The following questions and answers highlight the composition of our team and how we do our jobs.
The Emergency Communications Center (ECC) staffs the following positions:
- Shift Supervisors
- Training Coordinator
- Communications Officers
- Administrative Secretary
Communications Officers primarily work one of the following shifts; other shifts may be available depending upon staffing levels:
- Day Shift: 6:45 a.m. - 2:45 p.m.
- Evening Shift: 2:45 p.m. -10:45 p.m.
- Midnight Shift: 10:45 p.m. - 06:45 a.m.
Operationally, Communications Officer duties are broken down into four main position assignments, each with a specific primary area of responsibility. All Communications Officers are cross-trained for all position assignments, assisting each other as needed to meet the demands of the current activity level.
- Law Enforcement Position: Responsible for the initial dispatching of all calls for service, constant monitoring of all unit status changes and handling of all other priority and/or emergency radio traffic.
- Informational Position: Responsible for all other non-emergency law enforcement related radio traffic, including driver's license and registration checks.
- Fire and Medical Position: Responsible for initial dispatching of all calls for service, unit status changes, ending of calls, and all other fire or medical related radio traffic.
- Call Taker Position: Responsible for answering incoming emergency and non-emergency phone lines, interviewing callers and entering calls for service into the CAD system.
ECC personnel must be able to proficiently operate all necessary equipment and related computer systems, including but not limited to the following:
- Enhanced 911
- 800 MHz and VHF radio system
- Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD)
- Geographic Information System (GIS) and mapping
- Dictaphone Freedom recorder
- Various printers
- Fax Machine
- National Criminal Information Center (NCIC)
- National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLET)
- Automated Statewide Telecommunications Record Access System (ASTRA)
The ECC also implemented an Emergency Medical Dispatch Program (EMD) in December 2004. The EMD protocols allow dispatchers to provide valuable medical pre-arrival and dispatch life support instructions to callers while an ambulance is responding to the location. Every Communications Officer must maintain EMD certification, which includes an initial 24 hour class, followed by continuing education requirements for recertification every 2 years.
Additional certifications are maintained for the National Criminal Information Center and for Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation/Automatic External Defibrillator (CPR/AED); these require recertification every 2 years.
Dispatchers monitor radio frequencies, set priorities among incoming events and dispatch police, fire and ambulances to the necessary locations using both radios and computers. They keep accurate status of exact location of equipment and personnel by maintaining radio contact.
There are numerous traits that a dispatcher must possess in order to function well here at the ECC. These traits include:
- Ability to think quickly
- Ability to work under stressful conditions
- Clear speech
- Hearing accuracy
- Ability to listen carefully
- Visual acuity
- Ability to deal with the public and user agencies
- Ability to remember oral and written instructions
- Ability to follow instructions
- Ability to sit for long periods of time
- Ability to write clearly and spell correctly
- Typing skills or keyboard familiarity
- Ability to interface with the computer
- Ability to remain calm while dealing with frightened, hysterical or angry callers
Today's dispatcher is, in fact, an information processor. That requires more than just sending and receiving messages. Effective dispatching also demands:
- Listening: Dispatchers do what most people don't: actively listen. Dispatchers devote their total energy and concentration to understanding the meaning (what is said and what is meant may not always be the same) of the words and sounds at the other end of the radio. The dispatcher's personal attitudes and feelings are kept out of the communication.
- Questioning: Dispatchers ask questions to determine where, what, who, how, why and what should/can/might be done in a multitude of circumstances, circumstances in which the message sender often assumes erroneously that the answers are obvious.
- Clarifying and Verifying: Dispatchers make sure answers to questions are clear, complete and precise. If an answer is "far", the dispatcher wants to know how far. If an altercation is at "the door", the dispatcher wants to know which door - and "how many doors are there?". The dispatcher knows that action based on incomplete or inaccurate information may be inappropriate and /or dangerous.
- Prioritizing: Dispatchers establish priorities of importance in seeking and passing on information and directing and coordinating action. There may not always be time to obtain or to send all the relevant data, so the most essential information is obtained and/or transmitted first. There may also not always be enough officers or equipment to handle all the calls concurrently, so the dispatcher makes judgments as to the order in which action should be taken.
- Organizing, Coordinating and Directing: Dispatchers often organize action; determine who goes where and when and who is responsible for what, based on protocol that has been setup in the CAD system. In the course of action, they may coordinate activities of various people and units.
- Anticipating and Compensating: Dispatchers understand and anticipate the many ways in which misunderstanding may occur. They compensate for other people's existing and potential confusion, lack of information and lack of understanding.
- Integrating: Dispatchers remember random, often seemingly unrelated bits of information for future reference. They integrate potentially useful data from files and other sources into current situations.
- Empathizing: To handle all their responsibilities skillfully, dispatchers are able to identify with the ways others may perceive situations; to look at events through the eyes of others; to relate information in context other people will understand and visualize correctly.