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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Reclassification Efforts

As most of you know, the May 7th deadline to gather 100,000 e-signatures for the White House petition is quickly approaching and we barely halfway to our goal of 100,000 signatures.  I have to wonder how we could have 5,874 PSAPs in the United States (according to NENA, as of 2017) and over 100,000 dispatchers working (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014) yet we can’t gather 100,000 signatures on a petition that tells the White House that we, as emergency service dispatchers and 911 call takers, should be classified as a first responder position rather than a clerical position.  Our industry has come so far from when we were just the glorified secretary for the agencies we served, we are public safety professionals in our own right, so why can’t we throw our support behind a movement that is seeking that recognition? 

I ask that you think about what a reclassification would mean to you and, if you support it, explain that to your friends and family and ask them to sign the petition.  A reclassification, to me, means the start of a shift in perception for what we do.  Day in and day out, hour after hour, weekends, holidays, every day my team in dispatch is available to help shoulder the burden of the worst day of somebody’s life.  They are ready to offer help, emotional support, a calm, professional voice while getting this person the help that they need.  Then they stand by ready to help the helpers.  The questions we ask are key to their success and safety – both in the investigatory phase and the prosecutorial phase.

If we are successful in our reclassification efforts does that mean that we will immediately get the pay and acknowledgement we deserve for the stressful role we play in our communities?  No, it does not.  But does it mean that there is a shift in the conversation that sets the foundation for these changes to be made?  Absolutely, in my opinion it does.  How can we ask the powers that be in our local jurisdictions to provide the pay and benefits that we deserve as part of the first responder community if we can’t even get behind a movement for us to be classified that way?  How do we expect to recruit and retain public safety professionals that are expected to operate with increased expectations and pressures without compensating them justly for it?  This job is not getting easier.  We are in the midst of the greatest change to 911 services since its implementation and part of what needs to change is how we are classified. 

I’ll step down off of my soap box now and simply ask that, if you haven’t already, go and sign the petition.  It is easy and quick – and I’ll tell you from my personal experience, putting your valid email address on the petition so they can confirm that you are real does not expose you to scam emails (I signed several weeks ago and haven’t seen anything of the sort).  Then please share the petition with your friends, family, public safety partners, and your community  and ask them to take the time to support the valuable role you play and to sign the petition that will set the stage for this career to be recognized and classified appropriately.  Even if present day you doesn’t understand it, I’m confident that future you will be thankful for the reclassification and the benefits it will bring.

Both the Kansas Chapter of APCO page and the APCO International page on Facebook have graphics and the link to share this petition (please go and like both pages if you haven’t yet) to help you share your story with your network of people.  I also have a sample letter provided by APCO International to send out to friends and family requesting their support and if you would like that sent to you then please email me at elora.forshee@sedgwick.gov.  And finally, the website to sign the petition is https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/9-1-1-professionals-should-be-recognized-protecting-and-saving-lives

Respectfully yours,
Elora Forshee

2017 Kanas APCO President

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reclassification Rumors

Greetings,

I have been made aware of some misconceptions about the impact the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) issue will have on the communications officers that might be preventing folks from signing the APCO White House petition, specifically that some people were reluctant to sign the petition because they were under the impression that the reclassification could result in a loss of overtime and other benefits.

Let me be clear, the SOC revision has absolutely NO impact on federal, state, or overtime rules, labor-relations agreements, retirement benefits, or pay.

To quote the APCO Government Relations Office, "The SOC does not have a direct legal relationship to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Reclassification in the SOC would not, by itself, open the door for different treatment under FLSA."

To quote from the Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics website at Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System "The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is used by Federal statistical agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data."

I'm not sure how the misconceptions have formed, but please let me assure you that APCO is simply trying to promote the profession by securing the recognition and respect that public safety communications officers/telecommunicators deserve. I would not support something that would hurt our profession and the professionals that have, for too long, been overlooked and underappreciated.

Right now, crossing guards, and casino camera monitors are classified as a protective service, while those of us behind the console are classified as clerical support, along with post office mail sorters and stock clerks. 

Please do not allow rumor and misinformation keep you from supporting this important effort. If the Department of Labor does not recognize the important contributions that call takers and dispatchers make to our communities, it will be 2028 before the issue is considered again. If you have resisted supporting the SOC reclassification effort by signing the APCO White House petition, please ask yourself if you are willing to go another 10 years without the recognition and respect you deserve. 

