Preventing the haunting silence

Emergency communications operator training keeps dispatchers from freezing up when they're needed the most

     Documentation is imperative in GSU's program. "They are required to take notes and submit a weekly summary of their notes," Jennings states.

     Realizing the unique challenges of their jurisdiction, an employee suggested a scavenger hunt be incorporated into training. "Because it is a campus environment, we want to make sure they understand what the buildings are and what is in them. They go on a foot beat and they have to bring us something back from that office," says Jennings. For example, the trainee might be sent to admissions and told to bring back a current schedule.

     During OJT, trainees continue to work on their skills. At the academy, the operator receives additional standardized instruction and becomes certified. GSU prioritizes continued education as well. "Each dispatcher goes through 24 hours of training in the academy or in-house per year at minimum," says Jennings. "It's not a state requirement, but it is here at Georgia State. It's crucial you continue training."

     GSU's dispatchers have shown the quality of their training. Jennings explains:

     "I have several tactical dispatchers who have benefitted from a great training program. We did have an officer involved in a shooting off-duty. It evolved into a situation where he was shot. He knew he could get help through the radio. She remained calm. She dispatched officers from our department and the appropriate jurisdictions. She stayed in contact with the officer. When he thought he was dying, he started telling her information. He was probably thinking, 'This may be the last person I ever hear.' Her ability to handle the situation and dispatch appropriate resources to the scene made the difference.

     "He survived."

Project 33 revised-minimum training standards for public safety telecommunicators
  • Agency personnel policy/practices, including agency resources and capabilities, and the understanding of the opportunity to participate in programs like Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)/Critical Incident Debriefing (CISD), as well as safety requirements.
  • Agency mission and the employee's role within the organization, including expectations of professional conduct.
  • General and agency-specific liability concepts and terms.
  • Understand their roles in and responsibility for responder safety.
  • Understand all aspects of interpersonal communication, including teamwork concepts.
  • Understand and demonstrate effective use of existing technology within the public safety communications center.
  • Understand and demonstrate the efficient and effective use of the agency's radio system(s).
  • Demonstrate the ability to efficiently and effectively process calls for service from all classes of agency customers.
  • Demonstrate the ability to categorize, prioritize as well as determine the appropriate response levels for all types of law enforcement, fire/rescue and emergency medical calls.
  • Demonstrate the efficient and effective use of agency approved and required radio codes and signals.
  • Understand his/her role in maintaining responder safety by the use of appropriate skills and resources.
  • Demonstrate the ability to respond appropriately to distress calls from field units as authorized by policy/procedure.
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