How Have Things Changed?

There have been many changes in emergency communications since the first 9-1-1 call in the United States was placed 50 years ago.  How have things changed since YOU became a telecommunicator?

5 Replies to “How Have Things Changed?”

  1. As electronic communications systems of systems become increasingly complex, automated, and ubiquitous, we are continuing to ignore our need for a robust backup system to the PSTN. The hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico should be a wake-up call for all jurisdictions to look at what they would do if the PSTN in their area is shut down for whatever reason for longer than a few days. The Amateur Radio Service response was helpful but woefully inadequate in terms of the number of coordinated communicators, repeater systems, and circuits deployed. We can do better than this.

  2. When I started in the early 90’s, I don’t believe this was a profession yet. It was a stepping stone into the glamorous life of police and fire. Punch Cards, Daily Blotters, Teletypes, Ring Down Phones, etc. were the technology used. Over the past 25 years, the technology has rapidly improved our ability to do the job and in turn have created a very noble profession. It’s been a fun journey so far and I look forward to the years on the horizon.

  3. Aspen got 911 sometime in 1980. When I started in 1983, it was a long distance call from Redstone and Basalt, so we had a dedicated 7 digit phone number for those residents to reach us. Basalt had a dispatcher who worked out of her home on nights and weekends. We kept track of our officers with a paper log and hand-written cards to record calls for service, stamping times with a time clock. Kur-chunk. We had one boom mic to transmit to officers and a zetron paging system for sending fire and ambulance. We had a switch under the console to set off the Aspen Fire Siren. That siren is still in use today, more of a tradition and not as the official notification for the firefighters. Our recording system was reel-to-reel ”dictaphone” tapes, and searching for calls was cumbersome, as was the storage of these reels. These magnetic tapes were demagnetized and reused, with the retention not nearly as long as we have now in the digital era. (We went to VHS format when we got our new ADA compliant center in 1996.)
    The extent of our computer was CCIC with a CRT and a dot matrix printer. We were in a combined office with Records. The officers either typed or hand-wrote their reports and after supervisor approval, would end up in a metal basket in our office. In our down time, we indexed on 3×5 cards, every name that was involved in a particular case. Each person had their own card and their “involvements” were listed on the back. The filing cabinets were housed in our combined office. This was our Records management system before computers and CAD. We got Enhanced 911 and our first version of CAD on 09-11-1991. Whoo hoo!! Computer instead of paper logs!! We became EMD certified in 1999, using MPDS cards for our medical calls. We were the first county in Colorado to get “Text-to-911”, receiving our first “text-to-911” call on 01/19/14. Technology is rapidly evolving and some days I feel like I need track shoes to keep up. Overall, a very rewarding 35 years!

  4. I began my career as a Telecommunicator in February 1999. The most obvious changes over the years have been in technology, of course. We have gone from pen and paper record keeping to completely automated. Our automation includes computer systems with six monitors, three keyboards, and numerous interfaced software programs, such as CAD, Mapping, RMS, NCIC, EMD, EPD, EFD, paging and radio, etc. And, more being added or updated practically on a daily basis. When you take into account the technology utilized by the public masses and that which is demanded from within the industry, it is truly astonishing how our industry truly epitomizes the cliche “Adapt and Overcome.”

    The changes that have taken place over the years though, are not solely technological. The training and performance standards for Telecommunicators have gone from nearly nil, to very intense. The position that once was thought to require little education, skill or experience now requires a wide range of knowledge, skills, and abilities. The hiring processes now often include evaluations of pre-requisite knowledge, skills and abilities. Intense training programs followed by mandated continuing education and even opportunities for industry specific higher educational degrees. These are huge advancements that have taken place within the industry.

    I personally, have always loved being a Telecommunicator! I have been the front line Telecommunicator, the front line Shift Supervisor/Telecommunicator, and for the last six, or so, years I have been our Communications Training Officer and Compliance Manager. I did love being on shift and I have my mental journal of calls which I shall never forget, both good and bad. However, it was the Training bug that bit me at about the three or four year mark. I have focused my career on training Telecommunicators, developing, implementing and overseeing our agency training program and instructing training for many of the required industry specific topic areas. I have found that in the training arena I can “Be (part of) the Change I Wish to See in the World” – Gandhi

    I am truly blessed to have fallen into a career that has been very fullfilling. Yes, there are the hard times and bad calls, but I honestly feel that the good times and good calls absolutely outweigh the bad. God bless each and every one that chooses to serve their country, communities, and neighbors in this profession. It is a profession that only the most special people can perform.

  5. For me training and technology have been the biggest changes, with so many new and amazing things on the horizon. Today we are considered a profession, which is such an important part of our support system. Recognizing the amount of training that needs to take place to be an effective telecommunicator is very empowering. No longer (I hope) are we just handed a paper and pen and told to “write down what they said, tell them what they need to know, and call me if you need help.” Instead we receive training, technological assistance and other tools that are available to us. In our jurisdiction we have only had 9-1-1 since 2005 – it has been wonderful to be able to offer a single phone number for emergency services for our citizens, backed by technology that assists us in giving them the best possible service. Having been in public safety and dispatch for over 30 years, I’m excited to see what the future holds for us! Happy anniversary 9-1-1!!

Comments are closed.