TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - The first person to answer a 911 call is a dispatcher, who hears the good and devastating things as part of their day-to-day job operations. This is a difficult job to fill across the nation. However, the College of Southern Idaho is launching its first program for 911 dispatching and helping people learn the profession.
Twin Falls City dispatcher working (KMVT/Elenee Dao)
"Nobody move anybody," a caller said.
"911," the dispatcher responded.
"I've got an accident on the corner of Heyburn Avenue and Blue Lakes Blvd., a five car accident," the caller reported.
Tami Lauda, the communications manager for Twin Falls City dispatch, replayed a 911 call that came in the day of a tragic accident in June in Twin Falls.
"In the Heyburn and Blue Lakes accident we just had... All of our 911 lines were busy in under 10 seconds," Lauda said.
Those calls on that day were handled by two dispatchers, listening to different reports of an accident that left one dead.
"These guys are equally first responders and there is not an emergency that happens in this city that my crew doesn't touch first," Lauda said.
A crew that is currently short-staffed.
"It is incredibly difficult," she said of filling the positions. "Nationally, almost all centers are understaffed."
To help meet the need, the College of Southern Idaho launched an 11-week program to help those interested understand the job.
"They're going to how to handle a call, what information to obtain, how to stay calm and collected through that and get them ready for what's to come," said Alex Wolford, the workforce training coordinator with CSI.
Wolford said the class will be taught by a person who has 20 years of experience in the job. Students in the program will be able to get live experience by getting old calls and going through what a dispatcher would say in that situation.
"And say 'Hey, how would you handle this situation?' So, there is going to be that as much as possible and we’re also gong to have them partner with law enforcement as well as emergency services here," Woldford said.
Oftentimes, Lauda said applicants would go through training and then decide to leave.
"They'll say 'This isn't what we thought what it was and it's not going to work,'" she said.
The program could help those interested get a feel of what the job is really like.
"That's one of the reasons we're doing that class is because of the emotional preparedness that they want to go, before going through a strenuous training on the job," Woldford said.
From learning how to handle simple calls to the devastating ones, too.
"When you hear the things about Starbucks orders being wrong, so people call 911, we get those," Lauda said. "We get the 'I was at the Dollar Tree and I was unhappy with my service.' To people in the worst situations in their lives. People who have died. People who are in serious accidents."
Lauda said many might think the job is secretarial in a way, but it's not. She said a dispatchers job is difficult, but it's rewarding.
"People want to know they make a difference in the job they do, and I believe there is not one shift that goes by that these people don't make a difference for someone," she said.
Lauda said being a dispatcher is also a good job for someone who wants to be a first responder, but in a different way.
"Tongue-in-cheek, I say, if you don’t want to be spit on, thrown up on, all of those things, but you’re a first responder mentality, come to me, because it’s the same job," Lauda said.
The class starts in mid-August and goes until October and is held in the evenings.
For more information on the program, visit CSI's workforce development website