My family moved when I was in the third grade — and I was devastated. The thought of leaving all of my friends was crushing. Though we were only moving seven miles, it might as well have been to the other side of the planet. I was dead set against it — which only goes to prove that 8-year-olds shouldn't be allowed to make major decisions.

As things turned out, the move was the best thing that ever happened to me. I made new friends — such good friends that we still get together on a regular basis more than four decades later. The house my parents bought was a block from a giant park, a special place in which I spent most of the next 15 years. In fact, I visit the old neighborhood regularly, if only to buy pizzas from two sisters whose father regularly sold pies to my parents 40 years ago.

I was brought back in time by something said by Jim Vlassopoulos, the deputy chief of Washington, D.C., Fire and EMS, during yesterday's National Conference on Emergency Communications in Chicago, which is being presented by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications (OEC). Vlassopoulos told the roughly 400 attendees that they needed to "get outside the sandbox," and advised that "local fiefdoms" — which have plagued the effort to achieve interoperable communications for years — should be avoided in the future because they make it difficult to institute change.

These are concepts that many, if not most, people find uncomfortable. It's scary outside the sandbox. Change is frightening. Few things are as terrifying as the unknown, which is the first place that change takes us. But as the old saying goes, if you do what you've always done, you're going to get what you always got. The worst reason to do anything is because that's the way it's always been done.

OEC Director Chris Essid apparently agrees with this notion, saying yesterday that the status quo in public-safety communications needs to change if the goals of the National Emergency Communications Plan — which was mandated by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 — are to be met.

From my perch, change is a friend, not a foe. It is something to be embraced, not shunned. It's what keeps us moving forward. And, as I discovered a long time ago, when you finally muster the courage to crawl out onto the limb, you sometimes discover the best pizza in the world. Or, as Chicago Fire Department Commander Len Edling said yesterday in his closing remarks, sometimes you discover someone who already has the wheel you're trying to invent.

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