Author: Kristin McKinney

Reflections on 2022

Reflections on 2022

Written by Christy Williams, Director of 9-1-1

 

I was a little sad as I reflected on 2022.  I can’t help feeling there is still a great deal of negativity, pain, and suffering in the world since the pandemic.  It seems many people remain unsettled.  The new normal isn’t normal for any of us yet, but we can all agree things have changed since 2020 and likely will never be the same.

 

As early adopters at NCT9-1-1, we embrace change.  However, some of the changes we have seen are not positive and have become challenges for us to overcome.  We are facing a staffing crisis in the Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs), in 9-1-1 administrative entities, and in local government in general.  We are also dealing with a lot more mental health issues than ever before.  The last two plus years have shown increased cases of anxiety, stress, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in our industry.  Of course, NCT9-1-1 and other 9-1-1 entities are working on strategies to mitigate these challenges.

 

With this in mind, my thoughts go to our word of the year for 2022 – connections.  This has been so applicable as we talk about dealing with the challenges of our times.  Many of the mental health issues are made better through talking to others, contact with friends and family, and building relationships.  These connections have been vital this year.  I found myself making lists of people I needed to check in on and being more aware of the needs of others around me.   As an organization, we have refocused our energies to put the care of people first and to utilize technology to solve some of our people problems in addition to technical ones.  In talking to our employees about the connections they have made and deepened this year, they report positive professional benefits to building a network and continued contact with these new connections.  In our personal lives, I think it is important to build a support network to help aid in our resiliency.  In addition to family and friends that stand by us and allow us to vent, we need cheerleaders, brainstorming buddies, accountability partners, and those that are free to be brutally honest with us.  With a strong support network, we can get through the tough times knowing we have a group of people lifting us up when we need it and encouraging us in the good times.

 

I hope that our word for 2022 – connections – will not be forgotten in the new year, but instead will be a lifelong habit!

 

Of course, I want to highlight the positive changes and accomplishments this year at NCT9-1-1.

 

The primary focus for the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1 or the District) during 2022 was the continuation of maintaining a consistent and reliable level of service for the region. While working within a limited projects budget due to building of reserves and the increasing costs for 9-1-1 services, NCT9-1-1 undertook several initiatives during the year to improve services for the population we serve.  While the state did not pass a fee increase last session, it is becoming harder statewide to implement and sustain Next Generation 9-1-1 services on a fee that was set over 25 years ago when technology was very basic.

 

In May 2021, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2911 (HB 2911) amending Health and Safety Code Chapter 771 which established September 1, 2025, as the target date for “all parts of the state [to] be covered by next generation 9-1-1 service.”   To assist with this goal, the NG9-1-1 Fund was established which includes $150,000,000 allocated to Texas.   Staff successfully applied to the Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC), which serves as the administrative agency for the grant, and received an initial allocation of $8,989,701.  NCT9-1-1 has been funded solely through the 9-1-1 service fee in the past and the grant world is largely new to our program. These funds are in a state NG911 account and must be fully dispersed to the districts, municipalities and regional planning commissions by December 2022 and spent by December 2024.

 

The Data Team worked with the Technology Team to implement the first Real Time Text (RTT) to RTT 9-1-1 call in the nation at the Hood County Sheriff’s Office, where this service has been implemented with T-Mobile.  Following the successful transition to our new Next Generation Core Services next year, the rest of the region will implement RTT to RTT on the new core system.  It is anticipated that Verizon and AT&T will also be implemented in the same time frame or shortly thereafter.  This is a great accomplishment following a five-year effort.

 

Staff coordinated another successful annual 9-1-1 Early Adopter Summit which invites 9-1-1 visionaries around the country to collaborate, share ideas, and hear the latest innovations in the industry.  After having to host a virtual event in 2021, the planning committee and attendees enjoyed being able to once again meet in person, this year in Arlington.

