogs and mapping systems.
Our 6th annual Buyer’s Guide highlighted our Nov/Dec 97 issue. Sheila Tarvin profiled law enforcement in Kootenai County (ID). Francis Holt wrote about dispatcher stress. Consultant Bill Parker examined systems integrators. Bonnie Underwood departed as advertising rep, but continued to participate for a few issues as a marketing consultant; Pamela Martin and Sally Whinihan came onboard as our new Ad Sales reps. And we were truly sorry to report the death of Editorial Board member J. Ross Sherohman, as we were that of Stan Harter in May/Jun 98.
Bursting at the Seams
Bob Payne and Vera Milosavich continued to make visual magic out of the words and images I sent them. We did the feature-shuffle more than once through the years as I tried to shoehorn more material than would realistically fit into each issue, and a few stories never did make it to print. Vera also designed and managed our first web site (pictured, below right).
Jan/Feb 98 was a special issue about Public Safety and the Internet – the first full-length examination of this topic by any magazine in our field, and an issue I’m especially proud of. We also took a look at FEMA’s USAR Teams and what they’re all about. We revamped our Editorial Advisory Board, retaining Cowen, Hermann, Linker (now with Vision Software), Cowan, and Thies, and adding EMS columnist Gary Ludwig and California OES Telecommunications coordinator Donald Root.
Mar/Apr 98 featured an interview with the father of EMD, Dr. Jeff Clawson, and, in the midst of El Nino, we reported on weather-related systems and responses. We focused on the Year 2000 and its complications for PSAPs in May/Jun 98. Art Botterell stepped down as Internet Columnist, replaced by dispatcher, webmaster, and friend Dave Larton with this issue. Gary Ludwig did likewise as EMS columnist, replaced by Alameda County (CA) EMS Chief Sheldon Gilbert (whose promotion to Assistant Chief a few issues later would make his time with us all too short).
Jul/Aug 98 gave us Nancy Rigg’s poignant report on schoolyard shootings; Jody Steinberg provided a public safety guide to battery maintenance, and we took a long look down under at public safety in Australia and New Zealand. We continued around the world in Sep/Oct 98 with profiles of Swedish police and Israeli fire departments. Powerphone’s Phil Salafia gave us a special version of his notable presentation, “Help Me, My Daddy Is Hurting My Mommy” for this issue’s Training Tactics column. Nancy Rigg examined terrorism from the first responder’s perspective, and I took a look at 9-1-1 hangups from the dispatcher’s perspective. We closed out the year with a favorite topic – trains – profiling railroad police in Nov/Dec 98. Stephen Hermann returned with a story on railroads and hazmat. Gary Ludwig filled in for our absentee EMS columnist. New contributor Kelly Andersson reported on the Florida wildfires and returning writer James Paules wrote about the tornado that devastated Spencer, SD.
Wherefore, The Next Ten?
Which brings to 1999 and the issue you hold in your hands. It’s been an interesting look over the last ten years, and it’s been a pleasure to be associated with the magazine for six of them, two as contributing writer and four now as editor. What began as a small 32-page magazine seeking direction in 1989 has become a major trade journal for the public safety community. I’m thankful for the opportunity given me by Jim Voelkl and Alan Burton to helm the magazine for the last four years, and I’m looking forward to the next four, and beyond. I’m grateful to the help of all the contributors – regular and one-time – who have filled the magazine with their words and pictures, who have met last-minute deadlines and have put up with innumerable answering machine messages because I’m never standing still in one place long enough to actually receive their phone calls. I’m also appreciative of Fire Chief Robert Dorman and the senior staff of the San Jose Fire Department and its communications administration for their continued support of my editorial endeavors, allowing my off-duty literary pursuits to so nicely dovetail into my career in communications.
Continuing the focus of Joe Bergman and Alan Burton, 9-1-1 Magazine will continue to examine new trends, new technologies, and new techniques in public safety communications and response throughout the next ten years. I hope the majority of you will still be reading us at our 20th Anniversary!
- Randall Larson, Nov 30, 1998.
Editor’s Postscript, April 2014:
Eleven years of publication would follow that ten year anniversary, with more enhancements and changes – our columns would change from covering each discipline – police, fire, EMS – as our focus narrowed to concentrate more purely on the communications aspects of public safety. Columnist Dave Larton became my associate editor (a position he still holds), writing the corporate news and product profiles departments while continuing to write columns and articles and serving as the magazine’s ambassador in his travels around the country as a leading 9-1-1 dispatch instructor. Pamela Martin had come on board as our Advertising Representative in the late 1990s and brought aboard most of the ad revenue that kept the magazine afloat during this and the next decade.
Publisher Jim Voelkl at the 9-1-1 Magazine Booth at the 2001 NAED Navigator Conference in New Orleans.
But things stated to change, as changes in the economic atmosphere began to spell danger for the print publication, especially for trade periodicals. Issues became thinner or were combined, and the printed magazine finally ran its course. The November/December 2009 issue ended the 23-year run of our printed magazine. In its place, 9-1-1 Magazine was reborn on line as publisher Jim Voelkl developed the industry’s first web portal, 9-1-1MAGAZINE.com and the monthly 9-1-1 MAGAZINE e-newsletter. Together, we’ve tried to continue providing valuable news, how-to’s, lessons learned, and reference information to readers in all aspects of the public safety communications community. We’ve tried hard to provide the same sense of articulate vision and presentation about public safety communications technology and operations that we did in nearly a quarter century of existence as a print publication. While I miss turning paper pages in my hands and getting ink smears on my fingertips, I’m finding that the immediate access of cyberspace is allowing us to post more information and reach more readers, more often.
While our home page is the access point for the Web Portal, there are lots of places readers can seek information and find content. The home page list the current and most recently posted stories and news and featured columns. The regular departments from our printed magazine can all be found under the DEPARTMENTS link just under our logo at the top of the page; click here to browse Product Profiles, Corporate News, People Places & Things and our From the Field photo department. Especially significant is the ability to search for any posted item by topic, and we’ve got 50 “hot topic” categories our web stories are assigned to; so if you’re looking for something on, say, mobile data or recording systems, facilities planning or interoperability, dispatch center leadership or tactical dispatch or anything else, just punch the “Click to Search by Hot Topic” link on the top of every page check our topics list – then what 9-1-1magazine.com has to offer you.
It’s been our mission since 1989 to cover the ongoing changes and technological advances in 9-1-1 dispatch and emergency communications, and my own mission since I came on board as editor in 1995 to focus on the ever changing universe of emergency public safety communications management, technology, and operations. As 9-1-1 Magazine finds its new home orbiting the World Wide Web we endeavor to provide the kind of resources publisher Jim Voelkl considered when he began this magazine a quarter century ago. Stepping into this new world of cyberspace, digital data, and online journalism, we welcome you to surf our site and populate our Portal and see how 9-1-1magazine.com can assist you in managing, supervising, or operating your emergency communications center, shift, or console, preparing for that disaster or major emergency, or supporting your vital telecommunications partners while you’re responding into the field.
Editor Randall Larson at the 9-1-1 Magazine booth at the 2005 NAED Navigator conference in Baltimore (in uniform due to a recertification presentation awarded to his agency)