9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trainers Every Day

This article was taken from Public Safety Communications Magazine February 2005
911 Operations Page Written by Bill Cade who is director of APCO's 911 services and comm center operations

In the public safety communications center, training has to become part of everyone's commitment to improving service to all of our "customers." We all are trainers every day, working with one another, with customer agencies about roles and responsibilities and even with our callers, who often are convinced there is nothing they can do.

In every center, we know of events that were not handled right because no one wanted to speak up and straighten out a problem or a mistake in the call-processing or dispatch process. Why? It was not that person's job. In such cases, the assumption is because someone else has the duty to train the staff, we who are not training officers can allow some level of substandard performance.

Many of us fought hard battles to get someone within the center identified as the training officer (TO). In some cases, we managed to add a stipend as a token of the value of that role to the organization. If we were really lucky, we may have found a way to provide some "release time" for that individual to review training needs and prepare training strategies and materials, including scenarios, performance indicators and competency-based testing. All this was intended to help our staffs improve basic skills and adjust to new policies, procedures and changing customer expectations, as well as prepare for major disasters that require all our best efforts. Of course, it is impossible to train for every version of each call type we will experience, but the parameters of good public safety communications practice are constant in every call-processing process. Those of you who have been successful in this area are to be congratulated.

Having a TO has a down side. Once we create the TO position, a popular notion is nobody else can say, "Hold it, what is the problem? You have to get that information from the caller now!"

The object of this query could reply, "No one trained me to handle a call just like this one."

Training does not end when a certificate is issued or the designated number of classroom hours has been met. Some training is flawed even as it is given, because we use older materials or past practices rather than agency-specific ones. Sometimes we do not tell our trainees doing the job right every time is the only way to prevent problems.

Training is all about self-improvement. We have to search for what is valuable, recognize it may be different for each of us and understand we all learn differently. Even then, training must be perceived as dynamic, relevant and valuable.

In marriage, few of us decide we have nothing else to learn about ourselves and our partners after the first year. As parents, we don't assume surviving the "terrible twos" with our children means no further challenges lie ahead. Every moment of life brings new challenges to which we must strive to choose the best responses. We may be tired, frustrated, angry, upset or unhappy, but that does not change the need for attention, focus and self-discipline that should be the products of effective training.

Training needs and appropriate styles and conditions of training delivery evolve all the time. We must be aware of these needs and of the many ways to present information to enhance professionalism, to empower communicators to do the right thing in a crisis and complete the requisite elements of basic task performance.

The TO may be better named the training coordinator, who must juggle a variety of approaches to match a variety of people, each at his or her own competence level. The training coordinator lets all the staff share in the burden of delivering the best service on every call. This may mean explicitly granting to everyone on a shift the right to ask for help, and authorizing them to participate in the successful resolution of every call, regardless of who is actually handling it.

The training coordinator and the center manager have a clear burden to identify the best training materials and methods for the incumbent staff, as well as for new hires, while remembering these approaches are seldom identical. Evaluate training materials by content, not style or presentation, because you can change the presentation style to fit the needs of your center. Don't be reluctant to deliver the content in a manner that best fits the audience, but discriminate among audiences carefully. After all, your audience defines relevance.

Using coaches on each shift -- people who recite the recurrent theme of following basic protocols on every call -- will help, even on non-traditional calls. Basic protocols force a focus on staff conduct, call-processing and outcome, leading to consistent and predictable behaviors.

Do not let training become the property or responsibility of one staff person in your center. Encourage all staff to accept a share in the success of every call.

As a center manager, your daily success is in the hands of the staff you have at your consoles. Have you done your best to make training meaningful for each of them?

No comments:

Post a Comment