Public safety telecommunicators at the Ottawa Police Department in Illinois handle all emergency 911 calls with Total Response CACH. Serving as the seat of LaSalle County, Ottawa has a population of just under 20,000 people.
The Ottawa Police Department strongly values training and preparedness. In addition to training each employee in the foundations of Total Response, call handlers routinely certify across disciplines including Emergency Medical, Fire Service, and Law Enforcement dispatch.
Ottawa also invests in a wide range of continuing education courses to help develop agency-wide expertise and their call handler’s careers. Agency leaders nurture this culture by recognizing and rewarding proactive employees who embrace continuing education opportunities.
On February 28, 2017, a massive system of devastating tornadoes touched down causing substantial damage throughout the area.
LaSalle County suffered damage to an estimated 13.5% of all standing structures, with the heaviest damage in Ottawa where fifty different structures suffered from either major damage or destruction.
A natural disaster’s chaos often produces a wide range of unconventional scenarios as callers struggle to comprehend rapidly changing situations. As the most user-friendly incident-specific protocol system on the market, Total Response provided Ottawa’s call handlers with the right mixture of guidance and freedom to adapt their response to each call’s specific incident.
Unlike other protocol systems that confine call handlers to cumbersome checklists and inside-the-box responses, Total Response allowed Ottawa’s call handlers to fully and consistently respond to each call’s needs quickly and accurately.
PowerPhone’s Total Response solution contributed to Ottawa’s success in many important ways. With a relationship spanning over five years, Ottawa has developed expertise in handling each call based on incident details and successfully prioritizing operations during the sudden call-volume surge. This helped Ottawa deliver consistent call-handling service that upholds their agency’s standard of care.
Tornadoes can strike anywhere, and in this case, it brought damage to the PSAP leadership’s personal property, delaying the supervisor’s arrival at the dispatch center during the incident. Because Total Response focuses on empowering each emergency call handler, the team was able to pull together and support the increased strain without adding additional stress up the line. And because each call handler felt supported in doing so, they did it without being asked.
Ottawa’s use of protocols combines with their emphasis on proactive training to create an agency-wide culture of empowerment. Such cultures generally lead to happier workplaces that encourage teamwork resulting in lower turnover rates, higher employee morale and a higher level of job satisfaction.
This was apparent in Ottawa’s 2017 Telecommunicator of the year acknowledgment. After witnessing the remarkable teamwork displayed during the February 28 tornadoes, the city declared the entire call center staff as recipients of the Telecommunicator of the Year designation.
Eddie Wielgopolan, Evidence & TC Supervisor described the staff’s preparedness for the crisis:
“When a disaster strikes, you realize the importance of training and team building. The volume of work the telecommunicators have dealt with both during and after the tornado was overwhelming. But they were not overwhelmed. They handled the multi-tasking with the agility of a juggler. They handled their calls with compassion and concern. They handled the multitude of agencies they spoke to with respect and professionalism. We are so proud of our team.”
The Ottawa Police Department uses Total Response exactly as it is designed to be used – as a call-handling solution that supports and grows their culture by connecting people, processes and technology in a way that empowers public safety.