It's that time again, no not your Auntie Claire's birthday! It's the annual National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Congress set aside April 14th through April 20th to recognize those men and women who work behind the scenes of the Public Safety industry handling the phones and radios. These folks include 911 call-takers, dispatchers, radio technicians, supervisors, trainers, managers, and other telecommunications personnel who work diligently to help our nation's citizens and emergency workers in times of disasters, emergencies, and in non-emergency requests for assistance.
What is a Public Safety Telecommunicator (also called Dispatchers, Public Safety Dispatchers, 9-1-1 Operators, and many other names)? He, or she, is a person who is trained to answer an emergency call for help, obtain information, determine a course of action, and act appropriately with that information by sending the proper emergency field personnel. Depending upon the State, County, and/or City, dispatchers may provide medical intructions, handle fire dispatching only, medical only, or work in a combined police/fire/emergency medical services (ambulance) center.
Dispatchers can have specialty training in Tactical (SWAT) dispatching, Incident Management (wildfires), Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT), Civilian Training Officer (CTO), and Emergency Medical Dispatcher (EMD). Many agencies for law enforcement require almost the same hiring process for dispatchers as they do for their law enforcement officers. Training varies, as there is no national standard.
After the development of the 9-1-1 emergency number, Telecommunicators have been required to keep up technology. Computers play a large part of our job. We've had to grow and accept the advent of 911 showing us a number only to a number with an address in most areas of the country (there are still some places that don't have more than Basic 911). Next came the cellular phones, and then the Internet phones. Now we're looking at social media and Next Gen911 where folks may be able to send us texts, photos, and video in the near future. A handful of agencies can accept texts, but the texts are limited and have issues.
With the economic problems, many departments have cut back budgets, failing to fill openings to full staffing capacity. How many agencies make do while working short-handed? New hires aren't expected to reach the retirement age. Who is to blame? Fingers point in all directions on that question. I blame technology. Before computers, it wasn't out of the question to see a dispatcher at least coming close to retirement age. with technology, it's a stretch to even get close.
On the other hand, we have students graduating from high school or college with the intent of becoming a dispatcher. Our job is a profession. "The Call", which was released last month starring Halle Berry, was the first movie specifically about a Public Safety Telecommunicator. We should all be proud about that.
So, I ask again. Have you hugged or said thanks to any of your dispatchers? Field personnel: when you are in need of help, what do you turn to? Your radio, of course! The average person calls 9-1-1. Who answers the radios or the phones? Dispatchers! We are there for you and we love what we do.
To read the official media release from the Association Public Safety Communications Officials, Inc, click on the link below
To learn more about the National Public safety Telecommunicator's Week, clock on the link below
stay safe out there.
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