During more routine moments, public safety professionals labor well out of the public eye and, often, with limited resources and insufficient support.
Alexandria, VA (Vocus) February 23, 2009
The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International today released a follow-up report to its Project RETAINS (Responsive Efforts to Assure Integral Needs in Staffing), which finds the national telecommunicator turn-over rate at 19 percent, an increase of three percent since the initial study conducted in 2005 and higher than the better-known turn-over rates of nurses and teachers. The report also includes highly sought-after guidelines to estimate the appropriate staffing levels for dispatchers.
"Too often it takes catastrophic events to shed light on the urgent contributions public safety communications work makes to our nation's well being," APCO International President Chris Fischer said. "During more routine moments, public safety professionals labor well out of the public eye and, often, with limited resources and insufficient support."
Seeking to assess the conditions under which communications centers are employed, APCO International established Project RETAINS, which resulted in a 2005 report and the Project RETAINS toolkit. This second Project RETAINS study, Staffing and Retention in Public Safety Communications Centers: A Follow-up Study, sought to extend APCO International's knowledge of communications center staffing issues not addressed in the first study and to gauge the degree to which Project RETAINS has proven useful.
This report examined communications centers' retention rates, employees' organizational commitment, and employees' psychological distress. Despite the broad differences between centers of different size, location and type, a number of patterns emerged in this study that hold relevance for the nation's communications centers. First, the overwhelming majority (83 percent) of centers have experienced an increase in the number of dispatched calls in the previous three years. In addition, rates of retention are significantly affected by the hourly salary which starting employees receive and the flexibility of work schedules. Further, the findings draw attention to the need that employees express for greater support, recognition, and appreciation, whether from their supervisors and center directors or from the public at large. Finally, communications centers that have used the Project RETAINS toolkit indicated that retention had significantly increased over the past three years.
"Project RETAINS was created to provide our organization with a better understanding of the issues experienced by our members and effective ways to address them and, by those standards, we have succeeded," Fischer said. "However, we continue to battle with the goal of awareness and truly believe that full success will not be realized until the public has a greater understanding of and appreciation for the work of these talented and dedicated professionals."
The full report of this study is free for APCO International members and can be downloaded at http://www.apcointl.com/new/commcenter911/retains_at_a_glance.php. Members of the press interested in receiving a copy of the report or talking with someone about the findings should contact Courtney McCarron Hastings at mccarronc(at)apco911.org. A summary of the report is available to the public at http://www.apcointl.com/new/commcenter911/retains_at_a_glance.php. For more information on Project RETAINS, visit http://www.apcointl.com/new/commcenter911/retains.php.
About APCO International
The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to the enhancement of public safety communications. APCO International serves the professional needs of its 15,000 members worldwide by creating a platform for setting professional standards, addressing professional issues and providing education, products and services for people who manage, operate, maintain and supply the communications systems used by police, fire and emergency medical dispatch agencies throughout the world. For more information, visit http://www.apcointl.org.
Courtney McCarron Hastings