Bring the right attitude.
Being a 911 call taker and/or dispatcher is a public service role. Our responsibilities are to the officers, our agency, our partners, and the public. The job is challenging, the training is difficult, and the experiences are taxing. Before you apply, work to understand what you’re getting into. A positive, humble, service-minded attitude can help you succeed.
Arrive early, bring healthy snacks.
Long, stressful shifts can wreak havoc on your diet. Be smart and plan ahead! Bring plenty of healthy snacks and beverages so you can avoid the vending machine or the mountains of cookies and donuts that are inevitably brought in to dispatch.
Know your jurisdiction and the surrounding areas.
Location is the most important piece of information in any call. I challenge you to learn your geography backwards and forwards! Like the back of your hand! More cliches! Seriously, map skills and geographical orientation are critical in 911. You will have to be able to help your caller help you determine their location. Use your resources – CAD maps, physical maps, Google Maps (especially Streetview & Google Earth), and drive, bike, or walk around! Take a different route to work every day. Know your city/county!
Know and follow your agency’s policies and procedures, and stay on top of changes and updates.
Cover Your Agency! 🙂
Learn and actively practice stress management.
You won’t be immune. Training, especially, is very stressful. Consider carefully what others stressors you may be juggling and make arrangements ahead of time. Give your brain time to decompress! Ask your agency about stress management training and resources such as employee assistance programs (EAPs). If you get breaks off the floor – do just that, leave the floor! Go outside, go for a walk, meditate, do some yoga. Outside of work, consider developing a strong self-care practice to help maintain your sanity. Kick-boxing, Krav Maga, adult boot camps, roller derby, running – of course, I’ll always suggest more yoga. Find what works for you!