February 27, 2019
When you started, everything was overwhelming. There was fear or excitement in touching the equipment, the constant dread you might break something, and the encouragement to go ahead from your trainer. Training seemed to take so long, and there was something both terrifying and liberating about operating on your own. Now you have a few months, years, maybe a decade or two (gulp!) of experience and everything has changed and some parts remain the same.
Technology moved forward, and in some cases, outpaced our ability to keep up with it. Forward momentum with technology has created challenges and caused us to adapt to keep up. The work—talking to the public and the field providers and ranting at the console when your foot comes off the pedal—has stayed the same. So why train and why train constantly?
Policies and procedures
If you do not have a strong foundation of what to do, policies are meaningless. They are words on a paper or screen if you do not find a way to apply them. It’s not the time to look up an active assailant procedure during an active assailant incident. The same goes for an MCI when heat exposure or a multi-vehicle accident occurs. It’s not good management to quarterback people about how they handled an incident and remind them about the policy they haven't looked at since it went into effect.
Spend five minutes reading a policy or highlighting a procedure on the off chance you might need it. Mortar the gaps and cracks in your knowledge to create a stable base to lean on when the worst happens. Supervisors need to lead and to lead by example, knowing your procedures and policies. Use any roll call time to go over something, anything, every day.
You never know what will happen, and refreshing yourself makes you smart and promotable, if that's your intent. Training classes teach you what the agency/department does, and it saves you the embarrassment of fumbling for words when someone asks about a certain policy and whether you even have one. Knowing policies and following them during crisis is your best defense when someone outside your organization starts tearing apart your actions.
When you follow policy, your agency should defend your actions.
I’ve seen a few things in my 24-year public safety career, from police dispatcher, to calltaker, to backup fire dispatcher, to supervisor, to shift manager, with several other specialties in between. I have met people who know the policies, know exactly what to do, and how to do it when the equation Chaos + Oscillation Device + the Smelly Spread presents itself. Training saw me through the worst incidents. I use our roll call time to review, to train, and to amuse.
It’s simple—start now
Pick something to go over and search the internet for an image that matches your training topic. Word of caution: Tell your supervisors so they know your internet history will be a little “interesting.” Make learning humorous—there is always a “fail” out there on any topic. One minute, five minutes, 20 minutes—the time is never wasted. Even if one person remembers what you went over during a critical moment, everyone succeeds. An incident does not turn into a cluster. Someone survives because you and your people knew what to do.
That’s why we train.