9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dispatcher Competency: The Importance of Employee Selection

The last thing an Incident Commander needs to worry about while working at an emergency scene is the competency of the dispatching staff. There is a lot going on at the same time. The word "hectic" comes to mind.

The Incident Commander is focused on the situation at hand. He/she is giving orders over the radio, setting up sectors, requesting utilities, traffic control or more medic units. The pace is fast and furious. Bringing an emergency situation to a successful conclusion depends largely upon quality dispatchers. Consequently, newly hired dispatchers, because of the nature of the job, must be quick at the uptake. Dispatch isn't Wal-Mart where you can wear a button that says, "Hi! My name is Mary. I'm new. Please be patient." Therefore, employee selection for the position of dispatcher is paramount. The truth of the matter is that not everyone can handle the job.

So how do you go about selecting a new dispatcher? I would suggest a written test, an interview, training, timely evaluations, and proper working test period. A reading comprehension test is a good start. Much of what we do in emergency service revolves around standard operating procedures. As a dispatcher, reading and understanding SOPs is very important. Knowledge of local streets and the ability to use maps is very important. Once again, tests can be developed to evaluate this quality in our potential employee.

An interview should always be given before hiring an employee. Interviews provide a chance to review resumes and work experience. It allows the candidate an opportunity to put his/her best foot forward. Basically, the interview allows the employer a chance to observe the person vying for the job. Interviews should be conducted in private and in a relaxed atmosphere.

Once on the job, training is a must. The proper useage of equipment, computers, and phones can be taught to the new dispatcher while they sit in a secondary dispatching position. Any mistakes should be corrected immediately and reaffirmed during employee evaluations. All evaluations and counseling sessions must be documented. The employee should be allowed sufficient time to learn terminology and operating procedures followed by an evaluation. Test results should be shared with the employee and documented.

As the new employee transitions into the dispatching job, input should be solicited from his/her supervisor. Make note of the new employee's strengths and weaknesses and share them with the employee in private. If necessary, work up employee performance targets with a designated completion date. Offer the employee assistance and encouragement. The probationary period is a critical part of the hiring process. During this period, the new employee will have a chance to work under fire. It will become apparent here if they can do the job or not. Simple observation will tell you if the person is a team player and can work under pressure. Trainees who fail should not be despised -- dispatching is a tough field and not everyone is cut out for it. Failed trainees should be encouraged and assisted in new directions.

When the action is hitting hot and heavy on the street, the word "hectic" in the dispatching office is an understatement. This is where the rubber meets the road. They either make it here or need to seek different employment. Usually they do so voluntarily. But if the need be, you may have to remove them from the console and usher them towards another career field. You cannot afford not to. It's essential you have a dispatcher at the helm that you can depend on.

No comments:

Post a Comment