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College of the Redwoods offering dispatcher course

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EUREKA - It is a lifeline of any law enforcement agency.

“The dispatcher is the first person a citizen comes into contact with and they're the ones that will get the officers to where you need the help at,” Sandi Petersen, the Basic Law Enforcement Academy Coordinator, said.

If you dial 9-1-1, your call is directed to a center. The dispatch center for Eureka Police Department and Humboldt Bay Fire can answer some 300 calls within a day.

“Dispatchers are behind the scene heroes. A lot of times it is a thankless job. But it's a very rewarding job,” Michelle Reyna-Sanchez, the Support Services Manager for the dispatch center, said.

And now, College of the Redwoods is making the process of becoming a dispatcher a little more attainable. Beginning this spring semester, the college is offering course “AJ-170” Public Safety Dispatcher.

“What it does is gives people a really good understanding of our system and the way things work. A lot of times when people call 9-1-1 or call the police for help, they don't understand what happens after they make that phone call. This way, it kind of educates them and it also gives people a really strong appreciation of how hard a dispatchers job can be,” Petersen explained.

The college’s course comes at a time when our state is seeing a shortage of qualified dispatch applicants.

“This class will allow perspective students to be able to go out and apply at agencies and already have that certification. It will save the agency a lot of time because they are required actually to put a dispatcher through this course within their first year of employment,” Petersen said.

But that’s just the beginning. Dispatchers will continually go through training in the course of their career to be able to handle calls of crisis at any moment.

“Then from there, there's on the job training. There's also required emergency medical dispatch training that the dispatchers will receive. “It's very critical and it's very important that they keep up their training because the job is changing all of the time,” Reyna-Sanchez said.