APCO: Ride-alongs aid communications personnel training
By Bob Smith, Director of Strategic Development, APCO International
Many communications centers today incorporate some form of “ride-along” program into their employee training process – enabling firefighters to show first-hand the challenges they face.
Allowing trainee telecommunicators to actually see some specific areas of their jurisdiction by spending time with one of the field agencies they work with on a daily basis benefits both parties.
Comm centers may receive calls from people who have lived in the area all their lives, and expect everyone to know their way around just as well as they do. Longtime residents may refer to landmarks or buildings as “the bank” or “where the high school used to be.” While these descriptions may mean something to the caller, they may mean little to the telecommunicator and the field agencies they dispatch.
Although computer aided dispatch systems, mapping software and other technology has enhanced the ability of comm centers to locate an incident, the need to learn geography the old fashioned way – to get out of the Comm Center and drive or ride around in unfamiliar areas – still exists.
This is something police departments should play a leading role in as a dependence on technology is only advantageous as long as the technology is operating properly and accurately.
This is where a ride-along program can be beneficial. Ride-along programs pair a trainee telecommunicator with an experienced representative of the fire department or other field agency for a specific period of time as that field agency representative performs their daily activities.
This may include riding with a law enforcement officer as they perform their routine patrol activities. Another alternative is to have the trainee telecommunicator ride-along with a supervisor who will be able to take the time to dedicate to the ride-along and perform little to no other activities outside of showing the telecommunicator important areas of their jurisdiction.
Here are some steps LE agencies can take
If the possibility exists, the telecommunicator should be allowed to ride-along with all law enforcement agencies within their jurisdiction. Each municipality will have different areas that the telecommunicator will need to be familiar with and county sheriff’s departments will have areas that are specific to their operations as well. If a department’s jurisdiction is divided into beats or zones for patrol purposes, it may also be beneficial for the telecommunicator to partake in a ride-along in each area.
• High crime areas or trouble spots that receive higher call rates.
Don’t forget Fire Service and EMS
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