If you haven't already, please, sign the petition, so that we can bring the issue to the attention of folks at the White House and get them to FINALLY recognize 9-1-1 professionals for our service to our communities - protecting and saving lives.


https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/9-1-1-professionals-should-be-recognized-protecting-and-saving-lives

Regards,
Elora Forshee
2017 Kansas APCO President

Friday, April 14, 2017

Telecommunicator's Week 2017

I had the honor of spending the beginning of National Telecommunicator’s Week at the Kansas APCO Conference surrounded by other public safety professionals.  I listened to stories of excellent work being done throughout the state of Kansas and marveled at all that we do from behind the console.  911 Dispatchers, by nature, are a highly adaptable, resilient group of public safety professionals and are most definitely the heroes behind the scenes.  I hope that the communities you serve showed you love and appreciate this week for all of the sacrifices you make in their honor.

I want to personally congratulate all of the award winners that were recognized by their peers for their excellent work in the field of telecommunications –

2017 Telecommunicator of the Year – Heather Gerhardt, Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office
2017 Telecommunicator of the Year Runner Up – Deidra Messenger, Sedgwick County Emergency Communications
2017 Line Supervisor of the Year – Nicholas Hill, Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office
2017 Director of the Year – Amy Lierz, Nemaha County Sheriff’s Office
2017 Team of the Year – Harvey County Communications (team members include Darren Ryan, Monica Leonard, Brody Flavin, Matt Regier, Cathy Rankin, Liz Sauerwein, Josh Bieghler, Shirley Wellington, Tayler Bush, Heather Weber, Colleen Riley, Melissa Farlow, Stephanie Bergquist, Ken Jobe, Courtney Becker, Shannon Robbins, Nicky Van Horn, Ryan Olbricht, Jason Heppler, Rachel Corn, Molly Redinger, and Don Gruver)

The nominations for these people were awe inspiring, to say the least.  It is truly reflective of the work being done throughout the state of Kansas by dispatchers who do amazing things daily without much public acknowledgment because excellence is simply expected of us.  We work a profession where there is very little room for error and we rise to the occasion daily and just make stuff happen. 

One of my favorite 911 quotes is “always remember that it’s your voice in the darkness that gives hope to those who really need it.”  What you do is powerful.  I don’t know what else to say besides thank you. 

Elora Forshee,

2017 Kansas APCO President

Monday, March 13, 2017

Conference Keynote Speakers

We are getting so excited about the conference coming up in Overland Park! It is less than a month away! Our conference lineup is looking great. Here is some information about our keynote speakers and the conference schedule has been posted on our website. We sincerely hope to see you there!

“Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” – Leadership is more than being an appointed supervisor. Everyone in your communications center has the possibility for leadership. This one of a kind leadership class will address leadership at all levels of your organization and provide attendees with ways to improve the leadership in your communications center. By Tony Harrison

Tony Harrison – Tony is the founder of The Public Safety Group. Tony has spent more than twenty five years in communications, working in small centers to major metropolitan communications centers. He is a Certified Emergency Number Professional, has a BA in Criminal Justice and a MA in Political Science and Urban Affairs. During his time in the communications center he has served as a Call Taker, Dispatcher, Communications Training Officer and Communications Training Coordinator. He was also a Communications Supervisor for 6 years. Tony has been awarded numerous letters of commendations during his service for his professionalism and attention to duty during an officer involved shooting, the federal building bombing and service on numerous department boards. Tony was the on-duty shift supervisor during the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995 when 168 people were killed during the largest domestic terrorist event in US history. Tony served as a reserve Deputy Sheriff for the Canadian County Sheriff's Office in Oklahoma for more than 20 years and retired at the rank of Captain. This gives him a very unique insight into BOTH sides of the radio - the needs of the officer on the ground and the demands on communication personnel. During his service he was awarded the Medal of Valor for his involvement during a fatal officer involved shooting of a homicide, kidnapping and rape suspect. Tony has been active in both APCO and NENA serving as a state chapter president and numerous committees at a national level including the Professional Development Committee, Project 35, project 37, Homeland Security Task Force, policies, procedures & training committee and currently serve on the Commercial Advisor Council. In 2012 he was awarded life membership in APCO international.

Dealing with Burnout & Managing Stress By Dr. Jenny Prohaska


Dr. Jennifer Prohaska – Dr. Prohaska is a native Kansan. She completed her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kansas in 2013. She completed her residency at University of Kansas Medical Center with a specialty in neuro-rehabilitation medicine, where her primary focus was addressing the immediate psychological needs of individuals undergoing major physical and emotional trauma in an inpatient medical setting. After completion of her residency, also in 2013, she was hired as a Clinical Faculty Member at the University of Kansas Cancer Centers where her duties were to address the needs of terminally ill individuals with a variety of cancers, and specializing in brain cancer. In late 2013 she was presented with the opportunity to return to a trauma medicine-related practice when she entered private practice as a police and public safety psychologist. Since that time she has worked primarily with individuals in law enforcement and the fire service in both clinical and educational settings. She enjoys complex casework that still allows her to use her medical knowledge while helping people return to their respective service positions. She very much enjoys teaching, risk assessment and evaluations, leadership coaching, and using psychological knowledge and skill to help organizations address complex personnel problems and create positive organizational change.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Personal Invitation to the Spring APCO Conference

