Indeed they are the critical link. They are the first voice you hear when you call us for help. They calm the frightened and get help on the way. They are part of the Police Department here but they serve the Fire Department as well. In any emergency, we need what they can do. Not just anyone can sit down and become a professional 911 operator (AKA dispatcher) it takes a truly special person. The State of Michigan has established training standards to assure you that whenever and wherever you call a primary 911 call center in this state you get an operator who knows their job and can help you. There are secondary call centers which means that 911 calls can be transferred to them but they not required to meet the same standards. The link will show you and FCC spreadsheet with the kinds and types of 911 call centers around the country–including us.
Take a look at your cellphone bill. I know there are a lot of fees and surcharges tacked on that are irritating. But know that two of them come right back to our community: one funds our interoperable radio system here in Oakland County with about $.20 per phone line and another small surcharge that provides $$ back to us to train our dispatchers. We received $5470 in May 2014 to train our personnel and we are in the process of using it all for exactly that purpose. We are required by the state to report back to them how we used these funds. Click on the link to see what your community received.
There are now standards that 911 operators must meet:
Those hired on or after Dec. 13, 2011, who are currently employed by a primary Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) which AHPD is, must complete Module I, consisting of a 40-hour basic telecommunicator training course approved by the State 911 Committee (SNC), within 18 months of the effective date of the rules. Module I contains the following subjects: an overview of public safety, police, fire and emergency medical services; telecommunicator roles and responsibilities; legal aspects of dispatcher services; interpersonal communications; public safety technologies; telephone techniques; call classification; radio communications and stress management.
Within 24 months of the date of hire, a telecommunicator who was hired on or after Dec. 13, 2011, shall also complete Module II, a 40-hour basic telecommunicator training course approved by the State 911 Committee. Module II contains eight hours of training in domestic violence, suicide intervention, 911 liability, stress management and a homeland security elective.
I’m proud to tell you that 10 of our 11 dispatchers are compliant. The 11th was hired in September and is being trained right now. We see this as a high priority.
Public safety dispatching is a highly technical field done by professionals to the benefit of communities. If you would like to know more about 911 dispatching in Michigan click HERE.