The industry is still obviously dealing with the continued impacts of COVID-19. And while we aren’t off this wild rollercoaster yet, we’re hopeful 2022 will start to provide our industry with new opportunities and beginnings.
Health and wellness are both mental and physical games. It’s important to have healthy telecommunicators that have the awareness and the right tools to live well throughout their career, both on and off the job.
We surveyed attendees at the NENA (National Emergency Number Association) 2021 trade show and APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials) International 2021 trade show to discover how their organizations are continuing to evolve by acknowledging the need for wellness programs and bringing them into agency life. Based on the survey results, some developing trends in public safety wellness appear evident for 2022.
Enhanced Safety Protocols
After a long wait, in-person gatherings are once again becoming more prominent and frequent. With this ability comes great responsibility, and agencies across the globe are rising to the challenge! Many PSAPs are taking a “safety in layers” approach to plan a return to in-person workstations. In our recent wellness survey, 98% of respondents had at least one, and as many as seven new safety, health, or hygiene models implemented to protect their employees. To enter agencies, we’ll see continued health screenings like temperature checks and rapid COVID-19 testing, 37% of those surveyed shared screening and rapid testing were already being utilized in their PSAP. Some state agencies are requiring vaccination to enter.
Onsite workers will adhere to mask policies and social distancing. In addition, 67% of our wellness survey respondents indicated work from home options were introduced to their PSAP. Working from home is definitely on the rise and will continue to become a more accepted and normal mode of operation. All of these methods and more will help create a multi-layer approach that gives our first responders everywhere a safer way to be together. Find out more on remote working here.
Supply Chain Disruptions Will Have Major Impact
The supply chain issue has hit every industry, and unfortunately, public safety is no exception. We’ve talked about this with many of our partners and this problem has hit every aspect of PSAP life. So, what does it mean for 2022? Agencies can expect to see prices rise and shortages occur. They may not be able to get exactly what they’re looking for precisely when needed, so being flexible and working with your partners to develop an acceptable and/or interim plan B may be more necessary and frequent.
Labor shortages will be even more challenging to overcome than price increases and supply shortages. Only 7% of wellness survey participants indicated they were using A/B/C teams at their PSAP. However, implementing this sort of system in the coming year could help deal with labor shortages creatively. The nationwide labor shortage has caused wages to increase as much as 20% – 30% in some regions. The United States has around 95,000 police, fire and ambulance dispatchers throughout the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They handle around 240 million calls in the United States every year, according to National Emergency Number Association (NENA). It is imperative to retain these skilled individuals, as three out of five hires do not proceed past training on average.
Peer Support Programs or Groups for the Public Safety Industry
The pandemic dramatically brought our lives to a halt. Yet, this pause allowed us all to reflect on what matters and how we incorporate easily maintainable strategies and a positive outlook for wellness in the workplace. We want to retain our staff and continue to have them healthy in this stressful time. The rise of peer support programs and/or groups are being formed at every size agency, as evidenced by 59% of our survey participants sharing that their centers now have peer support systems in place.
Covid has taught us the importance of taking care of oneself, both mental and physical. And this is being carried into small PSAPs with the formation of a once-a-month group talk to larger agencies where a formal program has been created with trained Peer Support leads. This has become a necessary part of agency life going forward. For more information on how to create your own Peer Support program, please feel free to review our webinar series. Click here for more information.
Flexibility Will Reign
Scheduling supervisors will need to continue to meet staff where they are at and offer flexibility in how people participate. Staff will expect meetings to have both in-person and virtual options for attendance. Some members will still need to quarantine on occasion but will want to be part of important updates. So, making sure the team remains updated, wherever they are, will need to continue.
Flexibility will also go beyond the in-house experience. Directors will need to continue to be flexible as we enter our new normal and adjust to local health department recommendations and adapt in the face of supply chain issues and labor shortages. We still can’t control much with new variants still on the rise, so being flexible and having backup plans will be key! 93% of those surveyed at APCO and NENA agreed and answered yes to whether they had an existing backup plan in place.
Public Safety Industry Focus on Continued Education
There is no sugar coating it. The public safety industry was flipped on its back when the pandemic hit. First responder professionals everywhere had to figure out how to create a safe workplace, work remotely, and do so fast to survive. Many of us never want to be in that position again, so we’re doing something to prevent it. Across the country, many agencies are seeking certifications for staff. These certifications (gained in regional training or at the larger national shows, such as NENA and APCO) help to bolster knowledge and allow professionals to gain new skills. As a result, we have seen a big spike in education surrounding staff and supervisors (lots of new ENPs – yay you!). At Zetron, we believe there is always room to learn and grow, so this is definitely a trend we can get behind!
Conclusion: 5 Wellness Trends that Will Influence the Public Safety Industry in 2022
As you can see from these trends, our industry still has a lot of uncertainty. They aren’t the wellness trends you used to read in years prior, but they are reality. That said, we’re still feeling positive and believe 2022 will be a big year for our industry! Creating a wellness program that reduces agency liability and turnover due to improved morale effects the individual, agency and overall response performance.
Use these trends and predictions to plan your wellness program for 2022. They will help guide your decisions and inspire your processes. What wellness trends do you predict for 2022? Comment below and let us know!
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