Emergency Telecommunicator Training Hits High Schools; Students at Jefferson High School in Tampa, Florida, Are Training in an Emergency Telecommunicator Course Using the OMNI-COMM Simulator System

By St. Onge, Jeff | Techniques, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Emergency Telecommunicator Training Hits High Schools; Students at Jefferson High School in Tampa, Florida, Are Training in an Emergency Telecommunicator Course Using the OMNI-COMM Simulator System


St. Onge, Jeff, Techniques


"9-1-1, what's the address of the emergency?"

"You've gotta help me," comes the frantic reply.

"What's the address and the problem, M'am?" asks the dispatcher in a calm voice as he observes the computer screen in front of him.

"I'm at 39 Spruce. It's my baby ... she's fallen down the stairs ... she's crying. I think she broke her leg."

"Please stay on the phone while I dispatch rescue." Leaning toward the microphone, the dispatcher pushes the transmit button and in a calm voice says, "Dispatch to Rescue Four."

"Rescue Four on," comes the reply.

On the other side of the "dispatch center" are another computer, set of telephones and a radio. Sitting at this station are two instructors. One is a female who appears very frantic as she holds the phone and waits.

The other instructor listens as the following radio transmission comes over, "9 Spruce St., we have a child injured in a fall."

The male instructor stands and calls an end to the scenario. "What did he do wrong?"

Several hands shoot into the air.

"Shandrease."

"He spoke before pushing the transmit button."

"A common error until you get used to the radio," responds the instructor. "A good technique is not to use the number of the address first. Start with, `Go to,' or `Proceed to,' so you will not cut off the number, which in this case would have dispatched emergency responders to 9 Spruce Street instead of 39 Spruce Street."

So, starts another simulated training session in a Tampa Bay area high school.

Putting the Components in Place

In a growing trend that puts high school students in real-life job-training situations, Hillsborough County School District in Tampa, Florida, has started a new program in three of its high schools. The program marries the OMNI-COMM Simulator System with a new Emergency Telecommunicator course from the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED) and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

"In the span of just a few short years, emergency communications has undergone dramatic changes," says Robert Martin, NAED executive director. "With more than a half million 9-1-1 calls being made daily, technological advances have established today's emergency telecommunicator as the first person `on the scene' of any police, fire or medical emergency."

Both the NAED and NENA encourage proper training and certification for all emergency telecommunicators to help protect callers and responders, preserve evidence, save time and save lives.

According to Cosette Whitmore, supervisor for health and public safety programs for the Hillsborough County School District, the "goal of the training is to achieve a national certification for our students." She further states that this certification "will allow our students to walk right into a profession upon graduation from high school."

Instructors from three Tampa schools--Hillsborough High, Jefferson High and Leto High--became certified trainers for the NAED Emergency Telecommunicator course in April of 2002. The teachers will offer the 40-hour course to their third-year criminal justice students. The school district added the OMNI-COMM Simulators, according to Whitmore, to "enhance and add realism to the training."

The simulators--which are comprised of a student and instructor station, each containing a computer for computer-aided dispatch (CAD), a telephone system and a radio-dispatch console--come in several models (both digital and analog).

According to Paul Schwartz, criminal justice instructor at Hillsborough High School, the "OMNI System's computer screen is exactly like that of TPD's (Tampa Police Department). This will prove very beneficial for those students who may want to seek a job in Tampa upon graduation."

Judy Cashwell of Leto High School likes the system because of "the added features that allow us to turn up the heat on the dispatch student. …

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