Demand Drives Need for New Dispatcher Training Course - WBAY

Demand Drives Need for New Dispatcher Training Course

Brown County -

Action 2 News has learned plans are underway for a new partnership with the Brown County Communications Center, local law enforcement, and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

They're teaming up to create what they're calling the area's first dispatcher certification program.

It's partly in response to a problem we first told you about back in October, after several dispatchers at the Brown County 911 Center walked off the job, fed up with scheduling issues, overtime, and stress.

At the time, the center was down six full-time dispatchers -- about 10 percent of its staff.

The county brought in representatives from the police, fire, and sheriff's departments to look at the problems and recommend solutions. Employees told them one of the biggest concerns is training.

Now the dispatch center and school are working to start a new training program.

Before Brown County dispatchers ever answer your 911 call or talk to police or fire crews on their own, they undergo three months of intense on-the-job training.

It's stressful work, and some people are simply not cut out for it. Dispatchers have a national turnover rate of 18 percent a year.

"In our case, that would be anywhere from 10 to 12 people a year that we potentially could lose. And training 10 to 12 people a year for 13 weeks out of the year is an extensive amount of training," says Brown County Communications Center Interim Director Cullen Peltier.

At the suggestion of law enforcement, NWTC realized a need for what it says would be the area's first dispatcher certification program, and just a few weeks ago agreed to create it.

"Basically what we're doing is just giving them very, very basic fundamental skills with regards to dispatching," says John Flannery, NWTC Criminal Justice Instructor.

Flannery just became certified to teach this new course, a sort of basic training, so dispatchers don't start a new job feeling blindfolded.

"When I was in law enforcement full time, I didn't really understand until I went through the training myself the kind of stress that dispatchers have to put up with," says Flannery.

They're still working out all the details of the class, but the school hopes to start it as soon as early summer, with 25 to 30 students enrolled right away.

"Shortening up anything for us would be great because it's time, it's training effort, it's dollars that we spend on the trainees while they're doing the training program, so anything is a benefit to us," says Peltier.

While the certification won't be required, Peltier thinks it will make a big difference.

"It's going to be a good program for the people that are coming through it," he says.

Peltier says since September, the county has been slowly filling vacancies and has hired 14 new employees. He hopes to be at full staffing of 62 dispatchers in April.

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