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Angie Wieck, Published August 26 2012

It's My Job: Answering the call: Dispatch operator says dealing with stress a must in her job

FARGO – As a communications operator for the Red River Regional Dispatch Center, Angie Monroe processes 911 emergency and non-emergency calls for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical service agencies in Cass and Clay counties.

Not everyone has the skills needed to work in such a fast-paced and sometimes stressful environment, so the dispatch center uses a lengthy screening process when making hires. Applicants must pass a three-hour video-based skills test before being considered for an interview. They also must pass psychological, background and polygraph tests.

Monroe recently talked about additional job requirements and offered a glimpse into what it is like to work as a communications dispatcher.

Q: What kind of education or training is involved?

We have quite a lengthy training program here. Most of it is on the job, but we do have classes we need to take as well. We need to become NCIC (National Crime Information Center)-certified so we can use the teletype. That’s where we run vehicle plates, criminal histories and enter property as stolen or missing. We also need to be CPR- and EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatch)-certified. I think it’s probably 20 weeks’ worth of training and then we’re on probation for around a year. It does take a good three years to start to be comfortable.

How do you deal with the stress of the job?

It’s really not the job for you if it is a factor. Everybody has stressors, but if you’re the type of person who will take every phone call or situation you heard about throughout the day home with you, it’s probably not a good job for you.

We are a pretty tight group of people here and talk to each other a lot. We also have counseling available to us if we need it through The Village. There is also a PACT (Peer Assistance Counseling Team) available.

What is the call volume like?

It depends on the shift. It used to be where it was busier from 4 to 6 p.m. every day. … People are getting off work and getting in accidents, coming home and finding their house was burglarized, and things like that. Weekend nights are also pretty busy. It seems like we’ve been getting increasingly busier at all times of day though.

What would you want the public to know about your job?

We’re trained to do things very quickly and have a line of questions that we follow on a call. For instance, if we get a call about an accident, we are looking for certain information. … I think callers sometimes think we’re being short with them, but we just need to be fast. There are usually other calls on hold or radios that we’re also listening to as well so we don’t have time to talk.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The thing I like the best is knowing that it matters if I come to work every day. You definitely feel like you’re accomplishing something every day.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501