Staffing & Responsibilities
The communication center is staffed with:
- 1 Civilian Director
- 1 Administrative Assistant
- 16 full-time and 1 part-time Telecommunicator (TC)
One of the largest struggles we have is maintaining qualified, trained personnel capable of dealing with the uniquely challenging tasks a TC is called upon to perform on a daily basis. I am proud to say that our current staff of TCs does a great job considering the complex nature of the tasks they perform.
What We Do
Many citizens have a reasonable idea of what their local 911 communication center does on a day by day basis. Your Canton City 911 Communication Center dispatches police, fire and emergency medical assistance as well as other non-emergency communication needs. Living in the age of 21st century communications gives us all an insight into emergency service operations like never before.
Even so, the work of our 911 dispatchers cannot be fully appreciated without first hand, up close and personal participation or observation of the system. I can only imagine that the phrase "You can't make this stuff up" must have originated by an employee somewhere in a dispatch center. Responsibilities involve taking 911 calls for police, fire and medical emergencies, of course, but the dispatchers' are tasked with much more than that.
Today, communication duties for literally all departments that serve our citizens often pass through CanCom at one point or another. The Center is the point of contact for questions from other local, state, and federal agencies, as well as the many inquiries from citizens. With questions like "what time is trick or treat" to "my child is not breathing...what should I do", our TCs bear a heavy burden of responsibility. This, in part, can explain why it is so difficult to find and train a successful dispatcher.
Louisville & East Canton
Today, the Canton 911 dispatcher is not just responsible for those things that happen in Canton proper, but also Louisville and East Canton as well. It also needs to be understood that a dispatcher is not just a dispatcher in the purest sense of the word. They are an integral member of the response team whose responsibility to an emergency isn't complete until the responding agency is able to complete the call for service (CFS). Fire calls or hostage negotiations can require many hours before they are completed. So too does the work of a dispatcher as they assist the first responders with information and notifications right up until the scene is cleared and everyone goes home.
They experience many of the same emotions and involvement the first responders do and as such, their emotional make-up must be similar. Imagine answering a complaint by a caller whose neighbor's TV is too loud, followed closely by a 911 call from a shooting victim with possible life threatening injuries. Then imagine the next caller wants to know about the weather as two more 911 lines begin to ring loudly. At the same time, they cannot forget their obligation to the firemen and officers on the street who may call on the radio at any moment requesting back-up or assistance for a call that is spiraling out of control.
This makes team work among the dispatchers essential. Being able to know and rely on your co-worker becomes a necessity as much as any team sport you might think of. And while the job may not require dispatchers to be athletic in the sense of a pro athlete, the end of a busy shift can leave them just as physically and emotionally drained as any major sporting event.
With all these responsibilities comes a multitude of decisions. Every minute brings with it the need to make many, many decision. Some of these decisions, when made poorly, can mean the difference between serious harm to someone at worst or disciplinary action toward the employee at the least. The last responsibility, and perhaps one of the most difficult, is the dispatcher's responsibility to do all of these things in a respectful and professional manner regardless of the attitude of the public or the responders they are serving.
This is one of the reasons we record all telephone calls, emergency or administrative as well as all radio communications incoming or outgoing. While this is a necessary requirement, it nevertheless adds to the overall stress of the work environment. All of these things taken together begin to illustrate just why it's a rare individual who is able to work under these conditions and perform at the needed level of competence and professionalism.