This week’s focus on Police Dispatchers includes an “Interview with America’s Diary of a Mad Dispatcher”. The Badge Guys know that when you dial 911 for help in a crisis, you expect someone to answer that call. Beyond just answering the phone, you expect your crisis to be handled because of that call.
How often do people consider the voice, the human being, the person, the employee, the sister or brother receiving that call? Do you know who these people are? Do you care? The Badge Guys do, and are proud to be joined by Kristin Kitchen from Facebook’s wildly popular; Diary of a Mad Dispatcher
In honor of the upcoming National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, The Badge Guys feature this special 2-part interview with Kristin. She was kind enough to share her time and “voice” with us. She is the creator and the original “Mad Dispatcher” hosting the popular sounding board at Facebook’s Diary of a Mad Dispatcher.
Please enjoy Part 1 of 2 with Kristin Kitchen’s “Interview with America’s Diary of a Mad Dispatcher – The Badge Guys”
TBG: What inspired you to be a Dispatcher?
KMK: That is a funny question. This line of work had never really crossed my mind. I never thought about who answered 911 or sent emergency responders out. I came across the opening for 911 Telecommunicator in a general search of the Employment Security Commission website.
Side note, I received notification that I was hired with the U.S. Post Office on the very same day I was notified by the Sheriff’s Office that I was hired with them. It was a hard decision for me to make. I have no doubt I picked the right one.
Thank goodness it turned out to be the perfect fit!
TBG: Fortunate for the first responder community, you chose the path of Dispatcher instead of Postal worker. Although I guess a Facebook page called the Diary of an Angry Letter Carrier would have been equally popular.
TBG: We know the profession is not an easy one, but what does it take to even begin the process? Will you walk us through the process from applying for the position to actually call taking / and dispatching?
KMK: The hiring process with my agency was intensive. I did not hear a word about my application for 3 months. At that time my 911 center was under the Sheriff’s Department.
We were hired under Sheriff’s Standards. When they called me in to interview it was review board style. I was interviewed by a 12 member board, all of them high ranking deputies and one 911 supervisor.
After completing this step, I had to pass a physical, a SBI records check and a 2 hour interview (aka interrogation) with a Detective which included a lie detector test. At that time my agency did not require any type of skill or multi taking testing.
TBG: That is an extensive process, but Dispatchers do have access important information about the public, businesses, and other critical aspects within their jurisdiction. Did the Detective get you to confess? OK, nevermind.
TBG: Was there standardized training or an academy you received in order to become a Police Dispatcher?
KMK: I began my career as a 911 Dispatcher 13 years ago. When I began there was no standardized training or academy for me to attend. On my first day I was introduced to the 911 Director who was a very stern leader.
She handed me a brand new headset, pointed out the door to the rest room and the door to the kitchen, then sent me on my way to a senior dispatcher that would teach me how it is done.
My call take FTO was a veteran dispatcher, been there, seen it, conquered it. She showed me how the headset worked, handed me a sheet of 10-codes and Phonetic alphabet list. I took to call taking like a duck to water, I loved it.
I will however admit I rubbed a bald spot in the front of my hair bent over that 10-code list trying to memorize 100 codes and numerous signals in between 911 and non-emergency phone calls coming into the center.
After being released as a 911 call taker I began training on dispatch consoles. I loved every minute of it. So much so that I was told on more than 1 occasion by my disgruntled ex-husband that I would dispatch fire trucks, officers/deputies, EMS units in my sleep every night keeping him awake.
I cleared all the consoles in the dispatch center in exactly 6 months. Times have changed from back then. My agency is no longer under the Sheriff’s department. We have implemented standardized electronic testing for listening, memory, multi-tasking and typing skills.
Our review board is now made up of members of admin, supervisors and floor dispatchers. Our new hires now attend a 5-6 week in house training class with our Training Coordinator where they learn all the basics before coming to the floor and being assigned to a Training Officer.
TBG: Does this On-The-Job Training sound familiar to anyone else?
TBG: Do most Dispatchers work alone or in teams? What are the benefits of each? Which would you prefer?
KMK: I have worked in the same center my whole career. We have grown in numbers over the years. When I started we were stacked if we had 10 people working the floor, Now we are comfortable with 16 working.
Our center currently Dispatches 6 Law Enforcement agencies, Consolidated fire services for the whole county and EMS services for the whole county. We have a total of 11 dispatch consoles that must be manned at all times, the rest are call takers and 2 supervisors.
We rotate thru the consoles daily so we are up to date on how to dispatch all of them. We work our console as a single dispatcher, however we fall into a team effort when the world crashes down. With the exception of the busiest law consoles, all dispatchers are responsible for answering incoming 911 and non-emergency calls.
I am a bit of a control freak, SHOCKING I know. A dispatcher that wants to be in charge??? So I do prefer to work my console on my own, however I do recognize when I have need of a team effort.
TBG: You, a control freak?? So sure!!! Kristin thank you for introducing everyone to you and foundation of what it takes to dispatch emergency services.
Join us back here tomorrow for Part 2 of Kristin’s interview as we discuss on the job stress and awesomeness!