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911 dispatchers in Idaho may be required to be certified

Many employers’ nowadays require their employees to have some kind of training, certification, under graduate degree or hands-on experience.

To work in the beauty industry, nail technicians have to complete hours of training before they can call themselves a Licensed Nail Technician. Registered Nurses also have to be go through rigorous certification programs and schooling before working in a hospital.

The food industry also has its requirements when employees handle food. However, 911 Emergency Dispatchers in Idaho are not required to be certified. Idaho State law does not currently require hiring or training standards.

Emergency dispatchers, also referred to as the ‘First, First Responders,’ are at the forefront of stressful, soul-searing situations that often make the difference between life and death, and guess what? No certification needed.

Key law enforcement officials in Idaho are pushing an initiative for Idaho legislators to mandate certification for 911 and emergency dispatchers.

The initiative, which will be proposed during the legislative session that starts in January, will propose that all dispatchers complete a minimum of on-week equaling 40 hours training in a academy while pursuing mandated continuation credits every two years. However, dispatchers who have had five years experience will be exempt from certification requirements.

Emergency dispatchers in Idaho currently go through months-long training with their agencies. However, if certification requirements go through, future training would come from APCO International and the National Emergency Number Association.

The certification program would be funded by the Public Utilities Commission for the first two years, before being picked up by the Idaho Safety Commission. Idaho Peace Officer Standards and & Training will be the certification agency.

According to Idaho State Police Lieutenant Kevin Haight, the initiative is being supported by many different agencies, including the Idaho Sheriffs Association, Idaho Chiefs of Police Association, and the Idaho State Police. Idaho has 46 primary 911 centers and several secondary centers.

“Again, this is not an initiative being pushed down from the state level. This is actually being pushed up from the grass roots level. I am really excited how this has come about,” Haight said.

Bo Bogard, who works as a dispatcher for the City of Idaho Falls, has been working in this field for nine years and said he supports the idea of emergency dispatchers being certified in the state of Idaho.

“I love my job and the people I work with. I’ve had several situations where I needed to coach someone how to do CPR. I think the certification and standards should have been mandatory a long time ago,” Bogard said.

He also said, “I think the standards will help with our basic dispatchers to give them an idea about what we actually do. Give them a set of tools to take an actual call and get the help on scene.”

Sherry Glick works for the Idaho Falls and Bonneville County 911 Center. Glick has had a long career spanning 20 years.

“There is so much more than just answering the phones. So much stress, traumatic situations. You relate to situations, and that’s stressful. I do it because I like helping others,” Glick said.

She said she supports the idea of dispatchers being certified. “Our officers are certified, our paramedics are certified. All of our responders are, so by doing the certifications, it’s a win-win situation. It shows a level of professionalism, and people recognize that.”

According to recent statistics published by the National Emergency Number Association, there are more than 6,100 emergency call centers in the United States that handle more than 200 million 911 calls each year.

There are currently about 100,000 dispatchers working throughout the country, with estimates that agencies across the U.S. are hiring about 10,000 dispatchers every year.

The Idaho Occupational Employment & Wage Survey 2013, which was reviewed and released by the Idaho Department of Labor, found that salaries for 911 operators in Idaho typically started out around $25,313.60, but then averaged $38,313.60. The median salary was $33,030.40.

The survey further reported 911 dispatchers in the top ten percent earning $46,987.20, which was nearly 30% more than the statewide average.

If the legislation is passed, the law would go into affect July 1.

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