Sherri Stigler

Sherri Stigler

Story Vault

By Sherri Stigler

Some people are big on New Year’s resolutions. Others think they are ridiculous and refuse to entertain the concept. I am what you would call a “closet New Year’s resolutionist,” which means that although I quickly deny the existence of resolutions, I will admit that I secretly DO develop resolutions (typically surrounding my desire to cut down on caffeine, sweets, and naughty words, and increase my exercise). I don’t share them with others out of the overwhelming fear that I am now committed to actually doing something to achieve them!

Whether or not you believe in New Year’s resolutions, I am of the opinion that we can do ourselves a big favor by identifying some core individual (yet department-centric) resolutions in the dispatch environment. Here are a few suggestions:

I will take better care of my health and the health of my teammates.

We know how easy it is to get sucked into poor eating and sleeping habits in the dispatch environment, especially given the 24/7 challenge. Sleep is critical, so get enough of it. Pass on the pizza, soda, and sweets, and instead try snacking on fresh veggies and fruits. Encourage healthy eating among the team; have a “salad bar day” encouraging everyone to bring salad fixings to share. Appoint a “health czar” for each shift and let the czar find healthy initiatives for the team.

I will do more to support the mission, vision, and values of my center.

The start of a new year offers a great time to have folks review their center’s mission, vision, and values statements, and to give thought as to whether you have done your best to embrace the values, contemplate the vision, and promote the mission. If your center does not have these core statements, get to work on developing them. Seriously, do it.

I will encourage my team, and I will practice patience with my customers, both internal and external.

We live in a world of instant gratification, making it an enormous challenge to apply patience in our fast-paced environment. Stop, take a breath, and remember that our customers are typically under pressure. Be the drain in the bathtub that’s getting ready to overflow. Be the relief valve. Don’t add to the problem; be the solution.

I will do more learning. I will seek out opportunities for growth.

Throughout my career I have heard it constantly: “They NEVER send us anywhere. Dispatchers NEVER get to go to training. Only the ‘chosen ones’ attend conferences, workshops, or training.” Oh, and the all-encompassing wail of, “Nobody cares about the dispatchers!”

Hogwash. Respectfully approach your dispatch supervisor, whether civilian or sworn. Ask for a meeting, but have your homework done. What valuable training is coming up? Can we send one or two people to a “train the trainer” situation? Help the supervisor understand that training protects the agency from litigation. Training allows for the professional development of staff. Training benefits the officers, firefighters, and EMTs, and it benefits our citizens. Remind the chief or supervisor about having the most highly trained communications staff in the area, and boy, won’t he or she look good when that happens!

I will offer solutions and suggestions instead of complaints and criticisms.

Stop with the “victim-think.” Put on your big girl/boy pants. When you or your team members have a complaint or criticism—whether it’s about policy, equipment, or personnel issues—by all means, be ready to speak to communication center management about it. But before you do, make sure you have a few solutions to bring along. I promise you will get much further and will positively influence your chance of success in the process!