By Audrey Fraizer
If Mark Lee and his son Nathan Lee had their way, the training recommendation document recently released by a consortium of organizations representing 911 will be a starting block for all emergency communication centers that have yet to develop standards.
In 2008, Nathan’s wife, Denise Amber Lee, was kidnapped and murdered in a case that galvanized the public due to the heinous nature of the crime and lapses in 911 that, if the proper training had been in place, could have averted the tragedy from occurring.
Ineffective communication at the emergency dispatch level was at the core of her untimely death, creating an icon for system change that the Lees have carried through the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. Their part in formulating the recommendations spanned nearly five years, with a final push culminating at the NENA Conference June 11–16 at the Indianapolis Convention Center, Ind.
The document outlines topics recommended for inclusion in minimum training and, as emphasized by collaborators, provides the elements of baseline knowledge. The guidelines are not federally owned or mandated, according to the document’s introduction. Rather, they are the joint product of members of the working group and provide a foundation for ongoing professional development.
“A lot of states are looking for guidance, and we did the legwork for them,” said Michael Snowden, Executive Director, Hamilton County (Ind.) Public Safety Communications. “This is the floor, not the ceiling. It’s the minimum, and agencies should want to go well beyond what’s in the document.”
The recommended training document covers 10 areas the committee believes crucial to the 911 profession, from entry level to seasoned emergency dispatchers without prior benefit of an effective program. They are: Roles and Responsibilities, Legal Concepts, Interpersonal Communications, Emergency Communications Technology, Call Processing, Emergency Management, Radio Communication, Stress Management, Quality Assurance, and On-the-Job Training.
Each recommendation includes a brief introduction explaining its importance to the whole and a list of suggested topics to cover, such as the 23 listed in Call Processing and the 16 listed for On-the-Job Training. Control remains at the local level, Snowden said, and each agency can decide which training topics to pursue and the level they want to attain. The working group endeavored to keep the platform neutral.
“This truly was an unprecedented approach,” Snowden said. “There were many groups willing to come together in a nonpartisan way. That’s how important we believe this is in the interest of public safety and the profession.”
Nothing in the document advocates a preferred dispatch protocol system or process. The document does not mirror any training guideline developed by agencies represented in the working group. There are no timelines, no affiliated training programs recommended, no end-of-training certifications, and no cost estimates.
Cost was a key consideration, working group members said.
“We did not want to create unfunded mandates,” said Jennifer Kirkland, Operations Support Supervisor, Vail (Colo.) Public Safety Communications Center. “We had to find a solution that works with all sizes of PSAPs.”
The program was a joint effort of several federal agencies and was facilitated by the National 911 Program. Organizations represented in the group included the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED), the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), North Central Texas Council of Governments, and representatives from several PSAPs.