Top Comm Center Headlines

President’s Channel: Stepping Into the Role of Presidency: Thank You APCO Members!

By Margie Moulin, APCO President
As I step into the role of APCO International President, I feel extremely honored at the chance to serve the membership of this great association. I would like to start my term by thanking all our members for this opportunity, and for the work that each of you has done throughout the challenges of 2020.
Since last year’s conference, we have seen challenges unlike any other year. While many people were forced to stay home, those of us in the ECC, as essential workers, continued to work to serve our communities, while also dealing with the same concerns and stressors everyone else was experiencing. Regardless of the position within public safety telecommunications, human resources, finance, information technology, management, data analysis, telecommuncations specialist, or any other role within the center, you were impacted both professionally and personally. As is the habit of those of us in an ECC, you continue to take care of everyone else through times like no other in our lifetimes. My hope is that you are taking time to care for yourselves as well. All too often, our own wellness is pushed aside while we care for total strangers.
Because of this, I am sharing with you the creation of a new APCO committee designed to expand our focus on wellness in the ECC.
In 2018, under the leadership of APCO President Holly Wayt, the ECC Crisis Response Task Force was established to create a best practices resource to guide ECC’s responses during, and after a prolonged, or large-scale emergency event.
With Jay Somerville as the Chair and Maureen Will as Vice Chair, the mission of this task force was to create a structure to assist ECC leaders with preparation for high impact, prolonged, or large-scale emergency events that place a significant strain on staff members. Within this document, you will see a quote highlighted stating “taking care of those who staff our ECCs so they can take care of our communities is paramount.”
Today, we are announcing the creation of the APCO Health and Wellness Committee, chaired by Captain Jeremy Hill. This committee will take the philosophy of caring for our ECC personnel to the next level, providing the best tools to support the people working in centers across the nation every minute of every day. I am confident this committee will offer new insights and options to improve health and wellness in the ECC.
In addition to this effort, we are adding a task force to look at opportunities to partner with our veterans and military spouses. A recent survey found that a quarter of military spouses are unemployed, and a 2018 White House report stated that military spouses are unemployed at 2-3 times the rate of the overall U.S. population.
We recognize that ECC’s struggle with recruitment and retention. Knowing this, and the sacrifices military families make, this new task force will work to identify and evaluate options to align ECC staffing shortages with unemployed military spouses. This may provide solutions to some of our ECC staffing problems, while offering support to our military families.
Along with these efforts, your APCO leadership team is committed to continuing to provide complete public safety expertise, professional development, technical assistance, advocacy and outreach, alongside the pursuit of the reclassification of our public safety telecommunicators as Protective Service Occupations.
In this association, none of us leads alone. The Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, APCO staff, the Executive Council Members, chapter presidents, group leaders, committee chairs and the entire membership of APCO, all lead this association together. It is with all of your help that I look forward to taking on the challenges this next year may bring.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity, and thank you for your commitment to public safety communications.

Sexual assault Prison for a 911 dispatcher (Canada)

A 911 dispatcher will not be able to return to his job as he hoped, because he was sentenced to serve 90 days in prison for sexual assault against a policewoman in the North Crown of Montreal. "The accused worked in a police environment where respect for the law is...

Sheriff’s office honors local dispatcher (VA)

WoodmenLife and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office recently recognized Megan Shiner for her commitment to the community. Shiner is a remarkable and extraordinary asset to this department, said Melissa Cundiff, assistant director for the county’s 911 communications...

TX APCO honors Odessa telecommunicators (TX)

The Texas Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (TX APCO) selected the City of Odessa Public Safety Communications Department as the 2019 Telecommunicator Team of the Year for their work during the August 31, 2019 active shooter incident....