 

NCT9-1-1 remains focused on the mental health of our telecommunicators, and the Operations Team developed a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team for the region.  Telecommunicators from around the region and some NCT9-1-1 staff members were trained to provide peer support.  The team had its first activation at the end of the year with an ECC in the region who dealt with the murder of a child in her small town following an Amber Alert and community search efforts.

 

NCT9-1-1 continues to operate the only telecommunicator academy in the state of Texas and graduated 37 new telecommunicators in Regional Telecommunicator Academies (RTAs) # 12 and  #13. The Operations Team also started providing video training segments through social media this year with a new video series, “Recharge with Bret”.  The series has been very popular and has covered many important topics to the 9-1-1 industry.

 

The GIS Team remains on track researching and exploring 3D mapping and Z-axis that will show elevation on 9-1-1 maps in the future.  They also began working with the Strategic Services Team on an ISD mapping project that will help NCT9-1-1 gather floorplan and supplemental information for schools throughout our region in the future to help improve school and responder safety. The GIS Team worked with others in NCTCOG to upgrade our ESRI account to an Enterprise Agreement which will provide the district and the COG enhanced GIS services at a lower cost per year.

 

In 2022, the Technology Team’s main focus was on procuring a new Next Generation Core Services and call aggregation provider.  The procurement was completed in Spring 2022 and a contract executed in September.  Implementation has begun and is expected to be completed in 2023.

 

The District evolves by making enhancements to our planning processes which allows us to better project financial needs over the next several years.  We refine and improve our strategic plan and this year there was a planning focus on gaining more telecommunicator feedback and engagement throughout planning and implementation of new projects.  As more and more data is available, NCT9-1-1 is giving ECCs the option on what they want to receive.

 

In addition to technology and planning, NCT9-1-1 also focused on our people this year by creating a Culture Crew to drive the positive culture of our staff through event and engagement planning.  We have also piloted a program for staff called PRINT that teaches the why of you.  PRINT assessments reveal our unconscious motivators and triggers so that we can be more fulfilled, achieve full potential, and function at our best, as well as learning how to better understand and communicate with our co-workers.  As an organization, we have committed to working on improvements in the areas of recruitment and retention as well as succession planning.  Many new initiatives have been planned and are in various stages of implementation.  We recognize the care of our people (who are our greatest assets) must be a priority for us to be able to continue our mission of saving lives and making a difference!

 

As we move away from reflection on 2022 to anticipation of a new year, the word of the year for 2023 is “encouragement” because we all need more of it.  We have learned to have grace for others throughout the pandemic and now I challenge each of you to take action by encouraging those around you.  An authentic and sincere kind word can make such a difference.  Most of us are appreciative of the work others do, especially in the 9-1-1 industry.  However, we don’t always verbalize that appreciation when we should.  Encouragement is also important to help others try new things and grow.  Perhaps the most important value of encouragement is when someone is facing difficult times.  We need to check on the welfare of those we love and work with on a regular basis.  We all need encouragement and we should all give encouragement to others.  With encouragement, we build a support network and increase our resiliency.  Give it a try. . . Encourage someone today!

Be Spooky, Not Spooked!

Be Spooky, Not Spooked!

Happy Halloween! Here at NCT9-1-1, we like to celebrate Halloween like everyone else. More importantly, we like to stay safe while celebrating this festive holiday. Halloween is supposed to be fun scary, not dangerous scary. Here are some tips and tricks on how to keep your kids, pets, and other loved ones safe this spooky season!

 

When it comes to trick-or-treating, everyone should aim to have a spooktacular time! However, we recommend practicing trick-or-treating safety, especially amongst your kids and younger family members. Some things you can do to practice safe trick-or-treating is making sure your trick-or-treaters’ costumes are fire resistant and have reflective tape on them. This will help  keep your little goblins seen by any flashing lights and be flame retardant. To ensure the safety of our kids and loved ones, we recommend the following:

  • Instruct them to never go into someone’s house or car for candy.
  • Take plenty of working flashlights to help see in the dark and an adult to accompany the trick-or-treaters on their Halloween adventures.
  • Have a fully charged phone and know how to call 9-1-1 for help in the event of an emergency.

