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3 Ways to Show Appreciation and Give Thanks for Your Telecommunicators

3 Ways to Show Appreciation and Give Thanks for Your Telecommunicators

We all know that the 9-1-1 industry has some of the highest turnover rates. There are a lot of factors that contribute to it, but that doesn’t mean PSAP leadership can’t take some small efforts to try to make their agencies a better place to work. This Thanksgiving week is a great time to show appreciation for your telecommunicators!

At the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District, we pride ourselves on our focus on PSAP involvement in the everyday running of our district. We learned through some trial and error how important it is to get feedback from our agency’s managers and supervisors, and during a focus group held last year we noticed a common theme: All of our agencies had a process for disciplining rule breaking and poor behavior, but few had a structured way of rewarding positive behavior.

Though the purpose of this focus group was for an entirely separate issue, this idea of creating a system that applauds and appreciates positive behavior was filed away by some of our staff members. A few months later we launched YouEarnedIt (now known as Kazoo) to encourage and reward the everyday tasks our telecommunicators performed. The platform has so far been a huge success, but you don’t have to invest in a digital solution like Kazoo in order to show employee appreciation. You can start with something small.

Here are a few ways you can show appreciation for your telecommunicators without breaking the bank.

Go public with your teams’ wins

When someone volunteers to work overtime or goes above and beyond the call of duty during a call or in some way performs beyond expectations, don’t keep it to yourself. We’ve seen “Wall of Fame” message boards inside agencies with post it notes detailing telecommunicator successes, and we always try to reshare social media posts that praise employees at our agencies. We also love the idea of the “stork pin,” which is awarded to call takers who talk a caller through a birth, and we’ve seen a lot of different variations of it within the industry.

Your appreciation method doesn’t have to be complex but making a small effort to show your employees that you care about their triumphs can go a long way.

Individualize Your Praise

Some people may enjoy a public display of your gratitude and appreciation when they do something right, but others may prefer to stay out of the spotlight. Knowing your employees individually will help you determine the best way to show them you appreciate them. For the shyer types, you might want to stick to the old-fashioned thank you note (not an email; handwriting a note shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile), while those who enjoy the attention would feel honored that you’re willing to call out their success in front of their coworkers.

Anniversaries Matter – Celebrate Them!

We’re not just talking about work anniversaries. Yes, celebrate someone’s first, fifth, or even twentieth year at your agency, but don’t forget about birthdays, weddings, or any other event that means something to your employees. If you’re not the right person to organize these celebrations, find someone on your team who is (just remember to celebrate them when their time comes as well).

With turnover rate within 9-1-1 so high, it’s important that we do everything we can to show the employees who have stuck it out that we care about them. We no longer live in a world where a standoffish, unappreciative culture is acceptable in the workplace. Employees expect more from the organizations where they spent the majority of their lives, and that’s the same for all industries, including 9-1-1.

Can You Call 9-1-1 For a Family Member Out of State?

Can You Call 9-1-1 For a Family Member Out of State?

Last week we heard a story of a woman who was on the phone with her aunt when she overheard shattering glass and a man’s voice shouting in the background before the call went silent. Her aunt was unresponsive, and this woman realized she needed to dial 9-1-1. The problem was, she was located in Dallas and her aunt was living in Washington state, and she was unsure of how to reach the local authorities.

If you have family living out of state, this scenario may have crossed your mind, and the helplessness of the situation may seem a little overwhelming. But there is something you can do.

The majority of police departments or sheriff’s offices have 10-digit numbers that still go into the 9-1-1 emergency communications center (ECC). You can find a list of the 10-digit numbers within the NCT9-1-1 region here. These lines are answered by the telecommunicators who also answer 9-1-1 calls and not by administrators, which is a common misconception. We advise all of our citizens to look up their local 10-digit number and save it into their phone and to write it down in a place where everyone in the household has access, like on the refrigerator. This is only a precaution, as dialing 9-1-1 during an emergency is always the best way to get help quickly.

However, if you have family members living out of state, like your grandmother in Florida, you can also write down the local 10-digit number for their police department or sheriff’s office. Save this number in your phone in case you need to contact local authorities for an emergency or welfare check. You can also dial 9-1-1 and explain the situation to the call taker, who can then look up the 10-digit number of your family member’s location.

Whether you’re contacting emergency services through 9-1-1 or the 10-digit number, remember to always give the location of the emergency first, and then to follow all instructions, answer all questions, and stay on the line.

You can learn more about 10-digit numbers here.

Our Top Four Halloween Safety Tips

Our Top Four Halloween Safety Tips

The scariest night of the year is just around the corner, and it’s not because of the goblins and ghouls that will be roaming the streets. It’s the regular every-day safety concerns that are escalated on October 31st that has most people worried. We’ve put together some of our favorite Halloween safety tips to help you and your family have a fun and safe night!