APCO Launches Virtual Classroom

Real-time, instructor-led course provides alternative learning option
Alexandria, VA – Today the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International launched the APCO Virtual Classroom that will offer live instruction led online in real-time by APCO Institute adjunct instructors. The virtual classroom is unique in that it provides online students the interactive, engaging environment that is usually found only in a traditional classroom setting.
The first course that will be offered in this setting is Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST), 7th Edition, which is a foundational course that covers communication skills, call taking and radio techniques. The PST course incorporates the most up-to-date information on technology and work-related issues in emergency communications centers.
“The launch of APCO Virtual Classroom comes at the right time when in-person training is limited,” said Derek K. Poarch, Executive Director and CEO of APCO International. “We will begin with the foundational course PST and continue to add new courses regularly to ensure that our members can get the vital training they need to serve and save lives.”
APCO will release additional courses, including Tactical Dispatch, Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD), EMD Manager and Communications Training Officer, in the following months. In addition to getting an experience similar to that received in a traditional classroom setting, students will get expedited training without having to travel. For example, the virtual classroom PST course takes five days versus four weeks for the regular online course.
APCO is currently accepting registrations for the virtual PST course set to begin August 17. Students are encouraged to register quickly as space is limited to 20 participants. Learn more at
APCO International®  ( International is the world’s oldest and largest organization of public safety communications professionals and supports the largest U.S. membership base of any public safety association. It serves the needs of public safety communications practitioners worldwide – and the welfare of the general public as a whole – by providing complete expertise, professional development, technical assistance, advocacy and outreach.


Thursday July 23, 2020

Returning to School – Are you ready? Part 1

9:00 a.m. PDT/10:00 MDT/11:00 CDT/12:00 EDT

Thursday July 30, 2020

Returning to School – Are you ready? Part 2

9:00 a.m. PDT/10:00 MDT/11:00 CDT/12:00 EDT

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Emotional Labor

Kathy Muhlhan
Emotional labor in emergency dispatch is the work you do to express or suppress your own emotions to produce the required emotions and responses in your caller. When I am feeling exhausted at 4 a.m. I put aside my personal feelings to meet the needs of my caller. A panicked caller requires me to adjust my conversational style and speak to them firmly. An urgent tone is required to get help organized quickly. The work of calltaking is emotional. Understanding this is crucial to learning how to care for ourselves as calltakers, and for leaders and organizations to support their staff.
Emergency dispatching energizes me. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that I contribute to the community. I am proud of my ability to manage a difficult and stressful job that not everyone can do. I feel connected to my crew who I work alongside and enjoy sharing stories of difficult and interesting calls with them.
Despite all this, the work can be emotionally exhausting. An incongruence between how I am feeling and how I need to sound on the phone can wear me out. When I am tired, don’t want to face another death, or run out of caring, I will not express this on the phone. If I don’t express it, however, it builds up inside me and can leave me exhausted. This exhaustion can lead to numbness.
A certain amount of emotional distance is required to manage the ongoing emotional demands of the role, but numbness is more extreme. It reduces the benefits I feel from performing the role. I still have to endure shift work, time pressure, repetition, scrutiny, attention to detail, but when I am emotionally numb, I don’t get to enjoy the excitement of babies that are born, appreciate callers who are helpful and thankful, or recognize the bravery of my patients. The satisfaction of a job well done may be replaced by a cynicism regarding the impact of my work. I may withdraw from the camaraderie of shared storytelling with my colleagues and work alone. I am better able to enjoy my job when I am emotionally fit and healthy.
I can look after my emotional health by investing in my relationships, having a hobby, exercising, and eating well. Keeping emotionally fit and healthy, however, is not just the responsibility of individual emergency dispatchers. We can be protected from emotional exhaustion by a strong and supportive team culture, by organizations that recognize and celebrate our role, and by ongoing education. The emotional labor of taking emergency calls is better performed in a safe environment where we can express our anxieties, lack of confidence, and need for affirmation without fear of judgment.
Organizations can support and celebrate emergency dispatchers by hosting events where we are reunited with our callers, by working with the media to share stories of success, and by internally recognizing the genuine care and professionalism of individuals. When we believe our job is important and valued, we are better equipped to manage its challenges. Ongoing education is vital to cut through the emotional toll of calltaking. Education can introduce new coping skills and connect us to a worldwide network of others facing the same emotional demands that we are.
We are the emotional muscle on the front line of emergency services. Maintaining our emotional health equips us to function well in the role and to continue to enjoy the benefits long-term. When we are supported by our crews and organizations, continue to believe deeply in the intrinsic value of our role, and receive ongoing education, we can keep our emotional muscle strong, bounce back from exhaustion, and enjoy a job well done.

Kathryn Muhlhan is an off-shift workplace trainer at ESTA in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, where she has worked for the past four years. Kathryn is passionate about training new ambulance calltakers and mentors, and, also, maintaining the mental health and well-being of calltakers and emergency dispatchers.

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