Routt County dispatchers get training system for first time

County commissioners approve purchase of scripted program

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to spend $5,895 to acquire the first formal training system the emergency dispatch here has ever had.

Previously, Routt County Com­m­uni­cations has trained new emergency dispatchers on live calls while supervisors looked on.

“They’ve been doing that here forever,” Communications Director Tim McMenamin said. “With the new system, mistakes won’t be made with real incidents.”

County Manager Tom Sul­livan said the new training system was previously authorized in the 2011 budget and will get good use because McMenamin’s department is perpetually training new hires.

Nationally, annual turnover in emergency communications departments is about 20 percent, McMenamin said. He recently hired two trainees who have law enforcement backgrounds. One already has worked as a dispatcher in a rural county in Northern California where she performed double duty, also taking shifts as a patrol deputy. The second worked as an administrative assistant in Los Angeles County and more recently in a similar capacity in Box Elder County, Utah, where she also was the emergency management director.

McMenamin said the STARZ III Telecommunicator system he ordered from Professional Pride is the only non-computer-based system available.

It relies on the use of a phone system to simulate 911 emergency calls and portable radios to simulate interaction with emergency responders. Supervisors place the emergency phone calls from another room.

He said one of the advantages of a scripted training system like the STARZ III is that supervisors don’t have to wait for a serious emergency to subject trainees to the demands of a critical situation, or high-risk, low-frequency calls.

“I don’t know how many bank robberies you’ve had here, but our new trainees will get to practice six or eight in six months,” McMenamin said.

Supervisors can then replay the interaction that took place during the training call and make comments.

The two new hires at Routt County Communications brings the number of dispatchers on staff to 12, plus three supervisors.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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