Webinar presenter Halcyon Frank answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Creating the Best Start for New Dispatchers. Here are just a few of her responses.
Host: One of our audience members shared, I just created our new people an onboarding website using Google Sites that goes over a lot of the things they have questions on when they first get started.
Audience Question: Are you aware of any formal mentorship programs for new Telecommunicator employees?
Halcyon Frank: I’m not aware of specifics that I can just kind of name off the top of my head. I know that I’ve seen talk about them, and I know that their centers definitely have them, and I apologize. I know that I’ve just seen it. But I can’t tell you now that I’m sitting here. I would say, if you’re not familiar to check out, there’s part of the —– site PSConnect.org, and there’s a forum on there that you can search for that kind of thing. Again, if you’re not familiar, that’s a really good resource in general, but then, that might have some information as far as formal mentorship programs.
Host: Shakia just texted in, “Our onboarding program is actually a year-long as our probationary period is a year,” which I thought was really interesting. Thank you for sharing that Shakia.
Audience Question: Several people have asked if you could restate what was the name of the foundation in the video that you showed up all of your new dispatchers?
Halcyon Frank: So, it’s the Denise Amber Lee Foundation video from Dare to be Great. Just the first conference and it is on that video list that might be the easiest way to access it. But if you go to YouTube and you just do “dare to be great – the power of choice”, I believe that should get you there. It’s Nathan Lee, that’s the name of the guy who does it and it’s his wife that was kidnapped and ultimately murdered. So yeah, they do a lot of good work for that kind of thing. But that is the organization and then the name of the session as Power of Choice from Dare to be Great.
Host: Stephanie has texted in and said, “I share that video with my community college dispatch classes. We are so lucky that Nathan has chosen to help us as a profession.”
Audience Question: Is the realistic introduction piece best done by HR or the actual dispatch operations training department, what’s your advice?
Halcyon Frank: In my opinion, I think the dispatch department, that’s going to be the best time, especially, because if they have questions, there’s not going to be any confusion. As many of us probably know, HR, or anybody really, who’s not actually dispatch, doesn’t always know what we do. So, that’s definitely a piece that I would leave to dispatch personnel to do, like I said, just so that way, they can answer any questions that people might have early on or clarify and get that firsthand knowledge. So, there’s no miscommunication later, you know about why HR told me this, but you’re telling me this kind of confusion. So, yeah, I would definitely say dispatch.
Audience Question: We have a structured training program. Should hours vary during training?
Halcyon Frank: That’s a good question. So, if you’re talking about their actual schedule, like, if they should do like eight, you know, 8 to 8, or whatever, depending. I think it can be helpful. I prefer though, initially, to keep on a pretty similar schedule, just because one, for their own. You know, I think in dispatch, we do get shuffled around or more likely to cover shifts and stuff. So, the more consistency I can kind of get my trainees in the beginning, I think it’s just a better start to give them that consistency of the same schedule, and especially when they’re first learning. So, that way, they’re not having other stuff. But I would say later, like later on in the training, I do like to shift their schedule around. Mine is a four-phase, but once they got call taking radio, and then we do our own NCIC entries and running and stuff. Once they’ve kind of got those down and we’ve learned them, I like to move them around. So, that way, they’re exposed to see just how different shifts run. You know, daytime a lot has a lot more of those admin tasks. Especially if you’re doing stuff like your front office. Versus nighttime, you know, might be slower as far as admin tasks and phone calls, you know, non-emergency phone calls go, but it does seem more often, that nighttime when stuff hits the fan, it really can hit the fan. And then you have the extra added responsibilities of calling in people, instead of people just being readily available, type thing. So, I would say in the beginning, I think it’s best to do something consistently, but after they’ve got those basics of the actual job down, like definitely giving them kind of exposure to the different stuff.
Audience Question: Do you normally start new people off on-call taking or dispatch, and why? So, do you immediately get them in front of the microphone, or what is your take on that?