Greetings,

First, please allow me to introduce myself.  I am Elora Forshee and I have the honor of serving as your 2017 Kansas APCO President.  I am the Director of Sedgwick County 911 in Wichita, Kansas, leading a staff of 95 amazing call takers, dispatchers, supervisors, and support personnel – truly, I am in awe of them daily.  I have been with Sedgwick County for 12 years, starting as a dispatcher and working my way up through the organization.  I have coordinated the hosting of several APCO conferences and am serving my first term on the APCO Board.  I am excited to have a role, albeit a small one, in helping dispatchers to develop into the public safety professionals that their very important job demands them to be.

If you are not aware, our spring APCO conference is right around the corner, April 10-12, in Overland Park, Kansas and I want to personally invite you and your fellow dispatchers and team members to attend.  I have attended APCO conferences as a front line dispatcher, as a Supervisor, and now as a Director and have found value at every step.  As a dispatcher I found that I brought back tools that not only fortified me in this tough job but helped me to build morale and enthusiasm in my department.  As a supervisor I learned ways to help my team to stay strong and diligent in helping the citizens and field personnel we serve.  As a Director I am able to get a view of the big picture beyond our county lines to help me stay on top of industry trends and keep my elected officials informed.  And at every level, I always appreciate the networking that I do at an APCO conference.  I love to have an issue and to be able to reach out to other 911 folks in the state and find out what they are doing to combat the same issue – I’m a believer in not reinventing the wheel and sharing ideas and information. 

I know that cost is always a factor but the cost to send an employee to a state APCO conference is relatively low ($60 for members, $75 for non-members – this includes lunch and dinner on Tuesday and lunch on Wednesday).  I understand that there are hotel costs and costs to cover dispatch while that employee is gone, I’m not immune from any of that.  I also understand that it is increasingly expensive to run a comm center.  But please don’t forget the return on our investment when we train and develop our employees.  Study after study has shown that investing in the education of our employees creates a happy workplace and encourages retention with employees – two issues that we are continuously combating in our arena. 

One last thing, and I thank you for entertaining this long email in your busy day, about the spring APCO conference.  This is the time of year where we award our Telecommunicator of the Year, Line Supervisor of the Year, Director of the Year, and the Team of the Year.  Now I know that it doesn’t take much effort to think of something that somebody on your team has done that has set them apart as a superstar over the past year.  I often think that I wish I had more money or job incentives or something to throw at my team for the hard work that they do and that’s just not feasible.  What is feasible, though, is for me to take 15 minutes to fill out a nomination form and get them the recognition they deserve.  Please don’t overlook this opportunity to reward your team.  Here is the link to find those easy to complete nominations http://www.ksapco.org/conference-registration-and-payment.html.  


I hope to see you and somebody from your team at the spring conference!  If I can do anything to serve you please let me know.  For more conference information and to register please visit http://www.ksapco.org/conference-registration-and-payment.html.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Night Social - Kansas APCO Conference - October 17

For those joining us at the Fall APCO Conference, which I hope is most of you, don't forget we have the VOICE Products, INC. Monday Night Social on October 17th at 1900 hours. The party is onsite and will be a lot of fun with entertainment provided by DJ Cain, including games, contests, and prizes throughout the evening! Please join us for food, drinks and fun as we celebrate all the behind-the-scenes heroes!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

FREE Conference Registration – Fall 2016

The Kansas Chapter of APCO is giving away two free registrations to the 2016 Fall Conference in Wichita KS, October 17th through the 19th.

If you are the 100th or 125th registrant your conference registration fee will be waived. 

Our host, Sedgwick Co, has an exceptional conference planned.  It starts with a pre-conference workshop on Building a Training Program.  This pre-conference workshop is FREE to paid conference registrants.  Tuesday we will kick off the conference with Dr. Kelly R. Rasmussen and Nix the Negativity in the Workplace.  Wednesday we will hear about the Excel Active Shooter incident in Hesston KS followed by several outstanding breakout sessions.

We will also be conducting Chapter Elections on Wednesday October 19th.  As of this post we have two very qualified candidates running for 2nd Vice President and one qualified for the Chapter’s new Treasures position.  Candidate bios can be found on our Facebook page.

The conference schedule is attached and posted on the Chapter website at www.ksapco.org/conference-registration-and-payment.html

The Chapter will also be doing a fundraiser for the APCO Sunshine Fund details to follow in a few days.  Information about the APCO Sunshine Fund can be found here: www.apcointl.org/donate.html

Also be looking for a special announcement October 1st


REMEMBER - Early Registration Ends September 30th, 2016