DeKalb Emergency Communications District to Receive State Funds for Dispatcher Training

August 26, 2010
Dwayne Page
Brad Mullinax

The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) has made
$2.2 million in funding available to local Emergency Communications Districts for dispatcher training.

"We've set uniform standards because we want to do all we can to improve the effectiveness of 911," said TECB Executive Director Lynn Questell. "We know many districts exceed these standards and provide additional training and support to their dispatchers. We certainly want to provide the local 911 districts with the needed funds to for this training."

"We're pleased we can provide these funds," Questell said. "Not every state has minimum requirements. And among those that do, not every state provides funding for the training. Tennessee continues to be a national leader in 911."

Brad Mullinax, Director of the DeKalb County Emergency Communications District (Central dispatch/911 center) says this extra funding allocated to the local 911 center will help offset the costs of dispatcher training. "Tennessee state law mandates that all dispatchers that receive an emergency call complete 40 hours of on the job training and a 40 hour Public Safety Telecommunicator course. Additionally, all dispatchers are required to complete annual continuing education classes to satisfy to state training requirements. Until recently these mandates were being funded locally. We are very excited about these funds that are being provided by the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board. Training has become a major portion of our budget and this will finally provide some relief for us to provide additional training to our emergency dispatchers with no costs to our taxpayers and local telephone subscribers. We currently employ 8 full time dispatchers and 5 part time dispatchers"

TECB requires that all dispatchers to have 40 hours of supervised, on-the-job training and 40 hours of public safety communications coursework within the first six months of employment. Additionally, dispatchers must participate in regular continuing education.

The training standards in Tennessee are modeled after the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) standards. The dispatcher training funds are available on an annual basis.

"Our Board has set solid standards for the training of 911 dispatchers," said TECB Chair Randy Porter. "We want to be sure the districts have the funds they need to train those dispatchers. Uniform training of dispatchers results in improved response to emergencies."

The TECB was created by the General Assembly in 1998 to assist ECDs' boards of directors in management, operations and accountability, with the goal of establishing reliable emergency communications for all citizens of the state. It's a successful formula; in 2005, Tennessee became the third state in the nation to become Phase II-ready, meaning a 911 operator can obtain a wireless caller's number and location information. In 2005, Tennessee received an award from the Congressional E911 Institute for having the nation's best state system.

The TECB is administratively attached to the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee.

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