Halcyon Frank: So, I start, like those three sections kind of intro to the job, and then I actually start with like geography in our CAD. And I have them learn the documentation portion. Because then we can give them the information, and that way, I think it takes away the stress. So, once they go on phones or radio, whatever works best for your agency, they already know CAD, and it’s not as stressful, tried to navigate a program you don’t know, and trying to take a call or be on the radio, they’ve already kind of got that down. And then I go to call taking next. That’s what I prefer because I think it’s a good experience because you get a lot of different type of phone calls, and to really get those questioning things down, because then when you get to radio dispatching, if I know the questions that I need to ask callers, and I know the information I need to get from them, it lends itself to then knowing what I need to give to those field responders. If I know I have questions, I’m asking that, I know the information that I need to give to the field responders. Hopefully, that makes sense.
Audience Question: Does your orientation address grooming standards?
Halcyon Frank: Yes, like for ours, it’s pretty brief. You know, it’s just, making essentially saying, make sure that you shower, or that you take care, you’re professional, and then it has our dress code. I do know that’s something that comes up from time to time. But that may, depending on the size of your agency. That may be also something that you can work with your HR department if it’s like a grooming policy procedure that would apply to everybody. It may be something to do in conjunction with them, but mine does, yeah. It talks about, you know, just being, presentable and in so many words, you know, make sure that you’re clean and no odor that kind of thing.
Audience Question: Can you speak to how agencies can or should be including a discussion of stress management and wellness, and self-care and mental health for new dispatchers?
Halcyon Frank: And so if you saw and I can go back. So, I do it as it says in Section 2 as I talk about the role that we play. That’s where I bring up stress, stress management, the CISM. I just kind of have a conversation and what’s in the first couple of days, we’re training and we’re communicating information. But those are also times where you can have some conversation with your brain just to get to know them on more of a personal level as well. That’s kind of when you figure out how they operate, are they a talker or not a talker, or they know someone who you got to keep on task, someone who’s a little more of a self-starter. So, as you’re getting to learn, and that’s when I just kind of have a conversation as we go through this section, and then I just let them know if there’s ever a problem, my hope is that you’ll always, feel comfortable enough to come to talk to me to tell me, or someone you work with. Personally, for me, I just told the newer trainee. I was like, “I would be far more offended if you were like, No, I don’t feel comfortable talking to her than if you like said my training program was crap.” Because I would hate for someone to be just kind of hanging out, not know what to do with themselves because they don’t feel comfortable saying something to somebody. So, I just put it in the beginning, just to give them an idea, to let them know that it’s something that they’re going to encounter. And specifically, like there, it says, effects of shift work. So, it actually talks about what that looks like, how to better work on a night shift, because so often new people usually get put to the night shift pretty quickly after they’re off of training or the initial training. So, I think, in the beginning is probably the best. Just one, so, that way they have the information, and two, I think, when it’s in the beginning, it can also kind of communicate that, yes, this is something important to us. And that’s why we’re giving it to you in the beginning because we want you to have this information for your whole time here.
Audience Question: We are a very small agency, five dispatchers, and one in training, and being on the job for at least six months before the Academy is the norm. Any suggestions on how to express the importance of how calls are handled in the seriousness of legal actions due to dispatcher error? Any ideas on how to handle that without frightening the trainee off? She goes on to share that applications are at an absolute minimum and then a lot of new applicants can’t get beyond the background check process. So, do you have any insights into how do you strike that balance between being realistic without scaring people?
Halcyon Frank: Yeah, I can relate to the struggle with applicants and also a small center. I think if you can find examples, videos, and examples that maybe you can kind of frame yourself that aren’t going to come across as kind of a shock factor. Or even videos where they do everything right, and then maybe you just mentioned, like, had they not done this, and this is what it occurred, and it would have put us at risk for this. So, even using positive examples and just talking about that balance can be helpful. And I think it’s less scary than because they’re not like, “Oh my gosh, this person messed it up and this is what happened to them.” So, even just finding, a call where nothing was done wrong, but then you can mention the other side of it. And just finding different examples, but before you give them maybe something to read or watch, definitely how you frame it can be helpful as well. Just letting them know, this is not meant to scare you. This is just, you know, a realistic part of the job that we just want to avoid. So, it’s good to be aware of it. I know that there have been articles of the past and I wish I had links to them, kind of about that kind of stuff. ——- and NENA might also have some resources as well just to help communicate that. But, yeah, just finding different examples, even of calls and just letting them know, like, if this was a different outcome, this is would have occurred. Or if they had not done that, this is, what you could put the agency at risk for.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Creating the Best Start for New Dispatchers.