Prior to beginning work in the 9-1-1 communications center, all new employees spend approximately two weeks in an on-site orientation. The orientation is a combination of classroom work with hands-on training and homework, quizzes, tests, and a cumulative final exam. While in training, students receive most of the certifications required to function as Communications Officer with Orange County Emergency Communications. The certifications obtained during this time include:
Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST) - 40-hour national certification course that teaches the basic fundamentals for a 9-1-1 communications officer.
Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) - 24-hour national certification course that teaches the protocols needed in order to process a medical call.
Emergency Fire Dispatch (EFD) - 16-hour national certification course that teaches the protocols needed in order to process a fire call.
Emergency Police Dispatch (EPD) - 16-hour national certification course that teaches the protocols needed in order to process a law enforcement call.
ICS100, ICS 200, ICS 700 - Online courses required by Homeland Security for all public safety personnel.
Virginia Crime Information Network (VCIN) - 8-hour state certification that allows communications officers to gain access to VCIN and FBI criminal information files.
In addition to the required certification courses, students are taught classes in the following areas.
Geography - mapping and road study
Computer Aided Dispatch System (CAD)
Communication Center Observations
There are also other classes taught as time permits, along with several field trips to areas such as our public safety agency partners.
On-The-Job Training (OTJ)
Once students complete orientation, they are placed in the Communications Center with a certified Communications Training Officer (CTO). The students are with their CTO or a series of CTOs until they have completed the rest of their training. This portion of training can last up to six months, depending on various factors. Our disciplines include Call Taking, Law Enforcement Dispatch, Emergency Medical Service Dispatch (EMS), and Fire Dispatch.
CTOs instruct students at the same console for each phase until the CTOs feel comfortable with their students' performance. Students are then given more independence as their knowledge and comfort levels increase. CTOs are required to do a Daily Observation Report (DOR) on their students at the end of each working day or the beginning of the next. The DOR evaluates student performance in multiple categories. Once the students become acceptable in each category, they are given an assessment to determine what they have learned and to make sure that knowledge is enough to allow them to work alone.
Employees who decide to become CTOs must achieve initial certification as a Communications Training Officer through a course offered by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO). After the initial certification, the CTO maintains his or her aptitude by completing 12 hours each year of continuing dispatch education (CDE) hours, as well as completing monthly mandatory training and in-service required of all employees, which equals about 48 hours per year. Additional CDE hours and other employee training could bring the amount up to about 60 hours of training each year.
The position of CTO is one of the most important in our department. These people are tasked to be mentors, role models, teachers, coaches, and evaluators. CTOs are held to a higher standard than any other employee as the success of our center is based on their ability to teach new employees to be efficient and effective in their new career.