The Rolla Central Communications team hired three new members during the recent Telecommunicators Appreciation Week, and the new dispatchers are learning everything it takes to be a part of one of the key elements that makes Phelps County Safe.
During the Rolla City Council Meeting on April 16, Rolla Chief of Police Sean Fagan shared an old dispatch call, highlighting not only the special training each dispatch member goes through, but their ability to stay calm in a wide variety of stressful circumstances. The caller was a soon-to-be mother, asking for an ambulance as she found herself in labor in the middle of her home.
The dispatcher in charge of the call was Tabitha Stanley, who shared her perspective on the story, as well as the in-depth training the new members will be receiving in the coming weeks.
“Not every call we get here ends on a happy note, but it’s nice to have one that does,” she said. “It feels good. It really does. Just to talk to the family afterwards and hear everything is okay, and to be there for them in that moment. The average person doesn’t know what to do when they’re given a situation, they call us for help and we’re able to walk us through it.”
Stanley said she remembered the call taking place early in the morning, when the call from the mother in labor came through. As soon as they were connected, Stanley asked specific questions to get a feel for her situation.
“I’m always trying to see what my caller is seeing. What are their surroundings? What are they dealing with? [I] put myself in that situation,” she said.
Once Stanley had a good image of the situation, she instructed to hand the phone over to another person in the room, the baby’s grandfather. Stanley was then able to walk him through the entire delivery process.
“We have the guidlines for how to deliver a baby,” she said. “We can walk the caller through pretty much anything.
Stanley explained each dispatcher must have taken specific classes to handle different situations over the phone. Once they are trained, they are equipped to handle everything from child delivery to chest pains. In her office, she displayed a large flip-style guide with every feasible emergency scenario listed with instructions on how to help the caller.
“It’s quite a bit,” Stanley said.
The training and the guide doesn’t replace the ability to stay calm under pressure however, or the ability to make sure the caller stays calm in the same situation. Stanley said her priority is to make sure her caller has everything they need, and that includes the level head they need.
“I tried to keep myself calm and pass that onto him,” she said, referencing the same event. “If I’m upset then he’s upset.”
Stanley was able to successfully lead the grandfather through the delivery, and has since heard from the family, confirming the baby is doing well. Even once the baby was delivered, Stanley remained on the phone to monitor the situation.
“It’s our protocol to stay on the phone until personnel arrives. I stayed on the phone with him until the ambulance got there,” she said. Luckily, the call was local and the ambulance arrived quickly.
“We’ve had calls where someone is outside of Edgar Springs and you’re on the phone with someone who’s husband just had a heart attack for twenty-plus minutes waiting for help to get there,” she said.
People call Rolla Central Communications on the worst day of their lives, and in each instance, the dispatch team does their best to make the situation better, relying on their extensive training to handle everything that’s thrown at them.
“Our training program here is pretty intense. It’s 16 weeks of on-the-job training,” Stanley explained. “They’ll go through each different shift and we’ll go devote a lot of time to call-taking, and how to calm your caller down.”
Stanley herself will be a part of the training process for the three new hires, and has been training others since 2004, according to her. Stanley confirmed the training process as being extensive, and no one is able to answer the phones on their own until the team is confident they can handle any call they are given. Stanley said she enjoys watching new hires pick up on things, and see the joy they have in helping someone.
The dispatch team has been dealing with a small staff up till this time, with members taking longer and more frequent shifts. With the new hires in place and working on their training, the team is ready to keep up the excellent service they provide to the community.