Every year during the second week of April, the telecommunications personnel in the public safety community are honored. This week-long event, initially set up in 1981 by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California, is a time to recognize and thank the Public Safety Telecommunicators – commonly known as dispatchers – who dedicate their lives to serving the public.
“What better time than National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to let the public know of the significant advancements that have occurred in our dispatch center over the past year,” Communications Unit Captain Shane O’Roark said. “Sheriff Larry Fish and his command staff made a commitment to the communities we serve, and to the law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies for whom we dispatch, to make long-needed changes in our dispatch center, and we have made remarkable progress since Sheriff Fish took office in January 2017.
“Among the most important changes are our staffing and training,” O’Roark continued.“We are now fully staffed with six full-time dispatchers, and have a bank of dedicated part-time dispatchers as well. The increase in these numbers allows us to have two dispatchers on duty much of the time. This improves our speed, accuracy, and overall service to the agencies we serve, and to the public.”
The current administration has taken an aggressive stance on dispatcher training. Dispatch Supervisor Jennifer Miller and Terminal Agency Coordinator Becky Sellars completed a certified Communications Training Officer class. This enhances in-house training for new dispatchers as they are on-boarding, and provides for greater consistency and professionalism in the communications center.
All dispatchers have completed, or are scheduled to attend the 40-Hour Basic Telecommunications Training Class, as well as the MULES (Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System) 40-hour basic class. Five dispatchers recently attended a 24-hour CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) class, which included scenario-based training for emergencies that involve special needs or mentally impaired individuals, suicidal subjects or those with PTSD, as well as active shooter training, stress management and resources that are available to those in need. Other training classes attended include NIMS (National Incident Management System), multiple unit/agency response for fire service, large fire scenes, and water rescue for dispatchers.
Five dispatchers are now certified EMDs (Emergency Medical Dispatchers), and Sellars is in training to become an EMD Call Evaluator. The program, which is expected to become fully operational in May, will allow dispatchers to provide pre-arrival instructions for illnesses or injuries until first responders arrive, as well as instructions for performing CPR when needed. The entire staff will be trained as EMDs within the next few weeks.
“In-house training is provided on an ongoing basis, covering everything from common medications and their side effects, to de-escalating conflict. The Sheriff’s Office is also a member of the Mid-America Regional Council, which includes the opportunity to take advantage of a myriad of free local training classes,” O’Roark said. “A switch in computer-aided dispatching and records management system to Omnigo (formerly ITI), and physical improvements inside the dispatch center have also moved our communications unit forward with the implementation of the latest technology.”
“Our dispatchers are the unseen men and women who respond to every emergency, communicating vital information to the appropriate resources to enhance the safety of all involved,” Sheriff Fish said. “They are just as essential as the first responders who are on the scene.
“The command staff wants to applaud and thank our dispatchers for their commitment and dedication to their profession, and to the Sheriff’s Office,” Fish added.
In 2017, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center dispatched a total of 17,340 calls to 13 law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies that operate within the county. That total is an increase of 1,846 from the 15,494 calls dispatched in 2016 – an average of more than 47 calls per day.