Zetron is honored to work with mission critical communications professionals across a wide array of applications and industries. Our daily interactions with these extraordinary individuals inspired us to launch our Day in the Life blog series. Learn more and read the full series. For this edition of Day in the Life, we had the pleasure of connecting with Katrina Shamshak and Robert Norton of North Shore Regional 9-1-1. After encountering some heartfelt submissions about telecommunicators and their centers during our Golden Headset Awards for National Public Safety Communicators Week, we found ourselves interested in hearing more about their agency and what they do. In this shared interview, we get a little insight into the day-to-day lives of North Shore Regional 9-1-1’s dispatchers, trainers, and quality assurance team. Read through to the end to get helpful tips for the general public when dealing with 9-1-1 and learn what our interviewees’ hope will change for the industry ten years from now. Katrina Shamshak Public Safety Dispatcher III Massachusetts, USA Robert Norton Public Safety Dispatcher I Massachusetts, USA What’s your name, your organization’s name, and location? Katrina: My name is Katrina Shamshak. I work at North Shore Regional 9-1-1, and it’s in Middleton, Massachusetts. Robert: Robert Norton, also North Shore Regional 9-1-1. Can you give a description of your agency in terms of size, jurisdiction etc.? Katrina: North Shore Regional is part of the Massachusetts State 9-1-1 department. We’re one of their operations centers, dispatch for six communities, and we’re still actively onboarding, so that number could increase. Currently, we have 44 employees. We handle all 9-1-1 calls as the public safety answering points (PSAPs), and we handle Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) responsibilities as well. Robert: We answer and fully process 9-1-1 calls for emergency assistance for six communities (Amesbury, Essex, Middleton, Topsfield, Wenham, and Manchester-by-the Sea Massachusetts). This includes radio dispatching units for police, fire, and EMS (emergency medical services) for these communities. We also receive, direct, and otherwise process related nonemergency calls for these communities. Members of administration and operations are staffed at North Shore Regional 9-1-1. Our administration is staffed by a Director, Deputy Director, and Operations Manager. Operations consist of Telecommunicators and Supervisors. All employees are extensively qualified, meeting and exceeding the standards set by APCO and the Massachusetts State 9-1-1 Department. All of our staff are required to undergo certification, as well as continuing education training. Can you both describe your roles there? Katrina: I am considered a Public Safety Dispatcher III. What that means is there’s Public Safety Dispatcher I – frontline dispatchers, Public Safety Dispatcher II – supervisors, and then I’m next. I am a trainer and handle quality assurance. I’m typically offline doing that, but I am still fully certified to work in the [dispatch] room [to take calls], and I do work in the room a lot. I still pick up overtime shifts, and I can work at the desk as a supervisor or a dispatcher. The reason I do that is to stay relevant with what I’m quality assuring, because I think you need to know how to do the job to be able to do that. So, I still work at the desk very often. Robert: Public Safety Dispatcher I, I am also a Communications Training Officer (CTO). Can you share a brief high-level description of your job? Robert: The workload is distributed between a fire and police pod. Both pods consist of two telecommunicators and split the workload equally between them. Our regional center currently serves six communities which translates to twelve police and fire departments to dispatch. Typically, the fire dispatchers are the primary call takers for 9-1-1 and all dispatchers rotate through taking business line calls. Every shift has a minimum of one supervisor to manage the shift and to help during incidents or to cover breaks. How long have you been in your current role, and how long have you been in the industry? Katrina: I’ve been in my current role for four years, and I’m going on my eleventh year of dispatch, and I’ve been at my agency for ten years. The agency opened ten years ago next month. Robert: I have been in the industry for ten years. I started my career in public safety in January of 2013 for the Security Department of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY working as a dispatcher and a shuttle driver. From there I started working as a police dispatcher at Boston College Police Department in Chestnut Hill, MA in March of 2019. I left Boston College and started my current position at North Shore Regional 9-1-1 in Middleton, MA in January of 2021. What made you get into this line of work? Katrina: So, I originally wanted to be a police officer— I was a criminal justice and sociology major. But I dislocated my knee while I was taking the police test, so I had to have surgery. At the time, I was working at my college police department as an intern, and they’re like, why don’t you just stay in dispatch for the summer so you have work, and you can put your leg up and it’d be