The Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 Center (HMC 9-1-1) is the largest and most advanced emergency operations facility in the state of Alabama, serving more than 372,900 residents and community businesses. In order to maintain the highest level of service, recruitment, training and professional development have always been a focal point. Brenda O’Neal, who's been with the center for 28 years, has played an integral role in this effort by identifying top-notch Calltakers for employment while ensuring an ongoing training atmosphere is maintained.
With active listening and critical thinking skills at the forefront of a high-quality Calltaker, Brenda also looks for candidates who are passionate, driven to succeed and empathetic to their callers. “Candidates have to understand that they sometimes can’t resolve the issues they often hear about,” said Brenda. “Our team implements extensive, ongoing training which is imperative to a quick, seamless dispatch to the right resources. We hold ourselves to a very high standard and always challenge ourselves to improve.”
The comprehensive onboarding process includes certification courses for Emergency Police Dispatch (EDP) and Emergency Telecommunicator (ETC). In addition, all trainees are paired with a mentor for one-on-one coaching where they get a chance to listen to emergency calls and learn about best practices. Each candidate also trains on different communication platforms that are used, including a virtual phone system for incoming calls, a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for entering and communicating information to first responders and a RapidSOS system for verifying addresses.
Calltakers are often viewed as a lifeline and focus on caller and responder safety and offender/suspect apprehension. To maintain quality assurance, the HMC 9-1-1 team often reviews calls in-house and also submits them to a national queue that randomly pulls calls and provides feedback. “I’ve learned that Calltakers appreciate getting feedback that way they know how to continuously improve,” said Brenda. “They learn about areas to improve upon and will regularly work with the training staff on a one-on-one basis.”
Calltakers are vital to the community and their extensive training is crucial to their success. “When a Calltaker answers the phone, it’s usually the first time the caller has ever dialed 9-1-1,” said Brenda “They expect the Calltaker to know what to ask, who to send for help and how to get help to them quickly, and we do our best to prepare our team to do just that.”
As HMC 9-1-1 settles into a new, larger facility, the team is expanding and looking for individuals that are dedicated to serving the Huntsville and Madison County community. To learn about available employment opportunities, click here.