Emergency Responders Want More Training for Dispatchers
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – Dispatchers in Idaho – and 24 other states – are not certified for the work they do. In a nutshell, they are not considered trained professionals.
Idaho State Police is backing proposed legislation to change that, and local law enforcement, including the Twin Falls Police Department, also support it. In one effort to do so, local emergency responders on Friday visited the Shields Building at the College of Southern Idaho for dispatch training.
The two four-hour classes – presented by Nathan Lee, president and director of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, and its instructor Ryan Chambers – included slides, dispatch recordings and interaction among attendees.
Lee and Chambers travel the country, sharing their story and helping emergency communicators become better at what they’re called to do – ask appropriate questions of callers and communicate effectively with them and responding officers. After their visit to Idaho, Chambers said they’ll take a break before hitting the road again. They have at least 15 more cities to visit this year.
“We’re not going to stop until every dispatch center has heard this story,” he said.
That story started on Jan. 17, 2008, when police dispatchers in Florida received a 911 call from a woman who had been kidnapped. It didn’t have a happy ending – she was murdered by her abductor. The woman was Lee’s wife, Denise Amber Lee. He started the foundation six months later.
“There was a lot that went wrong with that call,” Twin Falls Police Chief Kingsbury said during a break in the morning session, “a lot of things weren’t handled properly from the dispatcher.”
A dispatcher is the first emergency person a 911 caller talks with – and sometimes, as was the case with Denise Lee, the only one. It is imperative that proper information is gathered from the dispatcher and relayed to emergency responders. In some cases, Chambers said, proper training can make all the difference.
“I’ve heard from people who’ve heard this story say that it’s changed their outlook and how they approach their jobs,” he said.
Jerome County Sheriff Doug McFall said he notices areas of communication that could be improved among the various local agencies.
Good news may be on the horizon if legislators get behind the proposal, said ISP Lt. Kevin Haight, which in part recognizes and raises “the level of competence of emergency communications officers and to foster cooperation among the [Officer Standards and Training] Council, agencies, groups, organizations, jurisdictions, and individuals.”
So far at least one legislator, Rep. Kelley Packer, R. McCammon, is backing it.
“We’ve worked very hard over the past year and a half,” Haight said. “There are a lot of stakeholders who’ve gotten behind this. We’re going to present it to the Legislature this next session.”