911 Centers typically are set up hierarchically as an ancillary of either the police or fire department. However, given the expanding role of 911 centers in public safety and the respective challenges that these entities experience, some are establishing 911 centers as independent departments for a more focused approach to managing day-to-day operations.
Aurora 911’s Tina Buneta leads the webinar to talk about what their team did to overcome the challenges that hounded their center. Tina is the current Director of Aurora911 in Colorado. She started in public safety as a front-line telecommunicator in 1999 and rose through the ranks to become a training officer, supervisor, and regional center manager.
Specifics Tina discussed in this session include:
- The problems that plague 911 centers and their leadership.
- The absence of relatability where leaders have no experience or understanding of the profession resulting in leadership turnover and consequently constant changes within the center.
- Top-down, one-way communication and quasi-military management where the 911 teams don’t have much input in their work and are not empowered nor supported.
- Behavior originating from disempowerment is seen by leaders as a problem that must be fixed which then results in the withdrawal of staff trust to leadership.
- The conditions that created the perfect storm for a catastrophic problem for 911 centers.
- Pre-pandemic high turnover rate, inequitable compensation, dysfunctional culture, limited career growth options, and lack of work-life balance.
- 2020: COVID, civil unrest, and protests that created overtime mandates during a time of general anxiety that consequently resulted in attrition and negative public perception of 911 centers.
- The solution to the problem – meeting people where they are and leveraging concepts like the five drivers of employee engagement and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to understand what employees need.
- How Aurora911 was established as an independent department, focused on brand, purpose, and community connection.
- Aurora’s initiatives to meet people where they are and address their needs through…
- Increased salary, center renovation, and schedule flexibility that addressed the most surface of employee concerns.
- Investing on the employees through a professional development team, bringing in emotional intelligence development for leadership, and holding leadership development activities.
- Encouraging transparency and input from team members by utilizing Guardian Tracking for performance documentation and evaluation, recognition, and the idea submission process.
- Augmenting the peer support team and creating a quiet room to take care of team members’ overall wellness.
- Defining core values and behavior that employees believe in and agree to abide by.
- Sponsoring and incentivizing professional growth through external conferences, trainings, and certifications.
- Recognizing excellence and life-saving work rendered and providing closure to 911 staff who tend to only know how calls start but not how these are ultimately resolved.
- Fostering a culture of inclusion where team members can speak up their minds.
- How implementing these efforts resulted in receiving the Colorado NENA/APCO Center Of The Year.
- Aurora911’s intent to continue the work they’ve done, elevate what they’re doing and still yet to be done, and focus on people while also focusing on fun.
Points raised by the audience during the Q&A are about:
- Overcoming misconceptions about 911 leadership.
- Resources on leadership and problem-solving style.
- Getting buy-in for salary increases for the department.
- The most critical steps to take in centers with similar challenges.
- The future of 911.
Resources and Handouts
- Video: Aurora 911 Dispatchers Inundated with Calls, Threats due to Elijah McClain Case
- Video: Category #61 Storytelling/Aurora TV Storytelling
- Book Recommendation: Leading Change by John Kotter
- Book Recommendation: True North: Leading Authentically in Today’s Workplace by Bill George and Zach Clayton
- Author Recommendation: Brene Brown
- “VERY GOOD WEBINAR”
- “You have to be fortunate to have someone in a leadership position to fight for these changes and change the culture and usual way of thinking. Hopefully, the new era of leaders and law enforcement will be more responsive and mirror these changes. Most people get into high-level leadership positions to fatten their retirement salary and are not interested in the long-term success of an organization, they are just biding their time and not focused on actual improvements and long-term changes.”