Without question, the role of telecommunicator in an emergency communications center (ECC) is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. Having to deal with distraught, even hysterical, callers who are having the worst day of their lives, and then making split-second decisions regarding the appropriate emergency response to dispatch—all while maintaining one’s composure—is no easy task. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the stress considerably.
Right now, many telecommunicators are working in unfamiliar environments—in backup facilities, neighboring ECCs and, in some cases, their homes. In many cases, they are using unfamiliar call-handling, computer-aided dispatch and radio dispatch systems. Some of them aren’t working at all, further adding to the stress of their colleagues who are—and working harder and longer than ever before.
Recently Mission Critical Partners launched the MCP Podcast Network with a three-part series entitled, “How the 911 Community Can Thrive During and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The first two episodes are available now on SoundCloud and Spotify. The first episode, “Coming to Grips with the Psychological Impacts,” examines the pandemic-created stressors that ECC personnel are experiencing, and the strategies that can be leveraged to mitigate them. It can be accessed here. The second episode, “Rallying the Resilient 911 Mindset,” explores how an ECC leader’s mindset and skillset can make a difference in the well-being of center personnel. This episode is available here.
The last episode in the series, “Protecting Future 911 Resilience” will be available in the next several weeks and will look at the strategies that can enable ECC leaders to be proactive in the future, rather than reactive, regardless of the situation.
Panelists include Heather McGaffin, an MCP program manager who is uniquely qualified to speak on the topic. Prior to joining the firm, MCP was assistant chief of communications for Calvert County, Maryland, Department of Public Safety. She also is a certified emergency number professional and is certified by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch as a telecommunicator instructor and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials as a training officer.
Heather was joined by Jim Marshall, cofounder and director of the 911 Training Institute. Marshall also is uniquely qualified to speak on the topic. In addition to his work with the institute, Jim is co-editor of The Resilient 911 Professional: A Comprehensive Guide to Surviving and Thriving Together in the 911 Center.
During the first episode, Heather observed that each of the nation’s 6,000-plus emergency communications is being impacted by the pandemic a little differently, because each is unique in terms of resources and the communities served.
“Some are having to deal with someone in their center who has tested positive, and they've had to evacuate their center,” she said. “Others are having to implement a reduction in workforce to comply with social-distancing rules.”
Jim added that the “new normal” under which ECC personnel find themselves working is making it more difficult to cope with the additional stressors that the pandemic is adding to an already stressful job.
“People are not going to be able to rally the same psychological resources as if you're in a center where the morale is strong, [and] the leadership is connected and supportive,” he said.
The three episodes contain many more useful insights that will enable ECC managers enhance their skillsets and mindsets to better enable them to make a difference in the well-being of personnel. So, tune in soon. You will be happy that you did—and so will the telecommunicators that you lead.