State funding more training for dispatchers

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tennessee is funding more training for police dispatchers handling calls about missing or exploited children, according to the state Department of Commerce and Insurance.

"This," Lewisburg Police Chief Chuck Forbis said, "cannot be said about most other state and federal mandates which are usually left up to local governments to figure out how to fund them."

Forbis acknowledged there are some costs to the city such as overtime when dispatchers are sent for training but, the chief added, "We regularly send our dispatchers to various training seminars, over and above what the state requires. We plan for these in our budget, so along with the funding assistance from the state ... I do not believe this training requirement will have much fiscal impact on us."

Such training is "extremely important," he said.

"In missing child cases, it is critical to get the information out to local and surrounding agencies, and to engage all available resources, as quickly as possible," Forbis said. "Time is of the essence and we want to make sure there is no delay.

"You can imagine that this would be a very stressful time for the parent or guardian," he said.

As a result, the police chief said, it's important to have a properly trained dispatcher to be able to:

* Obtain the necessary information from a frantic caller

* Disseminate the information

* Notify and dispatch the appropriate resources

* Keep the caller on the line to obtain and update information for responders until officers arrive, and

* Continue to provide those updates to other officials after officers arrive on the scene.

Increased training to improve that kind of service is the goal of a new requirement issued late last month by the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board. The TECB is a part of the state Department of Commerce and Insurance.

The board voted to add five hours of training for all new dispatchers and two hours of continuing education every two years -- all of which is to be focused on handling calls about missing or exploited children.

Current requirements call for 40 hours of initial training and eight hours of continuing education every two years.

"A call about a missing child is one of the most critical calls that come into a 911 center," ECB Chairman Randy Porter said. "When these calls are taken, the call-taker should have every available resource to handle it correctly. These new training requirements will ensure that dispatchers in Tennessee are properly trained and prepared to handle these calls."