Citizen Police Academy: Week 2

Citizen Police Academy

Week 2

9-1-1 Communications Center Overview




Communications/Records Supervisor Al Marquardt opened the class with a general overview of 9-1-1 communications procedures, equipment, and tasks before turning over the podium to Shift Leaders James Richardson and Wendy Demonte. Their objective was to explain the lengthy training process, the types of equipment used, and what life on the job is really like.

They began by telling us that it can take between 6 and 10 months to become a Communications Operator (CO). That seemed like a long training period until they described how much COs need to know and how many pieces of equipment they must master. For example, COs need to utilize numerous computer systems, such as Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), Law Enforcement Agency Data Systems (LEADS), security cameras, and telecommunications systems for hearing or voice impaired. And that's not even a complete list! They also must obtain certifications in Emergency Medical Dispatching (EMD) and LEADS. The shift leaders finished up by explaining the types of dispatching they handle (for both police and fire) and the importance of 9-1-1 education.

Next, Communications Training Operator Maggie Cuson spoke about "Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD)," in which COs utilize special cards that provide step-by-step medical instructions for many lifesaving procedures, from CPR to choking to seizure. She explained that COs do not "diagnose" patients, they only respond to conditions the caller is describing. Because of that, dispatchers will ask callers many questions to ensure they are helping the caller respond to the correct medical emergency. Although EMD can be very stressful, it can also be very rewarding when the early medical treatment helps save a life.

Throughout the class, instructors played tapes of actual 9-1-1 calls to give us a real-life idea of what dispatching is like. Some calls were shocking in their irrelevance (did you know that people actually call 9-1-1 to complain about traffic congestion, to ask for directions, or to request hotel recommendations!?), while others showed 9-1-1 working as was intended--providing help to someone in need. We class members felt our adrenaline pump and muscles tense as the dispatchers calmly walked panicked callers through lifesaving measures or reassured them that help was just seconds away. If we felt tense during calls that had already taken place, what knowledge, skill, and poise these COs must possess to remain so calm when the crisis is actually happening!