Training trips stir 911 panel debate|[03/01/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2007

The question of whether 911 dispatchers are being sent to unnecessary training courses around the country stirred a heated debate Wednesday among members of the board that governs the Vicksburg-Warren E-911 Emergency Communications Center and its director.

Although funding for dispatcher training – more than $45,000 – was approved by the 911 Commission and Warren County Board of Supervisors before the start of the fiscal year, Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens, a member of the commission, warned Director Geoffrey Greetham about sending dispatchers to &#8220trade shows.”

&#8220The recourse is going to be on you, not on dispatchers,” if the commission finds Greetham is sending employees on trips not specifically related to improving their skills, Leyens told him.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Greetham, hired in February 2005 to replace Allen Maxwell, told Leyens dispatchers are required to attend a number of training courses to retain their certifications. One of those courses is in April, when two dispatchers and Deputy Director Michael Gaul will attend a conference in Las Vegas.

&#8220This is why we’re here,” Greetham said. &#8220We’re doing what wasn’t done in the past.”

Leyens, though, said he didn’t want to hear any more.

&#8220Just stop it, Mr. Greetham,” he said. &#8220I don’t want to hear the lecture. I can’t take it anymore. You’re too emotional.”

Commissioners Gwen Coleman, the director of Warren County’s Emergency Management Agency, and Kelly Worthy, the county’s fire coordinator, said they opposed 911 staff members attending the conference in Las Vegas. Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said he opposed sending Greetham and 911 Secretary Cari Anderson to a conference in Charlotte, N.C., in June until the state decides whether to reimburse the county for training costs.

The issue of whether 911 personnel are attending the appropriate courses regularly arises in the monthly meetings, with Greetham and Gaul asked to describe the nature of the training.

Leyens said Wednesday &#8220continuing education is very important” to emergency personnel and that the commission supports 911 dispatchers. However, he said, &#8220I want them to bring back” what they learned and &#8220share it with their co-workers.”

The center operates on a $1.2 million budget, funded with fees paid on phone bills and supplements from city and county general funds. Pending in the Legislature is a request endorsed by city and county officials to increase the monthly phone bill surcharges from $1 to as much as $4.

New hires in dispatching must complete a 40-hour telecommunications training program by the Association of Public Communications Officers Institute to be certified dispatchers, as well as eight-hour ride-along sessions with the agencies they are to dispatch

The certification is valid for three years. In the interim, they must complete 48 hours of continuing education credits, such as learning other languages or CPR.

At the end of the three years, they can be recertified by taking 16-hour classes that cover any new information, such as updates to the National Academies protocol.

Seventeen dispatchers are on staff to cover 911 calls 24 hours per day, seven days per week.