Written by Debbie Gailbreath, supervisor of the Professional Development Unit for the Sarasota (Fla) County Sheriff's Office Public Safety Communications Center. She is a member of the APCO Standards Development Committee, an adjunct instructor and an APCO Life Member.
Public safety communications is a profession in which maintaining a high skill level is vitally important. Just as important is taking advantage of skill enhancement and career advancement opportunities. Obtaining the knowledge, skills and abilities for personal development and career advancement opportunities is essential to our success.
So here are some questions for you to consider: Where do I want to go? What qualifications, skills, competencies and support do I need to get there? What actions can I take to achieve my career goals?
Creating a plan is an important first step. Review your personal history of accomplishments. Consider your interests and passions, your strengths and your weaknesses. Define your objectives. What are your goals and aspirations? Some may be short term while others are long-term. What performance targets are you interested in? Are you interested in pursuing training, leadership, supervising staff, managing projects or managing programs? What new knowledge, skills and abilities do you need?
Next, identify resources that will help you attain these goals. Figure out what training and education is available and who can help you reach those goals. Finally, establish a timeline and targeted completion date.
There are several APCO public safety communications standards that can assist you at various steps in your career -- whether you're interested in improving your current skills or in learning new skills. These standards provide best practices and recommendations for training requirements, job tasks and job descriptions for the employee, and identify agency responsibilities to assist employees in meeting the standards.
Here are a few of the standards:
- Minimum Traning Standards for Public Safety Telecommunicators: This standard identifies minimum training requirements for both new and veteran public safety telecommunicators who are tasked with receiving, processing, transmitting and conveying public safety information to dispatchers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel.
- Minimum Training Standards for Public Safety Communications Training Officer (CTO): This standard identifies the minimum training requirements for all personnel assigned to providing on-the-job training to relecommunicators, as well as to promote the leadership role of the CTO.
- Core Competencies and Minimum Training Standards for Public Safety Communications Quality Assurance Evaluator (QAE): This standard defines the responsibilities of the QAE for planning, developing, coordinating, implementing and administering an agency quality assurance program.
- Core Competencies and Minimum Training Standards for Public Safety Training Coordinator: This standard defines the responsibilities for the employee charged with facilitating a public safety communications training program. Knowledge and skills identified include adult learning principles, instructional design and curriculum development, instructional techniques, records management and the agency's CTO program.
- Core Competencies and Minimum Training Standards for Public Safety Communications Supervisor: This standard identifies the requirements for managing daily operations, performing administrative duties and maintaining employee relations. This position provides leadership and guidance to employees in order to achieve the agency's mission, while providing service to the public and emergency responders.
- Core Competencies for Public Safety Communications Manager/Director: This standard identifies the knowledge, skills, traits and attributes required for this high-level position. Competencies focus on the agency's vision, strategic development, fostering effective working relationships, motivating employees and implementing change, as needed.
Institute classes are available online or in the classroom. Some courses related to the standards noted above include: Public Safety Telecommunicator, Public Safety Instructor, Communications Training Officer, Communications Center Supervisor, Public Safety Communications Staffing and Employee Retention and Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) Communications Accreditation Manager.
Also available is the Institute's Leadership Certificate Program, a 12-month online program leading to the professional designation of Registered Public-Safety Leader (RPL). Training components of this course include communications skills, building and enhancing team performance, leading with confidence and integrity, and interpersonal negotiations.
The Institute offers several continuing education options including articles and tests in Public Safety Communications magazine, webinars, video training series and monthly online instructor-led training through the Illuminations program. Complete information on all the institute has to offer can be found at http://apcointl.org/training-and-certification.html.
Finding a mentor is also essential to professional development. Establishing a professional relationship with a more experienced or knowledgeable person helps guide, educate and challenge us. Joining an APCO committee is a great way to learn about what's going on in our industry and meet professional peers. Current existing committees that may be of interest to you include 9-1-1 Emergency Technologies, Communications Center Standards, Member and Chapter Services, and Professional Communication Human Resources (Pro-CHRT). More information about committees can be found at http://apcointl.org/apco-membership.html
Whether you are new to the public safety communications family or are a seasoned veteran, there's always something new to learn, or skills that need to be refreshed. Your professional development benefits the community, your agency and your own personal growth. I encourage you to take a look at the APCO standards and the many training and educational opportunities offered by the Institute. When committee applications are open next year, submit an application to join. Get involved in your profession and your career development!
All APCO standards are available for download at http://apcointl.org/standards.html