Make sure your child’s costume is safe

We might not think of a costume being dangerous, but there are a handful of considerations we think every parent should be aware of. Make sure any masks don’t obstruct their vision, especially if they’re going trick or treating and may be crossing busy streets. Also include something that makes your child visible in darkness, like reflective tape on their costume or candy bags or deck them out in glow sticks.

Teach your child how to cross the street

This sounds like an easy one. Look both ways before crossing is the standard advice, but we suggest an extra effort on Halloween when there are a lot of kids outside and just as many drivers who may not be paying attention to the young trick or treaters. Remind your kids to be aware of their surroundings, which means putting down the phone for the older ones, and to stay on the sidewalk whenever possible. If it’s not possible to walk on the sidewalk, remind them to walk facing the direction of traffic so they can see what’s ahead of them.

Not trick or treating? Drive carefully.

Slow down in and around neighborhoods, just in case some of the trick or treaters aren’t considering our previous tips. If you have teenagers who drive and will be out and about on Halloween night, remind them about keeping an eye out for young kids crossing the road and to back up and park with caution. It may be a good idea to turn your headlights on earlier than usual too.

Trust your gut

Probably the most important Halloween safety tip we can give to anyone, both kids and adults. If something feels wrong or off, leave. Remind your kids that it’s okay to leave a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable, even if they can’t exactly say what it is that makes them feel that way. Better safe than sorry.

How Does Location Work for 911?

How Does Location Work for 911?

How does 9-1-1 know your exact location every time? The short answer: Sometimes they don’t. You have to tell them. Especially if you’re calling on a cell phone.

You may have this vision of a 9-1-1 calltaker who answers the phone, takes down the details of your emergency, and then pushes a button and sends an officer to the location that magically appears on screen. There are a small number of cases where something similar to this might be true, but the majority of the time things are a lot more complicated.

In order to understand how 9-1-1 knows your location, you have to understand how that information is collected and stored. And to understand that, you have to be introduced to our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team. The GIS team at NCT9-1-1 is responsible for managing addressing information and location data, and their work is why a telecommunicator can better pinpoint your location.

What happens after I call 9-1-1?

You’ve been in a car accident, or someone is breaking into your house, or you are facing any number of emergencies that warrant calling 9-1-1. But after you finish dialing, what happens next? How does your call get to the correct police department? How does the call taker on the other end know where to send a response?

Well, that depends. It depends on whether you’re calling from a landline or a cell phone, and it depends on what kind of 9-1-1 infrastructure your local police department has.

Landline

When you initially dial 9-1-1, your call is routed to a building called a central office, which houses information that is managed by the telephone carriers. The central office uses your phone number to send your call to the correct tandem office, which is divided by regions. Within the NCT9-1-1 region, which is a hybrid of the old system and a Next Generation 9-1-1 system, we utilize GIS to route calls after they have gone through a central office. Based on the information stored in the tandem office, your call is routed to the correct Emergency Communications Center (ECC). At the same time as your call is going to the ECC, a Database Management System is queried and matches your phone number with your address and displays this information (known as the ALI, or the Automatic Location Information) to the 9-1-1 telecommunicator.

All of this happens in a matter of seconds, and if your landline is registered to your current address, 9-1-1 should get your exact address every time. They won’t, however, be able to pinpoint your location within your house like the specific room or floor.

Wireless

On an Enhanced 9-1-1 system, calling 9-1-1 on a cell phone can yield different results. This is because the location information is provided by your cell phone carrier and each carrier is different. When you call on a cell phone, your location is determined by a combination of network triangulation and trilateration to gain an approximate location. By approximate location, we mean within 300 meters of the nearest cell phone tower. That’s about three football fields.

If your police department or sheriff’s office is on a Next Generation 9-1-1 network, which emphasizes more modern technology, and if they use device-based hybrid location accuracy, DHL, (technology similar to that used by ride-sharing apps), they may be able to pinpoint your location within 15 meters. All of the ECCs within the NCT9-1-1 region are equipped with DHL.

How do they know my address?

The NCT9-1-1 region covers more than 10,000 square miles and is responsible for 9-1-1 services for 1.6 million people across North Texas. So how do we keep track of all of the addresses within our region and how do we update our system when new subdivisions or homes are built?

The NCT9-1-1 GIS team doesn’t work alone. They work closely with addressing coordinators on the county level throughout our region to help maintain their data and ensure it’s accurate. When a new subdivision is built, they will utilize hand drawn plats from the county addressing coordinator to address new roads, or even drive new roads with a GPS device. Recently, NCT9-1-1 has been utilizing drones to help speed this process up.

After new roads are addressed, NCT9-1-1 GIS updates the maps of the 9-1-1 telecommunicators within our region with the new information.

What does this mean for me?

Now you know a little bit more about how 9-1-1 works behind the scenes. Though the emergency number industry is always making new strides, and we’re constantly trying to meet citizens where they are in this brave new world of technology, it’s still important to know your location and to communicate it to the 9-1-1 telecommunicator. The fastest way for the call taker to know where you are is for you to tell them.