LAKE COUNTY, Ohio — A groundbreaking new training program just launched here in Northeast Ohio to help the people who are there for you when you need them most.
Before now, 911 dispatchers could only learn through on-the-job training lasting as long as a year. The new Emergency Services Telecommunicator program at Auburn Career Center will help them hit the ground running.
It's the first of its kind to be certified in Ohio, because it had to be. Captain Mike Warner from the Lake County Sheriff's Office, one of the instructors, told News 5 "our training was taking so long with on-the-job training."
Potential dispatchers were hired with no experience and in some cases learned the hard way the work wasn't a good fit.
"You'd get them trained about two or three months and then 'Oh, I can't take this,'" Capt. Warner explained. "We just didn't realize how difficult it was to multi-task and handle multiple agencies such as our telecommunicators do today."
The program was designed from the ground up by eight regional centers. It cuts on-the-job training down to just two months. It's built to make sure only the best of the best are on the other end of the line when you're having what could be the worst day of your life.
"They have to be flexible, they have to be resourceful, they have to be able to shift their focus very quickly," explained Mentor Communications Supervisor Nina Lombardo-Mylott. She spent 13 years working as a dispatcher before taking on her current role and says when that phone rings, anything could happen. "They could answer a 911 call from somebody who isn't breathing and they're giving CPR instructions. And the caller is hysterical. They hang up their call and immediately pick up a phone call from somebody who's maybe an elderly citizen who wants to tell their story."
Lombardo-Mylott says this work isn't just a job, it's a calling. With all the technological advances in the field, she believes it's well-suited to younger people looking for a promising career. But some of the same skills will always be required.
"You have to have people skills, you have to have a desire to serve and a desire to help. You have to have empathy. If you don't have all that, all the computer skills in the world aren't going to make you right for this job," she said.
You can learn more about the program here.
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