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CALEA Update Magazine | Issue 108

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.

APCO Pro-CHRT Report Reveals Major Increase in Public Safety Agencies Seeking Training Certification

Three years ago APCO created a taskforce to study the many variables that are plaguing America’s communications centers.  The Pro-CHRT taskforce, officially established as a committee in July 2012, released an updated “Year-Three Special Edition Report” at the annual APCO Conference in Minneapolis in August 2012.

The year-three report found that, while just a handful of states require any form of minimum training to perform these mission critical jobs, public safety agencies are taking up the charge of ensuring their training programs are the best they can be.  In August, 18 agencies had their communications basic training programs certified as meeting the APCO Project 33 training standard, an all-time high for any year.  This raises the total to 35 agencies certified since 2007, the majority occurring over the past three years.     

Public safety call receivers and radio dispatchers are the nucleus of the first responder family.  Each of the over 6,100 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP’s) has a monumental responsibility to answer citizen’s calls for service, triage the calls, and dispatch an appropriate emergency response.  In order to ensure that the more than 87 million 9-1-1 calls received annually are handled correctly, public safety communications centers must provide training necessary for emergency communications professionals to be competent in the delivery of public safety communications services.

Public safety telecommunications positions such as 9-1-1 call receivers and radio dispatchers are the first point of contact citizens have with the emergency response system in this country.  Without these professionals not one police car, fire truck, or ambulance will respond.  The jobs they perform are more technical now than ever.  The men and women under the headset deal with interpreting information from multiple computer screens, triaging calls from people in crisis, providing lifesaving instruction over the phone, and maintaining surveillance over the first responders on the street.  These jobs are much too important to leave their training to chance.  In the majority of states, the person that cuts your hair, staffs the tanning booth, or completes plumbing and electrical work in your home is required to maintain more state certification than the men and women handling life and death 9-1-1 calls every day.  

APCO has long stood for training standards, and is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard setting body.  In order to provide for a minimum training standard for those agencies that do not have mandated training requirements, the APCO Project 33 training standard, first approved in 2007 and revised in 2010, is the only one in the nation that provides for individual agencies to have their internal training programs certified.  This standard specifies the minimum training requirements of call takers and dispatchers of Law Enforcement, Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) 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.  

The public safety communications field is not just a job, but a profession.  It requires the very best in basic training, with continuing education to maintain key skill sets.

William Carrow
APCO International Past President
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