Training for Public Safety Telecommunicators, initial and continuing, is exceedingly important as they provide essential services to the public in an ever-expanding and rapidly changing public safety environment. Public Safety Communication Centers must provide training necessary for front-line communications professionals to be competent in the delivery of public safety communications services. Many centers have developed their own basic training materials and processes, while many others receive training from commercial providers, similar to the APCO Institute products and services. The APCO Project 33 Agency Training Program Certification is a formal mechanism for public safety agencies to certify their training programs as meeting American National Standards (ANS).
The APCO P33 Training Program Certification -- Telecommunicator 2010 requires agencies to meet or exceed the APCO ANS 3.103.1-2010: Minimum Training Standards for Public Safety Telecommunicators. The standard specifies the minimum training requirements for call takers and dispatchers of law enforcement, fire services, and emergency medical services assigned to the public safety telecommunicator function. The program allows for customization depending on what services the agency provides. It also recognizes the need to supplement these basic competencies with agency-specific information and existing equipment-use parameters.
The 2010 version of the Minimum Training Standards for public safety telecommunicators was in the final stages of the APCO ANS Process, an ANSI-accredited standards development process, at the time this article was written. Extensive research was completed in order to develop the content of the newly revised standard. Twelve occupational analysis workshops were conducted regionally throughout the nation, with one initial panel for each job function a telecommunicator may perform: call taker, law enforcement dispatcher, fire services dispatcher, and EMS dispatcher, and three validation panels for each of these positions. Each panel consisted of four to 12 high-performing incumbent workers who perform the duties of the position for which they were analyzing. This incorporated over 100 current public safety telecommunicators as subject matter experts from various types of agencies and regions.
These standards serve as the foundation for the Telecommunicator 2010 certification program. Public Safety Telecommunicator Training Programs applying for certification focus on both new and veteran public safety telecommunicator needs. Telecommunicators are typically tasked with receiving, processing, transmitting, and conveying public safety information to dispatchers, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, emergency medical and emergency management personnel. Anyone adopting the standard must meet the requirements within the following sections: training program administration, organizational integrity, general knowledge and skills, tools, equipment and technology, and professional competence. Depending on what services the agency provides, the training program must incorporate the following sections: public safety call taker, law enforcement dispatcher, fire service dispatcher and EMS dispatcher.
Each chapter of the standard communicates important items that need to be incorporated within the agency's training program. For example, the tools, equipment and technology chapter addresses the need for all telecommunicators (both new and veteran workers) to demonstrate proficiency on all appropriate tools, equipment and technology they may be expected to operate within the public safety communications center. It's important to remember these are voluntary minimum training standards; agencies throughout the nation should be, at the minimum, complying with each of these standards. Agencies that are P33 Training Program Certified -- Telecommunicator 2010 meet or exceed these standards. APCO's Call Center Standards Committee is developing a "Manager's Guide" referencing these standards to help agencies create training programs, further understand the requirements, provide examples and ideas to assist with saving money, and more.