 

To help teach your kids or any family members how to safely and successfully call 9-1-1, you can use our 9-1-1 virtual simulator app, Learn 9-1-1. The app is a great platform for kids and everyone else to practice calling 9-1-1. To request an account for the app, fill out the Public Education profile request. This form can be found on our website under the resources tab.

 

Our Halloween safety tip for pets is a little bit different than our tips for our trick-or-treaters. For the safety of our furry friends, we recommend securing your pets inside. Whether you are planning on trick-or-treating or staying in to pass out candy, some pets may get overstimulated by all the Halloween excitement, causing them to get scared, run away, scratch, or jump on people. Halloween pet safety is key to enjoying spooky season with your furry friend.

We hope you enjoy this spooky season with these safety tips and tricks. Remember to keep your kids and loved ones protected this Halloween season by preparing their costumes, teaching them how to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency, and remind them to stay out of stranger’s homes and cars. Have a ghoulishly good time this Halloween season and remember to make safety a priority.

Through the Eyes of a Telecommunicator

Through the Eyes of a Telecommunicator

Written by Bret Batchelor, 9-1-1 Training Coordinator

I’m disappointed in the staffing crisis facing most 9-1-1 centers in America because I have sat in the seat and heard the calling.  Unfortunately, negativity spreads faster that the positive and the position of a 9-1-1 telecommunicator has gotten a bad rap.  I would like to adjust our perspective when recruiting for this career. Let’s focus on the positives, and there are a lot of them.  We are starting to see the changing of the guard in our Emergency Communication Centers. These new faces at the console will help shape the next generation of 9-1-1 telecommunicators as they rise to the challenge of serving our communities.

 

Working as a 9-1-1 telecommunicator is such a vital position and it can become an important career.  However, it begins as an entry level job.  The good part about this is you don’t need any specific education beyond a high school diploma, and it doesn’t require an advanced skill set to start. You can graduate high school with no prior experience and start in a career making a decent salary with good benefits including city/county retirement.  With opportunities for advancement and career growth this is just the beginning.

 

Are you a morning person, late night person, or do you enjoy the in between?  Perfect! The career of public safety gives you the flexibility to choose what is best for your life and have variety from day one of your career. Imagine you complete your work shift at 10 P.M., go hang out with your friends all night, sleep until noon and you don’t have to report back to work until 2 P.M.? Does that sound like something you would enjoy? There are many options with many different schedules available. The unique nature of shift work and changing schedules often allows variety. Whether you are trying to attend college while working or accommodating a family schedule, shift work provides you with options.  Working overnights most of my career allowed me to be off duty during the day to sleep, shop, and run errands all alone while everyone else was working. With days off during the week, I was able to go to the movies, theme parks and enjoy activities that are normally busy on the weekends. Also, no lines and often even enjoyed a discount.

 

Each call can bring you something different. In a society where we are glued to our devices to stay engaged and entertained, this field WILL keep your attention. Every shift brings new adventures and experiences. The rush of the vehicle pursuit, providing that lifesaving instruction, delivering a baby, coordinating a location perimeter for a tactical incident, and handling a huge fire call can all be very exciting, but you will also get the simple and even silly calls.  In fact, all those types of calls could come in the same day. The rush of the unknown and thrill of each task can be truly addicting. You may never want to take the headset off!

 

In the seat as a 9-1-1 telecommunicator, you play the role of the ‘oracle’ for the first responders. You are not just fulfilling each request from customers (citizens and first responders) but also anticipating those needs before they are made. As a 9-1-1 telecommunicator, we are not just on the phone or radio, we are with callers and responders ‘on scene’, helping them navigate each scenario anyway you can. The goal is to keep our citizens safe and make sure every first responder goes home each night. It is exciting to be able to have access to all the ‘important’ information, and to be on the side that really knows what is happening. 9-1-1 telecommunicators are an important link of the chain that helps get the bad guys, helps those in need or uncovers the missing pieces.

