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CALEA Update Magazine | Issue 105

Communications Open Channel

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Editorial Note: As a CALEA Partner, APCO International pens the Communications Open Channel column, which focuses on topics of interest to our clients, particularly those in the Public Safety Communications Accreditation Program.

Public Safety Telecommunicator Training – An Agency’s Basic Responsibility

Each Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) has a monumental responsibility to answer citizen’s calls for service, triage those calls, and dispatch an appropriate response. In order to ensure that the more than 650,000 9-1-1 calls received daily in this country are handled correctly, public safety communication centers must provide training necessary for emergency communications professionals to be competent in the delivery of public safety communications services. 

In order to assist in meeting this need, in 2006 APCO International created Project 33, with a main goal of providing a formal mechanism for public safety communications centers to certify their internal training programs. That basic program was vetted and became an American National Standards (ANS) minimum training standard. This is the only national standard that deals with telecommunicator training, and this year has recently been revised. 

The standard specifies the minimum training requirements of call takers and dispatchers of law enforcement, fire service and emergency medical services assigned to the public safety telecommunicator function. The program allows for customization depending on what services the agency provides. It also recognizes the need to supplement these basic competencies with agency-specific information and existing equipment-use parameters.

Since its inception, 17 agencies have received official Project 33 certification for their individual training programs. Those agencies, many of which are also CALEA communications accredited, include:

  • Brevard County Sheriff's Office-Communications Center (FL)
  • Charlottesville - UVA - Albemarle County Emergency Communications Center (VA)
  • Cincinnati Police Communications Section (OH)
  • City of Cedar Rapids Joint Communications Agency (IA)
  • Delaware State Police Communications Section (DE)
  • Denver 911 Communications Center (CO)
  • Durham Emergency Communications Center (NC)
  • El Paso County Sheriff's Office (CO)
  • Fayetteville Police Department (AR)
  • Hamilton County Department of Communications (OH)
  • Lincoln Emergency Communications (NE)
  • Naperville Public Safety Answering Point (IL)
  • North East King County Regional Public Safety Communication – NORCOM (WA)
  • Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications (NC)
  • Summit County Communications Center (CO)
  • Valley Communications Center (WA)
  • York County 911 (PA)

The 2010 version of the Minimum Training Standards for Public Safety Telecommunicators was recently released. In order to ensure content validity, extensive research was completed. Twelve Occupational Analysis (OA) workshops were conducted regionally; one OA panel for each job function a telecommunicator may perform - calltaker, law enforcement dispatcher, fire services dispatcher, and emergency medical services dispatcher - and three validation panels. Each panel consisted of four to twelve high-performing incumbent workers who perform the duties of the position for which they were analyzing. This incorporated over 100 subject matter experts currently performing successfully as a public safety telecommunicator from various types of agencies and regions.  Periods of public vetting followed which resulted in minor changes being identified and changes were made resulting in the revised standard. 

Communications centers today have more technology available than ever before. Our emergency communications professionals provide essential services in an environment that is ever expanding and rapidly changing. This profession requires not only the very best in basic training, but continuing education is exceedingly important to maintain key skill sets. 

Just as having your communications center CALEA accredited means you are meeting the best-of-the-best standards, if your training program is APCO Project 33 certified, it means it meets the one and only national training standard for emergency communications personnel. This helps limit your agency liability, but in simplest terms it means you are providing the best training possible to your employees.

William Carrow, President
APCO International
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