One of the most difficult and critical tasks a communications can undertake is to train a new dispatcher. Besides trying to insure the success of the employee, the trainers must impart knowledge about many different topics, including philosophy of law enforcement and firefighting, law, technical topics (radio, telephone, computers), management of stress, handling difficult callers, and listening and speaking skills.
To make sure that training is done thoroughly, completely and in a standardized manner, every communications center should have a training manual that can be issued to each new employee. The manual sets out in clear, printed form what tasks are to be performed, what behavior is to expected, and how each task can be successfully performed. The document then becomes a point of reference for every employee if a question arises about a particular policy, procedure or method.
I’ve taken actual training materials and combined them to create a sample training guide for a police and fire communications center. While it is quite comprehensive, it could not be used without extensive customization by your agency, and the addition of many sections that pertain to your individual operation. Even so, it should provide a starting point for creating your own training manual.
Note: While we have taken every precaution to present correct and proper information in this training material, you should carefully review the material in the training guide for its legal appropriateness to your state, county and local jurisdiction, its applicability to your equipment and personnel practices, and its applicability to your comm center’s policies and procedures.
The following files are in HTML format:
I’ve prepared several training forms, including evaluation forms for training and on-going performance reviews.
- APCO has established minimum training standards for various job positions, including telecommunicator and training officer. View all the training-related standards here.
- APCO has a dispatcher training certification program, dubbed Project 33.
- Training Evaluation Form – daily observation report (DOR) (pdf)
- Training Evaluation Explanation – explanation of the above form’s fields (pdf)
- Training Timeline – sample of subjects, when taught and for how long (pdf)
- Trainer Evaluation Form – to be filled out by student on the performance of the trainer (pdf)
- Trainee Program Milestones – check-list of subjects, skills and tasks to learn, and when they should be completed (pdf)
- Training Program Administration – very general guidelines on how the program should operate (pdf)
- Call-Taker Final Test – representative, 100-question final dispatcher test. Note: most questions would have to be modified for your agency. (pdf)
- Call-Taking Process Diagram (html)
- Customer service – considerations, evaluations and standards
- Ethics – definition, toolkits for creating a code, sample codes, legal considerations
- Surf our Trainers & Consultants page for more information on training resourcesOther Training ResourcesAPCO has a program (Project 33) for certifying dispatcher training programs
- Minneapolis Community & Technical College Program - curriculum
- FEMA Emergency Management Courses
- Firehouse.com Bookstore
- Fort Collins’ Natural Disaster Information Cards – helpful call-taking guide
- CareerTrack Seminars – private training on a variety of management and admin-related topics
- Texas 40-hour Course Curriculum – subjects and learning objectives (pdf)
- Virginia’s 80-hour Course Curriculum – list of subjects (pdf)
- New Jersey 911 Training Requirements, on-line manual
- Poster-size chart of criminal justice system – great for newbies
- Illinois’ Public Safety Telecommunicator Training & Standards (pdf)
- The National Fire Administration has posted a 1995 “Fire Department Communications Manual” that covers operations and technical topics related to fire departments. (pdf)
- The companies Sanders Audio-Visual, Professional Pride and Creative Controls offer CAD, telephone / 911 and radio console simulators for training entry-level dispatchers.
- Professional Pride and The Public Safety Group offer pre-made procedure manuals on paper an CD that form the basis of your own manual.
- NENA has an Operations Committee that has written several standards for call and incident handling.
- The Cincinnati Police Department has posted their Procedures Manual on-line–you can select specific sections to download.
- Download Los Angeles Police Department departmental manual, including extensive sections on communications.
- The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime has published a 33-page booklet (pdf) “First Response to Victims of Crime,” giving some tips for law enforcement on taking crime reports (mostly in-person), but which are also applicable to phone contacts.
- The state of Kentucky has formalized their 4-week, mandatory Basic Telecommunications Academy curriculum.
- In 2003 the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS program published a 129-page report on “Call Management and Community Policing: A Guidebook for Law Enforcement,” which explains call intake strategies (walkup, telephone, Internet, etc.), considerations and implementations
- Surf the a 1998 Minnesota report by the state auditor’s office on best practices for public safety dispatching.
- The Florida Highway Patrol (scroll down to Section 14) have posted their “Communications” section (pdf), and the Phoenix Fire Dept. has their entire Operations Manual on-line, including communications-related sections.
- The Santa Cruz County (Calif.) Emergency Communications Center (click on ‘Training’) has an excellent collection of training templates and set-up information. They also have their entire policy/procedure manaual on-line.
- A list of higher education sources of public safety dispatch training. These institutions may be the best long-term solution to the on-going staffing crisis at public safety comm centers.
- Check in with the excellent on-line public safety communications program offered by Jacksonville State (Ala.) University, which has a complete list of courses that lead to a certificate or degree.
- The Commision on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) offers a voluntary program for public safety communications agencies for either affiliated (law enforcement, fire or EMS) or un-affiliated (independent comm agency) public safety communications agencies. Surf their Web site for complete information on the process of applying and accrediting your agency.
- The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission has a Telecommunicator certification program with training resources.
- State of Maine, Learning Objectives for dispatcher and supervisor (pdf)
- List of common comm center abbreviations (pdf)
- APCO minimum training standard for training officers (pdf)
- NPSTC technology education Web page
- 2010 Florida training curriculum after mandatory training bill signed by governor (pdf), and stats from 2009 Florida voluntary certification law (pdf)
- APCO surveyed the states in August 2010 for their training requirements
- A collection of dispatcher training evaluation forms from several agencies (pdf)
- Yolo County (N. Calif.) training evaluation form (pdf)
- Ontario County (NY) 911 Center training checklist (pdf)
- Shelby County (TN) Fire daily observation report (pdf)
- U.S. Fire Administration radio training guide for the fire service (pdf)
Tracking Software — The following companies provide computer software for tracking the training that your dispatchers receive, including initial and on-going training: