Hawkins County 911 Director Gay Murrell and Senior Dispatcher Chuck Johnson recently completed the three-week class presented online by APCO International — which is the world’s largest organization of public safety communications professionals.
Murrell said that beginning next week the remainder of her 14 full- and part-time dispatchers will begin taking the training as well, and eventually all of her staff will be certified active shooter dispatchers.
“The County Commission and the Board of Education are talking about more SROs (school resource officers) and a stronger police presence in schools, and this is just another step in that direction toward being better prepared for any situation,” Murrell said. “This class basically showed us how we as emergency dispatchers fit into this increased security awareness. The classes were very valuable, and one thing we learned is that no matter how many years you’ve been in this business there are situations you never even thought of.”
The class teaches dispatchers how to handle active shooter calls, what their priorities are as dispatchers, and how they need to dispatch out the agencies involved.
Murrell added, “It’s not a new class or certification, but it’s something that’s gaining interest since the Sandy Hook shooting and the theater shooting in Colorado.”
The class focuses quite a bit on preparedness, Murrell said. For example, there are times when Hawkins County 911 has only two dispatchers on duty.
The class suggests having extra dispatchers on call so that during an active shooter situation there’s at least one dispatcher used solely for speaking to police, one for fire and one for rescue — as well as another dispatcher available for other non-related emergency calls.
The class also includes 911 recordings of past active shooter incidents and shows students what was done correctly, and what was done incorrectly.
It gives 911 dispatchers direction on what questions to ask the person on the other end of the line, and how that information needs to be given to the responders.
“Our role is to make sure responders don’t have to worry who’s going to be coming to help them, and who’s coming to back them up,” Murrell said.