Monthly Archives: October 2016

Dumb desperation?

This is doubling as my mid-semester self-pep-talk as I am torn between daily apathy and anxiety.

I came across a phrase this year that resonated with me in a way that I haven’t experienced since I was about 14 years old. The brain spark that fires when you’re expanding your vocabulary, learning a language, and improving your ability to express your thoughts and feelings to others. That phrase is self-efficacy. Its a bit lofty sounding, I’ll admit, but as I absorbed its meaning I realized that I knew its meaning all along. The fact that it was so concisely summed up is what struck me. (Word nerd, right here.)

I stumbled across this phrase in a textbook I was reading for an undergraduate class I am taking this semester. The significance of my enrollment an undergraduate program involves the fact that I was home-schooled for 3 years, never finished the 8th grade, and never attended high school. I was an unreported runaway working two jobs at 16, researched where I could take the GED test at 17, and promptly enrolled at the local community college. In hindsight, knowing the compromises that I faced, I have wondered how I survived. Fast forward to today, and – ah ha! Call it dumb desperation, but it suddenly clicked in my mind that what I had was self-efficacy. When I have struggled, it is because my self-efficacy was shaken.

This concept connects with almost every experience in my life, and likely yours as well. Self-efficacy is as simple as the story of The Little Engine That Could, and so popular that you’ll find an infinite number of quotes, memes, books, and posters shouting the importance of believing in yourself.

Okay, I’ll bring it back around to dispatching: the training experience (and daily experience, for that matter) of being a dispatcher has posed a fierce challenge to my personal efficacy. One of the dispatcher supervisors (who had done my background check) even laid it out for me during a board interview, when I asked what they thought I would have the hardest time with. She said, “You seem like kind of person who is used to being good at everything you try your hand at — but you’re not going to be good at this for a long time.” (Cue wide-eyed gulp.)

The reason I want to bring up this topic on this blog is because it truly is the key to being a successful dispatcher – both learning the job and doing it right. I’m bringing it up because it is so important to keep at the forefront of my mind as both a learner and as a trainer. But even if you decide to go do something else, you should keep in mind that your greatest predictor of success in life is your attitude towards it. If you proceed into dispatching, or any great challenge in life, perhaps this psychology-reminder will help you prepare and press through. If you find yourself in a negative tailspin, recognize it for what it is, and the affect that your mentality can have moving forward. If you are struggling, be resourceful. Own up to your maxed-out-ed-ness (I say to myself), practice self-care, and keep your chin up.

In all of this, I stumbled across a great blog that succinctly lays out important things you should know about self-efficacy and how to wield it. See Tiffany Brown’s Self-Efficacy.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
-Henry Ford


Image from

*Because I believe in keeping a humorous balance, I am choosing to also include this cartoon, with hopes that it does not undercut any of the above sincere statements. The reality is that working in emergency communications is not for everyone, and that’s okay!


Shift Shirt Humor

In this line of work, if you didn’t have it when you walked in the door (and let’s hope you did), you’ll develop an odd sense of humor. It helps us get through those long shifts, and helps form a bond with your partners that’s strong enough (hopefully) to get you to come back for more! Today I’ll share with you some of the fun dispatcher shirts that I’ve acquired over the years. They are non-agency-specific, but custom designed. Enjoy!

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If you’re looking for custom shirts, check out KidsWithScissors.
Some of from those folks, but I don’t remember which ones, sorry!

Bringing it all Together

This blog is in its infancy, and I’m doing my best to get my thoughts posted coherently. Handily enough, one of my assignments was to put together a fancy little Storify piece for you fine readers! This Storify admittedly links back to other posts in this blog, but it puts them together in a more organized fashion for potential applicants. Enjoy!

How to Prepare to be a 911 Dispatcher

Hard skills

Of all that will be asked of you as a new dispatcher, there are certain skills you’d be wise to have as you walk in the door. Typing and computer navigation are absolutely critical to the timely processing of calls for service in emergency communications. If you had to call 911, would you like for your call-taker to be hunting and pecking on the keyboard, using precious moments as they click…. tap-tap-tap…. click…. click….? I don’t think so.

Potential dispatchers – this is for you. Using a quick online search, I compiled a list of online typing development and testing resources that I would highly recommend you consider in your quest into the world of emergency communications. Before we get to that, I just want to establish two key abbreviations you’ll see- wpm and kph. Most folks are familiar with wpm – words per minute. This is a measurement of standard typing speed when tested with words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc. Kph is keystrokes per hour, often used with data entry testing, and reflects testing with numbers, punctuation, letters, or a combination of everything. Just a high-level explanation there, moving on…

The agencies that you apply to work with may or may not have a posted minimum typing speed. Many agencies use a software platform that has a typing test built into the overall program (i.e. CritiCall). I don’t have the typing rubric for Critical testing, and it may be customized per agency. The agency that I work for lists 45 wpm as the minimum for our call-takers and dispatchers, but we do not list a minimum kph. For comparison, however, the dispatchers that I work with (myself included) type 60+ mph, some 75+ mph, and generally 10,000+ kph. Take a quick test, see how you do!

Steps to Becoming a 911 Dispatcher (good general information)

Click here for more information about how to prepare for CritiCall testing.

A Comprehensive Orientation Video

I’m very happy to say that I’ve found this video — this is the type of orientation video that folks in our agency have talked about making available for our potential applicants.

     I’m not endorsing or encouraging Gateway Technical College, or any other technical school or pre-employment training, but I think that its critical to understand what you’ll be “getting yourself into” as an applicant. Additionally, keep in mind that there are agency-specific details (pay, schedules, OT, roles/responsibilities, policies/procedures)… but the overall environment and demands are the same.

     It’s a bit long, but its good! Think of it as part of your homework, your legwork, your research… whatever you’re calling it. This is a big deal, its a hard job, and its going to take a lot of hard work. Having appropriate expectations plays a big role in your success. Watch the video- I highly recommend it.