The Call - Winter 2017 - 17

OP E R AT IO NS

Improving Working Conditions
is Critical to Hiring and
Retaining in 9-1-1 Centers

Christopher Blake Carver
PSAP Operations Director

AS YOU ARE MORE THAN
AWARE, THE BIGGEST
CHALLENGE THAT MANY
OF OUR CENTERS FACE
IS FINDING PEOPLE TO
ACTUALLY SIT IN THE
SEATS, ANSWER THE
CALLS, AND DISPATCH
THE INCIDENTS. IT IS A
PROFOUND TRUTH THAT
UNLESS WE FIGURE OUT
A WAY TO SOLVE THIS
HUMAN CRISIS, LITTLE
OF THE TECHNICAL
AND OPERATIONAL
ADVANCEMENTS THAT
WE ARE EXPERIENCING
WILL MEET THEIR
POTENTIAL.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my
job as NENA's PSAP Operations Director
is visiting 9-1-1 centers of various sizes,
shapes, and activity levels across the
United States and beyond. This has led
me to places big and small, where I've
had conversations with 9-1-1 lifers and
short-timers and taken part in more than
a few "excited" debates on important
issues and challenges that we face in our
9-1-1 community.
As you are more than aware, the
biggest challenge that many of our
centers face is finding people to actually
sit in the seats, answer the calls, and
dispatch the incidents. Unless we figure
out a way to solve this human crisis,
little of the technical and operational
advancements that we are experiencing
will matter much. Whether the
dispatcher uses a rotary dial phone or the
latest app to process a call, if they are not
present in the operations center, then
the technology becomes irrelevant to
the outcome.
Sadly, this is not a new or unknown
phenomenon. But after a few recent
conversations, I think we have been
missing something. Countless hours and
many studies have attempted to find a
magic bullet to address this problem.
We learn about millennials, hoping to
unlock some mystical insight about
what will summon them to our doors
and keep them inside. We try to recruit
everywhere from the local coffee shop
to the high school. We invest in training
and conferences, try out stand-up desks,
consoles that heat, and line the walls
of our 9-1-1 centers with inspirational

posters. Yet still, the problem persists.
I think it was Spock who said if you
eliminate all the other possibilities, what
is left, no matter how improbable, is the
likely answer. I think it is time for us in
the 9-1-1 profession to admit something
that may be obvious to everyone but
us: In far too many agencies the reason
why we cannot attract people or hold
on to them is that the job of being a
public safety telecommunicator is just
not a good one in the traditional sense.
If you surveyed one hundred random
people on the street about what makes
a job desirable, do you think that a
telecommunicator position would
qualify as such?
Now, do not get me wrong. The job
is important. It is meaningful and it has
good things about it. However, many
of us have to fall back onto principled
arguments about what we do in order
to justify why we keep doing it. I know
of very few centers where people speak
favorably about the pay, the hours, the
benefits, or the working environment
when they are asked why they work
where they do. In my own experience
in a large metropolitan agency, most
employees would answer, "I am here
for the pension," when questioned
about the primary motivating factor
behind their choice to stay. A few would
probably talk about health benefits, and
perhaps a handful more would cite the
schedule, but not very many.
Out of the thousands of people I have
met in 9-1-1 centers, only a few have ever
said that their primary goal is to serve
the public. This should not shock anyone.

Read the digital edition at www.naylornetwork.com/nen-nxt/

17


http://www.naylornetwork.com/nen-nxt/

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Call - Winter 2017

President’s Message
From the CEO
The Leaders of 9-1-1 and Its Inception
Government Affairs
50 Years: 9-1-1 Grounded in Public Policy
Operations
The History of 9-1-1
Education & Training
Tech Trends
Products and Services Guide
Index to Advertisers/Advertisers.com
The Call - Winter 2017 - Intro
The Call - Winter 2017 - cover1
The Call - Winter 2017 - cover2
The Call - Winter 2017 - 3
The Call - Winter 2017 - President’s Message
The Call - Winter 2017 - From the CEO
The Call - Winter 2017 - The Leaders of 9-1-1 and Its Inception
The Call - Winter 2017 - 7
The Call - Winter 2017 - 8
The Call - Winter 2017 - 9
The Call - Winter 2017 - 10
The Call - Winter 2017 - 11
The Call - Winter 2017 - Government Affairs
The Call - Winter 2017 - 50 Years: 9-1-1 Grounded in Public Policy
The Call - Winter 2017 - 14
The Call - Winter 2017 - 15
The Call - Winter 2017 - 16
The Call - Winter 2017 - Operations
The Call - Winter 2017 - 18
The Call - Winter 2017 - The History of 9-1-1
The Call - Winter 2017 - Education & Training
The Call - Winter 2017 - Tech Trends
The Call - Winter 2017 - Products and Services Guide
The Call - Winter 2017 - Index to Advertisers/Advertisers.com
The Call - Winter 2017 - cover4
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