Friday, May 18, 2012

Jumping through the hoops, also known as I want to be a dispatcher

We have a new dispatcher in training. Lucky for us, Probie has experience with a previous agency.

Is that good or bad?

All depends on how one perceives 'laterals' instead of entry-level hires. Let's take a look at the process from start to finish (this will help those of you who wish to become a dispatcher but don't know what to do or expect of the process). I'll use a entry level person as an example (that's a person with no experience verses a lateral, who does).

First, if you can, check out local community colleges. Many of them are adding Public Safety Telecommunicator (or Dispatcher) courses. Often, these are specialty classes that are one quarter or one semester long. Depending on the state you reside in, there may be mandatory requirements for all, or selected law enforcement or emergency medical dispatcher (EMD) certifications. You can contact your state Peace Officers Standard and Training (POST) or for the EMD, the County EMS office and see if this applies.

Look at inernet magazine sites. I have some common one on my Public Safety links. Many of the internet magazine site have job postings. read the job listings to make sure the job is still pen. Do you qualify for that particular ad?

If you are under twenty-one years of age, join an Explorers group. If you are unfamiliar with the Explorers, the organization is affiliated with the Boys Scouts of America. In the case of the Explorers, both boys and girls can join. Explorers have posts in law enforcement, fire services, and EMS through-out the country. Your best bet is to look up the Explorers locally and see what Posts are active in your area.

Any prior radio work is helpful, as is field experience in the Public Safety area. Keep out of trouble, stay away from drugs, and out of gangs. Think before you do something really stupid. During the background process for any Public Safety job, you will have an extensive background done.

I am started tracking my work history when I was fifteen in a spiral binder. The habit has served me well. I have a record of schools, special courses, training, jobs, phone numbers, names, home addresses, and and references. Over the years, any time I filled out a job application, or even a loan papers, I pulled out my record book. Every certificate, award, CE, diploma, etc has gone in to a clear sheet protector and in a binder. Again, that is information you will want for a background and any interviews. Write your resume. Print up a couple of copies. Keep them with the binder. Update the resume after each course is done, or when you change jobs.

When you start your search, check the state, county, and city websites. Many of them will allow you to enter 'job interest' cards. When a position opens up, you will get a card or email notification.

Take some time to fill out the application carefully. Read it before you write or type it in and hit that 'send' button. Did you include all requested data? You will most likely be required to include a typing certificate, either with the initial application or told to bring it with you to the testing date. Typing rates can be anywhere from 30 to 50 words a minute. Get a typing program and start practicing. The typing rate is WITHOUT errors.

Dispatch tests vary from agency. Most are a general tests consisting of a couple of sections. None of them expect you to know their policies & procedures. You will most likely be asked to listen and react be writing down information to audio files, follow commands, do some spelling & grammar, and maybe answer questions from memory after listening to a scenario. I've even had a practical test where I used a simulator to pretend being a dispatcher.

If you pass the test with a minimal score, you will move on. An oral board is an interview with a panel of people. They may be Dispatch Supervisors or Managers, a Police or Fire Chief, HR personnel, or folks from other agencies. Each candidate is asked the same questions. For the oral board, or any interview, best for success. NEVER go to any interview in jeans and a T-shirt. I shouldn't have to say this, but take a shower, brush your hair & teeth, and wear your best business attire. You only get one chance at a first impression. Don't go in with your tattoos blazing.

If you are selected to move on, you will be asked to fill out background papers. Be prepared, this is the same packet the law enforcement & fire personnel turn in. Whatever you do, tell the truth. Lying is reason for instant disqualification. Meanwhile, you will receive two blank fingerprint cards. The agency will tell you where to go to get the prints done.

Some agencies will request a polygraph test. Some agencies will do a drug screen and medical exam. You might go through a second interview. You will probably see a psychiatrist for an exam - the extensive it is depends on the department. I've had psych exams that lasts a couple of hours and others that went all day (yes, I passed).

Then you wait, and wait, and wait. Oh, and answer the occasional question from the person assigned to do your background. If you haven't done so, best warn your family that they may be contacted.

One more item, if you are not a citizen, but are a here legally, you will need to show proof of your status.

Once everything is done, you'll erceive an official offer in writing. Check witht he HR department, becuase you will want to know what your starting pay rate (hourly? monthly?) is and ask about your length of probation. Do you have to join a union. If so, get a contact number  and find out about the initiation fee (how much and can it be broken in to payments) and dues (flat rate or percentage). You should receievd a call frm the Communications Center Manager telling you when your first day is and what time - ask about proper dress and what to bring with you.

Now for the difference between entry and laterals.

Entry level dispatchers are sponges. With no prior expereinces, he or she has no bad habits to unlearn. The probie (newbie, rookie, etc.) learns to dispatch the department's way. There is no "But we did it this way at DCPD" and it worked better. The rookie is happy to be at your agency. On the end end, they can't jump in and grab a phone call in a pinch, becuase they don't know what to ask yet. They can't run a vehicle for an officer or check for warrants - again, they don't know how yet.

Lateral dispatchers have been in the trenches for other departments. They aren't afraid of the radio, and they're not intimidated by callers on the other end of the telephone. Sure, they may not know the geography or your department's policies & procedures, but that doesn't mean they can't 'wing it' in an emergency. Laterals will confirm a warrnt or enter that missing person if you are samped. An entry level dispatcher can hand you blank entry sheets or 10-28's coming off the printer.

Either way, it's tough being in training. I symphathize with any person new to a department in that position. I want them to get the best training possible.

Really, I do. At some point I'm going to work with you and I want to know I can count on you. - and I'll have help when I'm on the job. More of us neans better staffing - and better staffing ersults in safer coverage for my field personnel (yes, I consider the LEs MINE). Finally, on the selfish side, once you're trained, I can take a day off now and then

So, I hope this helps out.

No comments:

Post a Comment