fine. I ended up working dispatch and I loved it. It was just exciting, and it was challenging. I had no idea at all that that’s what dispatchers did before [working there], because my college dispatch department not only dispatched for the college, but a few surrounding towns, so I got to kind of get a feel of it. And once I was in, I thought it was awesome. I did end up becoming a reserve police officer later, so I still got the police officer bug out of me, but I ended up loving dispatch and how challenging it was. Robert: I have always been drawn to a career where I get to interact with and help people. Pursuing a career in public safety always seemed like a natural fit. I initially started working as a telecommunicator to prepare myself for a career in law enforcement. However, the longer I worked as a dispatcher the more I grew fond of the work and found that I truly enjoyed working in communications. Can you describe a typical day in the life of your role? Katrina: Typically, I come in and the first thing I do is call reviews. At our agency, we do call reviews for EMD calls, for call taking of police and fire calls, and then we also do QA calls for dispatch. In my role, I’ll either do the quality assurance myself or I’ll delegate them to supervisors. I’m also in charge of training, so I have to make sure everyone’s certifications are up to date. In my calendar I keep track of when someone’s certification is expiring. I also am part of a lot of associations, like APCO Atlantic. I’m the training committee chair, so sometimes day-to-day would involve doing things for them. I’m the training chair for the Massachusetts Communications Supervisor Association too, so I’ll also be doing stuff for them. I also do their newsletter. So, day to day really depends on what’s going on, but it’s a lot of balancing the QA, training and association stuff. And also, if the [dispatch] room is busy, they’ll call and ask me to come in and help them Robert: A typical day for me lasts 10-16 hours. Typically, I work a large amount of overtime and often work more than a usual eight-hour shift. My primary schedule is based upon evenings (16:00 to 00:00). This schedule follows a rotating 4-2 model. If I am assigned a trainee for the shift, I will be assigned to whatever discipline the trainee is currently working on. If I am not assigned a trainee, then my assignment for the shift will depend upon current activity and structure of the out-going shift. The goal is to rotate between police and fire positions every shift so that a dispatcher is not stuck on a certain discipline for too long. What do you like or enjoy most about your role? Katrina: I like that I still get to dispatch and do what I initially loved so much, but now it’s elevated. I get to feel like I’ve moved up the ladder, so to speak, and I also just really enjoy training. I love seeing when someone has that click moment, they’re not getting it, and then suddenly everything lines up and they’re able to perform the job or they have a realization of what’s going on. So, I really enjoy being able to teach people and harness the skill of dispatching. It’s a very specific group that can do it because of multitasking and the handling of crisis and everything. I like being able to welcome the next generation of dispatchers. Robert: What I enjoy most about my role is the chaos. I have always found myself able to perform well under pressure, with a timeline or amongst chaos. Constantly,
The Zetron Blog: Z-Wire
No matter the mission of your organization, success likely depends on the people performing critical operational communications. And because your agency doesn’t operate in a vacuum, it’s never a good idea to make decisions in one either. Simply put, whether you’re updating your communications equipment, integrating a new records management system, or test driving the latest asset tracking platform, you should always incorporate end user feedback in your evaluation and purchase plans.
Given the number of two-way radio options on the market, it’s no surprise many vendors are working to develop comprehensive, all-encompassing emergency communications solutions. And while the prospect of having one provider supply all of your agency’s telephony, radio, and data collection technology might sound like a great idea, it’s imperative to understand how this choice will impact your agency in the long run.
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Bob Downie, College Instructor at Camosun College in Victoria British Columbia. Before Bob was an instructor for post-secondary students, he spent the majority of his career as a police officer in the Saanich Police Department in Saanich British Columbia.
Many hazards are associated with first responders, but the risk of compassion fatigue is often overlooked or minimized. Merriam-Webster defines compassion fatigue as “the physical and mental exhaustion and emotional withdrawal experienced by those who care for sick or traumatized people over an extended period of time.”
When shopping for a records management system, CAD, and JMS, many tech buyers are eager to select a provider that offers an all-in-one package. For many users, all-in-one is, simply, simpler.
No one provider can truly specialize in all products.
