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Your Call, Your Mission

Updated: May 10

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just a dispatcher,” or perhaps, “I’m just a call taker?” Maybe you’ve found yourself thinking these kinds of “I’m just…” thoughts. Long gone are the days of the “911 Operator” who sat fixed in their chair in front of rows of blinking lights indicating incoming calls, manually connecting calls to the appropriate first responders with a push of a button. No, nowadays we are the First Responders calming panicked callers, defusing life-threatening situations, providing critical life-altering instructions, and appropriately coordinating police, fire, or medical responders in times of crisis. We don’t just do anything. We don’t just work a radio. We certainly don’t just answer calls for service. Every call is our mission, and we are the most qualified, most capable, and most skilled person for the job. 

Own The Culture!

There is power in fostering a culture of ownership in the Emergency Communications Center (ECC). As every member of the staff from the top on down feels a personal sense of ownership of the culture and the overall performance of the organization, they will be more inclined to want to make it the most positive place it can be for everyone there. It's about embracing an organizational mentality that empowers every individual in the communications center to take ownership of their own personal impact - from the words they say to the attitude and moral character that drives their actions on the job. It's about recognizing that each call for service, radio transmission, and interaction with a caller, is an opportunity to shape our work culture, define the performance standards we will foster in our ECC, and decide the legacies we will leave. Our 9-1-1 callers deserve to know they are reaching passionate, motivated, and dedicated professionals who are invested in the work. Since our callers expect no less than the best from us, why then should we accept any less than the best from ourselves or each other? Our attitude towards our callers and how efficiently we handle their emergencies truly defines both our personal character and the work culture we are promoting.

Own Your Actions!

Personal ownership and self-leadership in a company's culture are reflected in various ways that contribute to a positive and productive work environment. First, personal ownership entails telecommunicators taking responsibility for their actions, decisions, and the outcomes of their work.  Next, we embrace accountability to ensure that we are meeting the expectations of the citizens we serve, delivering quality results on every call, and addressing any internal challenges (such as staffing shortages) proactively. Instead of looking to everyone else to inspire change in your center, inspire yourself, and be the change that is needed. It also involves seeking training –no matter how many years of experience we have– to become a more effective telecommunicator and encourage others to do the same. Never stop learning and pursuing opportunities to advance your knowledge of the profession. Don’t see continuing dispatch education (CDE) as something that you just have to get out of the way every month. Be actively interested in improving yourself and learning more about industry trends or technologies that enhance our effectiveness. Embrace Quality Assurance (QA) as something more than just a process to be endured. Realize that it is an essential process in training and evaluating the standards we maintain in our center. It’s how we gauge what is working and what is not, how we know what improvements we need to make in training, or how we evaluate the outcomes of calls. Speaking of training…

Own The Training!

Strong training from Day One instills a sense of calling to this industry as your personal mission. An ECC is only as strong, innovative, and adaptable as the heroes that make it what it is from beneath the headset. It is important to possess a growth mindset, viewing setbacks as learning experiences and opportunities for improvement, rather than failures. We all know that even the best 9-1-1 professionals make mistakes; however, they own up to their mistakes, grow from them, and recognize ways that they can do better. If you notice that there is an area that needs strengthening in your ECC, you might be the very person to find ways to fill that deficit in training. If you notice that newer employees are struggling with geography or street directions, maybe offer to create a class tackling these issues to help them in verifying and determining locations more accurately. Or if you notice a need for training on radio etiquette over police or fire channels, then how about offering to present an in-house refresher on appropriate radio communication. Write a training aid or seek out online training for your center that addresses any issues your people might be having. Owning the culture in your ECC is about making it your responsibility to help see everyone around you succeed!

When we own the culture in the ECC, own our actions and our part in how we impact public safety, and own our involvement in training in our centers, we can make it more than a job. It becomes our mission!

bySamantha Hawkins CMCP

Samantha Hawkins is a PSAP Professional and Trainer for Moetivations, Inc. She teaches nationally on a variety of emergency communications topics as well as conducting health and wellness training for law enforcement. She is currently serving as an Editorial Committee member for the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and holds her Center Manager Certification Program (CMCP) certification.

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