Yesterday was the end of my first week. It was an odd week, to be sure, with two days studying at home as our agency didn’t feel it safe to come in with protesters, looters, police, and the National Guard all ready to mix it up. Then two days in the office where it seemed like nothing happened while simultaneously dumping a waterfall of information down my throat.
Odd, to say the least.
Plus, training during the time of COVID-19 means that a lot of the procedures are modified. For example, our agency normally does 12 weeks of “academy,” which is basically classroom learning coupled with one-on-one training. At the end of that, rookie dispatchers will have passed a couple of certifying tests and be released as call takers.
Except, right now, much of the training staff is working from home due to the coronavirus. Ditto for the admin staff. So, a lot of the normal on-boarding activities get skipped entirely and we got the bare minimum. Similarly, we got a lot of material to learn, but we’re pretty much expected to be self-studying ninjas. So, the last two days in the office were spent watching the live CAD systems and seeing what the calltakers were doing whilst getting new chapters for our binders and new drills to work on solo.
Even in training, however, there can only be so many people in the training room, so the other rookie and myself are often in there alone, unless another pair of dispatchers need the room to train, in which case we take our masked selves and either go out on the floor to observe call takers or we go to another place to sit down and study.
Our training coordinator told us that we weren’t going to get the regular experience. Not only are they in the midst of revamping the curriculum, but they can’t hold normal academy sessions. We can ask all the questions we want via email, but we need to adjust to seeking out information on our own rather than waiting for it to be delivered to us. Going to force us to take a more active part in our education.
That’s all great, but I personally like some structure when I learn. Self-guided studies can work fine within a narrow scope. Emergency telecommunications is an unbelievably broad scope, though.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I want. Public safety careers require you to go with the flow, no matter how awkward/difficult/uncomfortable it may be. I knew that coming into it, but I think acknowledging these feelings will help me as I move forward.
We’re also quite distant from each other in the office right now, too. Literally. Diving into 911 dispatching during the middle of a pandemic is quite the experience.
Masks are everywhere. Hand sanitizer bottles are on every flat surface like health potions in a game. Thermometer guns await you at every entrance. Trainees have to use the restrooms and kitchen on the other side of the building, regular staff can ONLY use the regular restrooms and kitchen.
I’m off for the next four and a half days as my new schedule has me working 2100-0700 starting Tuesday night. Happily, I will be paired up with a veteran trainer, who will work with me and help me get all of this stuff into my brain. Looking forward to working with her. All the staff I’ve talked to so far have been great about answering questions, even out on the call center floor. The culture seems pretty welcoming and supportive and I can’t help but think I really lucked out when my PD job froze up and I ended up here.