911 operators can mean the difference between life and death during shootouts, fires, medical emergencies and more.
Now, a new, more realistic training program is coming online at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy that teachers hope will breed better dispatchers.
These days the men and women who answer emergency calls and send help count on computers to track addresses and forward notes to deputies via in-car computers.
Until now, training at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy has consisted of a phone and a notepad, but not anymore. The Leon County Sheriff's Office has donated pricey computer software that makes the training a much closer match to what really happens in a modern day dispatch center.
Wes Brigmon, instructor and LCSO Communications Officer, says, "It'll give the student the idea of what they're actually going into and what the agency is going to expect of them, to be able to collect information from the caller and put it into a system that'll disseminate it to the units."
Carla Whitley, instructor and a TPD dispatcher, adds, "This CAD system has been developed to be very generic so it'll be easier for them to visualize themselves in a workplace setting."
The first students to use this system will be here next month and instructors will be able to monitor their progress on tiny monitors.
In the business they call it CAD, Computer Aided Dispatch, but for citizens in distress it means deputies may reach your home sooner with a better idea of what to expect when they arrive.
The dispatch training will be available to communications officers at all agencies. Right now it's a 40-hour course, but plans are in the works for much more in-depth training.