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April Highlights 9-1-1 Education & Public Safety Telecommunictor Service

Author: Dave Larton, Associate editor

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2014-04-07
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April has rolled around once again, and that’s the time we all think about National  Public Safety Telecommunicator’s Week and 9-1-1 Education Month.  If you haven’t seen them, I’d like to show you some great links that can help you get the positive story about 9-1-1 out to the public.

First…get the story out!

NENA’s Education Programs Manager Ty Wooten has assembled a crammed-full page of useful links at  Make sure to stop by for several 9-1-1 related articles, sample training materials, public service announcements, and additional outside links.  And for a bit of NTW history, see

One of those links is the National 9-1-1 Education Coalition at  Leave your name and email address to get 9-1-1 related posters and banners, supporting the Coalition’s ‘Number to Know’ Campaign.

An example of one city’s mayoral proclamation to promote public awareness of NTW can be viewed and downloaded as a PDF file from

The 9-1-1 for Kids website at has all sorts of great 9-1-1 education material…check out their ’9-1-1 for kids’ rap music riff while you’re on the site!

There’s also a Facebook page devoted to NTW – if you’re on Facebook, take a look at

I would stress, though, that none of these resources will help get our collective story out if we do not make a conscious effort to toot our own horn.  We know that the public’s perception of 9-1-1 is tempered by what they see on television, movies, or in the media.   The telling of the 9-1-1 success story is an exercise we need to perform every day in every way, and not just during April each year.  Whether we go to our local schools to put out the word, participate in community events with a booth, or we just contact the public, the story always needs to have a much wider reach.  Even on the telephone, we can use our contact with the public to help perform some badly needed 9-1-1 education.

We know that awareness of the 9-1-1 system is taught in our nation’s schools – our lines ring like crazy for a solid week after a 9-1-1 class has been taught, as every kid in class wants to test the system to ensure that they can reach us in an emergency.  I’ve had some partners (and maybe you’ve had a few as well) who have growled at a child on the phone because they dialed 9-1-1 to see if was working.  Remember, you never have a second chance to create a first impression – use that opportunity to reinforce what they’ve learned in class…while they should not call 9-1-1 unless they have an emergency, they should also know that polite, caring people will help them if they call for assistance.

Second…toot the bugle!

We need to say ‘thank you’ to the men and women who answer our incoming lines 24/7 in a sincere and meaningful way.  (Pizza goes a long way in my house…just sayin’ ...)  Some Centers put up all of their 9-1-1 staff as ‘Dispatchers of the Year,’ trying to please everyone while disappointing no one.  We need to thank them all year long, not just during National  Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.  If one of our partners goes the extra mile, everybody needs to know about it. If we don’t toot our own bugle, no one will know our story.  The same folks who are just as quick to criticize the actions of a dispatcher or calltaker need to be told when their dispatcher or calltaker has done an outstanding job.  Of all the accolades and awards, none has meant as much as a pat on the shoulder or a ‘nice job’ over the radio!

Third….know that you make a difference!

It’s a tough career that, frankly, not everybody can perform.  When you go home at the end of the shift, are you able to say, ‘all my responders went home today’…. ‘I helped someone out today’…or, ‘I made a difference today’….?

I dislike the no-code, brain dead, abuse of the system, the 'officer doesn’t wanna go and I don’t want to send her’ type of call as much as anybody.  But, I try to keep in mind that we sit in those chairs and grind out the hours of an overtime hold-over shift for a reason…  That, one day… (maybe today!) you’ll get the opportunity to put into practice all of the training, all of the skill-building, all of the experience and all of the passion you’ve been working so hard… for so long… for that one particular call.  And….you’ll be there to take it.

I’m reminded of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ flight that placed the right pilot, at the right time, in the right place, to make a difference.  Like Captain Sullenberger, we’ve all had those boring shifts, with too little to show for all our effort.  ‘Sully’ could never have imaged that every bit of his glider pilot training, twenty years earlier, would all be needed at that one particular moment in time.

9-1-1 Education is all about reminding the public about the important work we do for their benefit every single day.  But, it’s also about educating (and reminding) ourselves as to why we do what we do.  Use this National  Public Safety Telecommunicator Week (and the month of April) to redouble your efforts to be the best Telecommunicator you can be.

It’s not a question of IF we’ll get ‘The Call’…it’s just a question of when.


Associate Editor Dave Larton has been involved with public safety for more than 35 years, 15 of them in dispatch.  He currently serves as the Chief ACS/RACES Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services and is the Public Information Officer for the California Mobile Command Center Rally. A nationally known dispatch instructor, Dave continues to provide training and consulting services for dispatchers and PSAP managers through First Contact 9-1-1.


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