Equipment for New Emergency Dispatch Program Has Arrived

LITTLETON -- New simulation equipment has arrived for the new Emergency Dispatch Certificate program at Arapahoe Community College. The program is one of only three such programs in the nation and the only program in Colorado. Designed to be completed in only one semester, the program will prepare students to pass a national certification examination. The simulation equipment for the program arrived on Jan. 12 and is being installed on Jan. 13 for instructor training that afternoon and the next day.

The courses in the program will be taught online, although students will be required to complete laboratory time on state-of-the-art dispatch simulators. Students can take the online classes at their convenience with the labs scheduled in the evening. The program consists of just five courses, enabling students to be job-ready in less than six months.
picture of emergency dispatcher
Christine Swenson, coordinator of the ACC Criminal Justice Program, said Emergency Dispatchers are the first people to answer 911 or emergency calls. “These are the people most civilians have contact with,” Swenson said. “They are the front face of the organization to the community, so you need to have competent people in those positions or you will do a disservice to the community.”

About 13,000 new dispatchers are estimated to be needed in the next eight years. Seconds after receiving a 911 call, these well trained, highly professional individuals react to send the appropriate type and number of emergency services units in response to the call. They also monitor the activity of emergency services personnel at the scene. Emergency dispatchers work in a variety of settings, ranging from police and fire stations to hospitals or centralized communications centers. Dispatchers must have excellent people skills and be able to handle stressful situations.

Working with Criminal Justice Adjunct Faculty member Stacey Hervey, Swenson decided to start the program after seeing equipment available for training dispatchers and finding out that most dispatchers were trained on the job, sometimes for up to nine months, and the quality of the training varied.

“We found there is high turnover,” Swenson explained, “and we wondered if we could take some of that burden away, especially for smaller law enforcement agencies. We also found out there was a desire for this type of program but there had been no forum to express that need.”    

The program will begin on the opening day of the 2009 Spring Semester on Jan. 20. Students in the new program will learn on a state-of-the-art dispatch simulator system using real emergency scenarios. The system duplicates the operation of a 911 Communication Center that is the most sophisticated device of its kind.