 

Joining the field of public safety has never been more exciting! We are on the cutting edge of technological advancements and the new generation of 9-1-1 telecommunicators will start to shape the future of our industry. To have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor as this industry continues to grow exponentially is incredible.  We are seeing advancement in this field like never before.

 

Are you an adrenaline junkie?

Do you love the variety of spice in your career daily?

Do you love solving puzzles and overcoming challenges and drama?

Do you like calling the shots?

Do you want to know every day when you go home you are making a difference?

 

If you answer yes to those questions, then you need to think about joining the 9-1-1 telecommunicators family and becoming part of the Thin Gold Line. Apply here to saves lives and make a difference today! You can find all of the open positions at our 9-1-1 Emergency Call Centers here: https://www.nct911.org/work-for-an-ecc/.

Rise Up

Rise Up

I keep reading about the Great Resignation and researching why there has been such a mass exodus from the workplace. Of course, I am particularly interested in the staffing crisis in the 9-1-1 call centers. I want to understand it better so we can develop some new strategies to recruit and retain amazing 9-1-1 telecommunicators. But this is not an article full of those answers. It is instead the sharing of information and some food for thought.

 

I recently learned about Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. and his service in both World War I and World War II. After serving in World War I he went into politics for a while and then returned to the business world and was the Chairman of the Board of American Express. He had made significant accomplishments by the time World War II broke out. In his 50s he could have stayed at home and maintained an easier life than the one he chose. He had a heart for service and felt he could contribute to the war efforts and after serving in the reserves, he returned to active duty. But he didn’t stop there, he wrote a letter begging for a part in the Allied invasion of Europe. He stated, “If you ask me, I will swim in with a 105 strapped on my back.” He stated that he knew officers and men in the units and believed that it would steady them to know that he was with them. His request was granted, and he was the only general on D-Day to land by sea with the first wave of troops and was the oldest man in the invasion at 56. While he didn’t have to swim in with a gun on his back, he landed at Utah Beach walking with a cane and carrying a pistol. He was calm in crisis and inspired his troops with humor and confidence, reciting poetry and telling stories of his father to steady the nerves of his men. As he stood on the front lines under enemy fire, soldiers stated they were inspired to move forward, for if a general could do it, so could they.

 

This story reminded me of something I heard following the Boston Marathon bombing. The presenter was telling his story and stated that everyone was running away from the scene. Everyone except for public safety professionals, who were running into the chaos. I have thought of that ever since. When everyone else is running to safety, the people in our industry run into the chaos. I have often wondered what those folks at the marathon were thinking. “I’ve got to get out of here. I need to get to safety.” And I imagine the public safety professionals were thinking, “I’ve got to get in there. I can contribute. I need to help”. . .

 

Recently one of my good friends retired after a very successful career of over 40 years in public safety communications. She left a legacy, had made a difference and left her mark. Not two years later, she left a happy retirement to become the executive director of a large 9-1-1 entity. When I asked her why she simply replied, “I realized I’m not done yet.” You see, during the Great Resignation when so many were leaving their jobs, Sherry Decker knew she could contribute and took up her calling – again.

 

I’m sure you see the pattern by now, people do whatever people are doing in society. And then there are a small percentage of great people who rise up and serve. Public safety professionals are those rising up and serving. You continued to do your jobs serving the public throughout the pandemic, you go to work on holidays and birthdays and you work the tough shifts. You work despite bad hours, low pay, and little recognition. You work because you love helping others.

 

I am so proud to work among all of these great people! You are all servant leaders, despite your job titles and you are all making a difference – every day. If you are in the industry and are considering getting out (unless it is for wellness reasons), I urge you to remember why you got into public safety to begin with. That memory is your mission, that is your calling. You are doing the good work and it is appreciated! They might not have told you, but there are people all over who have been helped or comforted in the worst moments of their lives through a 9-1-1 call. There are lives that have been saved and people who are thankful. You are saving lives and making a difference! You do not have to be part of the Great Resignation, you can be part of the Great Transition to Next Generation 9-1-1!

 

– Christy Williams, Director of 9-1-1