You answer the phone and the caller on the other end is frantic. Maybe there was a car accident. Someone has broken into a sleeping resident’s house. Or worse, a shooting.
It’s now your job to make sure a police car is contacted and dispatched and to ensure the person on the other end, as well as yourself, remains calm.
“One time, I had a woman who witnessed her husband shoot himself in the head in the living room,” Avon Lake Police dispatcher Libby Jindra said. “She was hysterical. It took almost a minute to get her to calm down where I could tell what happened.”
Jindra, a dispatcher since 2000, said one of the most important parts of the job is remaining calm.
“We get intense calls, severe calls people of people in anguish,” Jindra said. “We need to keep them on the line, keep them calm and get as much information so police aren’t going into a call blind.”
Until the beginning of November, the Avon Lake police maintained four dispatchers, who rotated three on dispatch and one on record’s duty for a six-month stint.
Jindra’s father, Bill Jindra, a retired officer who came back as a dispatcher, fully retired in November, leaving an opening at the department.
“It’s a full-time position with benefits,” Avon Lake Police Chief Dave Owad said. “It’s a civil service position so it’s a contract position and you’re part of the union.”
Dispatchers are responsible for all incoming calls, including non-emergency. Owad admits most calls are informational, such as people who want to notify the police of non-emergency situations, loose dogs or what to do if they lost an item of value.
Still, the job can be stressful.
Owad said the ideal dispatcher would be capable of remaining calm and be able to get clear and concise information to relay to responding officers.
“I think the most stressful part of the job is multi-tasking,” Owad said. “It can be very stressful.”
Jindra recalls being flooded with 15-20 calls about a significant accident at a major Avon Lake intersection. It soon became apparent that although improbable, a second accident had occurred nearby.
“Eventually we figured out there were two separate accidents,” she said.
Jindra said the job has its rewards.
“The best part is knowing I helped someone,” she said.
The worst part?
“Shift work is difficult,” Jindra said. “Every 4-5 weeks we change shifts.”
For her, trying to adjust to the night shift, 11 p.m. – 7 a.m., can be trying. Other shifts at 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Applications accepted through Dec. 14
Owad is hoping to get a quality pool of applicants applying for the position. The deadline to apply is Dec. 14. A two-hour audio exam will be given by the city’s Civil Service department on Jan. 12.
The full job description is located online at the city’s website. It also includes calling mutual aid from other cities when needed and giving medical information to those in life-threatening situations.
Some certifications, such as LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System), CRIS (crime reporting) and CPR, must be maintained. Dispatchers must hold a valid driver’s license, be 21 and have a high school diploma or equivalent.
A physical exam, polygraph test and psychological test are also required.
And although the station’s state-of-the-art “communications center” looks daunting, Owad said dispatchers are thoroughly trained and the system isn’t too hard to learn.
Applications may be obtained on-line at www.avonlake.org or in-person during normal business hours (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.) at the Avon Lake Municipal Building, 150 Avon Belden Road, 2nd Floor, Avon Lake, Ohio All applications are due to the Commission no later than 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.
A 2-hour uninterruped audio examination will be given at Avon Lake High School, Room 114, on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 beginning at 9:30 a.m.
A $25 non-refundable filing fee is required when the application is returned. The fee can be paid in the form of a money order, cashier’s check or certified check payable to the City of Avon Lake.