Last week was National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW) and to celebrate Zetron wanted to honor those who have gone above and beyond in their duties, exhibited exceptional skills, dedication, and compassion on the job. This led to the creation of the first annual Golden Headset Awards. People in the industry were able to nominate themselves and their co-workers for a variety of categories including Best Telecommunicator/Dispatcher, Best Overall Emergency Communications Team and more. After highlighting some of these great stories throughout NPSTW, we wanted to share a roundup of the winners. Thank you to these, and all the amazing telecommunicators out there. The Golden Headset Award for Best Telecommunicator/Dispatcher Leader, Mentor or Trainer goes to… Mary Schutts of Warren County Communications Center “Mary has been with our center for a little over 17 years. She has trained countless PST’s over the years and everyone that she trained has been exceptional. Although Mary self admits she doesn’t like training, she does it for the trainee to ensure they are trained properly and competently as well as the center and our user agencies. When Mary is not training someone, she is training the center by creating crossword puzzles for not only other trainees but also veteran staff to learn from as new technology makes its way into the center. I personally have learned a lot from Mary through this method. Mary’s colorful personality helps other staff members during difficult times. She is always a welcomed member on the floor no matter what shift she works.” — Gary Hill, Public Safety Telecommunicator for Warren County Communications Center The Golden Headset Award for Best Overall Telecommunicator/Dispatcher goes to… Morgan Saunders of Linn County E-9-1-1 Central Dispatch “I believe Morgan deserves this award because on June 27th, 2022, as a part time employee of another dispatch center, she took the FIRST 911 call of many, when an Amtrak train carrying 270 passengers and 12 crew members struck a dump truck and derailed in Mid-Missouri. It was Morgan’s first day on her own following her training period. She showed compassion, hard work, teamwork, and many other valuable skills that day as hundreds of field units responded to assist with the passengers. Even after something as traumatic as a Mass Casualty Incident, Morgan has continued to assist her community in dispatch. She does not like recognition for the amazing job she did that day and everyday, but she deserves it!” — Shelby Creed, 9-1-1 Director for Linn County E-9-1-1 Central Dispatch The Golden Headset Award for Best Telecommunicator/Dispatcher Team Leader goes to… Lt. Michelle Warren, Supervising Telecommunicator of Warren County Communications Center “Lt. Michelle Warren has been with our center for over 20 years. As a higher-ranking supervisor, she was promoted into the records department of communications a few years ago. However, due the staffing crisis of the center, Michelle offered to go back onto the floor on the night shift to help with the shortage. She also has put in an amazing amount of overtime on the other shifts. When Lt. Warren walks into the room she is often welcomed as a ray of sunshine. Furthermore, she helps with our training program by putting together training binders and offering insight into the overall program. She is an uplifting individual that many look up to here at the center.” — Gary Hill, Public Safety Telecommunicator for Warren County Communications Center We had an overwhelming amount of great nominations for this next category, so we’ve chosen two winners! The Golden Headset Award for Best Overall Emergency Communications Team goes to… Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Communications Division “During 2020 when Hurricane Laura hit our dispatchers were working and on the phones with callers needing rescuing during the height of the storm when the roof to the communications center blew off. The girls stayed at their post with water pouring on them. They had to be forced to hang up the phones an evacuate. Once evacuated we had set up a new dispatch center in under 15 minutes. Our parish took a major hit and most of the dispatchers lost their homes but stayed at work. All the dispatchers ended getting Covid and worked sick because there was no one else that could do their jobs with our equipment and dispatch for our agency and the 16 others that came to help. for our agency and 16 others that came to help. Everyone slept on air mattresses and used porta pottys for 5 weeks then we were finally able to go home. Only to be called back 3 days later to go back to the office for Hurricane Delta which hit 6 weeks after Hurricane Laura. We were still working out of a temporary dispatch center and again we were living at the office and sleeping on air mattresses for an extended time. Eventually things started to settle and in November we got a temporary building that we moved our dispatch center into and worked in it for 2 years. While working in the temporary building we were hit with an Ice Storm (yes on the Louisiana coast!) and three months later we were hit with a storm that caused historic flooding and damaged the roof on the temporary dispatch center. The temporary dispatch building had no plumbing, and you would have to leave to go to bathroom in all types of weather, but they all kept their spirits up. In April of 2022 we were able to move back into home, our newly rebuilt state of the art dispatch center and it’s been truly amazing. These girls and guys have been through hell and back with hurricanes, extreme weather and Covid sickness, and truly deserve to be rewarded and recognized for all that they did. They gave up family for extended time while dealing with personal losses at the same time. They showed us what dedication means through their actions and willingness to help. They stepped up every occasion and gave they all even when they didn’t think they had anything left. They are true heroes to our community and our office.” — Lacey Greaney, Communication Infrastructure Manager for Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office The Golden Headset Award for Best Overall Emergency Communications Team goes to… Jersey City Public Safety The JCPS Dispatch team has been a fantastic group of professionals for many years. Throughout COVID, hiring Freezes, and the daily struggles of being an urban dispatch center –I have never seen such a group of dedicated individuals. In December of 2019 their skills were on display nationwide where the team fielded and coordinated a massive Law Enforcement Response for an Active Shooter, with hundreds of rounds fired at public safety. This several hour ordeal involved active pipe bombs and shooter(s) on a city street between two schools (less than 100 feet away), and an ambushed fallen Police Officer found at a secondary crime scene all while coordinating school lockdowns, and regular traffic. I firmly believe that this team deserves some external recognition, just for morale’s sake after many years of being the silent underdog. Three members of the team passing during the pandemic, with the aforementioned hiring freeze, has stretched these professionals to the max –and they still come to work everyday. — Jersey City Public Safety Administration Member
Trying to capture the importance of, or even what a telecommunicator does day-to-day is virtually impossible. Even those in the field often fall short of describing the true essence of everything telecommunicators do. With National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week (NPSTW) approaching, we want to pull back the curtain a bit and not only share the history of this celebratory week but examine how these superheroes impact each of us, often behind the scenes.