Promoting Longevity Within the Emergency Communications Center

By APCO Young Professionals Committee members 

A common problem across the nation in emergency communications centers (ECCs) is the retention of valuable employees. Upper management is routinely focused on figuring out new ways to recruit good employees to the field of public safety communications; however, the focus on retention of valuable employees, both new and seasoned, needs to be explored. How do leaders in the communications center promote longevity to avoid losing the valuable employees who are currently employed? In this article, APCO’s Young Professionals Committee has compiled several suggestions.


The first impression of the communications center for potential employees comes from upper management. Those who lead the center set the tone for potential new team members. For this reason, there must be true leaders within the ECC — people whom team members want to follow. Leaders should make sure that their team members are appreciated both verbally and by their actions. Reminders of how important and meaningful telecommunicators’ work is should be consistently relayed, especially in a field where they often are overlooked, not seen and go unrecognized for the work they do every day. Leaders also need to involve telecommunicators at all levels in decision-making when it’s appropriate. Their opinions need to be genuinely considered, especially in cases of changes that affect their daily duties. Leaders should also encourage telecommunicators to grow, learn and pursue their interests. Leaders should mold team members to one day take a leadership role. One of the most essential roles leaders play is to make sure they are creating a work environment that team members want to be a part of.

Work Environment

If the environment created for telecommunicators is one that they enjoy, longevity will promote itself. So what are some things that help create an environment that keeps employees around? The authors can speak from their own experiences about what has worked within their respective centers.

  1. Leaders need to prioritize a family environment within ECCs and ensure that the employees feel camaraderie both on the job and off. If additional assistance is needed, we urge the use of employee assistance programs (EAP) or peer support programs. Moreover, leaders and line-level staff should be encouraged to reach out to support each other in times of need, whether it is work-related or not.
  2. It is often said of public safety telecommunicators that we are heard but never seen because we don’t leave the confines of the ECC. Let telecommunicators know that they are appreciated. It may be as simple as telling them at the end of each shift, thank you for your hard work today. One day, it could be a random cookie platter or ice cream. Leaders should ensure everyone knows how appreciative they are of the staff’s daily hard work.
  3. It’s important things that leaders make the job fun, because this profession is heavy. The periods between calls shouldn’t be heavy too. Suggestions for livening things up include decorating everyone’s lockers, fun awards or a talking crystal ball or Magic 8 Ball to ask questions for which we have no answers. Consider small things to lighten the mood between calls.

Career Development and Interests

Upper management in ECCs should encourage their team members to pursue their interests and allow them to seek specialized opportunities that benefit them and the ECC. If budgets allow, send team members to conferences or specialized training. Conferences allow telecommunicators to learn about various topics while networking with others in the profession. If going to a conference is not doable, upper management should consider getting conference recordings to share. These usually cost less and will allow telecommunicators to view the sessions at their own pace. Specialized training allows telecommunicators to take or attend a class/training on a topic they are interested in, such as mental health crisis, sex trafficking, missing children, tactical dispatching, etc. Involvement in committees inside and outside the ECC should also be encouraged.

Outside the ECC, participation in national or state committees should be supported whenever possible. Internal committees such as public education, school education programs, events committees and more allow participation in special interests while benefiting the ECC. Support needs to be given to telecommunicators looking for growth within the ECC. Not only does this provide job development, but it promotes job satisfaction, which is vital in retaining valuable telecommunicators. Some ECCs have multiple levels of positions that encourage the growth of their team members. Examples are level 1 telecommunicator, level 2 telecommunicator, tactical telecommunicator, shift supervisor, QA team member, TAC positions and CAD specialist/administrator. These positions each provide valuable additional responsibilities or duties that can assist telecommunicators in expanding their career with future promotions by giving them valuable experiences. Additional support should be given to telecommunicators who wish to participate as mentees or mentors in a mentorship program.

Encouragement Pursuing Non-Work Related Interests

It is easy for telecommunicators to feel “stuck” within the four walls of an ECC and sometimes feel like they have a choice between working in emergency communications and leaving the field entirely. Introducing different opportunities for telecommunicators to explore roles outside of the center allows them to look to the future without feeling like they have to leave to start exploring. Most people who join emergency communications will not retire in it, and leaning into that actuality rather than resisting it can, counterintuitively, increase longevity. Exploring different opportunities and building up other skills can give a sense of perspective that reinforces longevity.

Consider a telecommunicator who, a few years into the field, is thinking of transitioning to a role unrelated to emergency communications. They may want to earn a degree in an IT-related field and see if there are IT opportunities within the same municipality. ECC leaders can either suppress that aspiration or encourage it. The telecommunicator is going to explore whether or not they have the support of their leadership. By having the outright support of their center, they don’t feel that remaining a telecommunicator is an impediment to their goals, and is in fact, the opposite. That telecommunicator can be given opportunities to shadow different parts of an IT department, make connections and network, and take training opportunities focusing on the more technical elements of emergency communications.

The telecommunicator appreciates support from their center and that increases their satisfaction on the job. They may ultimately find that they can apply those skills within the emergency communications industry or decide that the emergency telecommunications field was the right fit for them all along. At worst, if they transition, the emergency communications industry has an ambassador and ally who may support the industry.


While promoting the longevity of telecommunicators may seem like a daunting task, we suggest that it can be achieved in simple ways. Upper management should focus on creating an enjoyable work environment, promote career development via specialized training and involvement within the ECC, and telecommunicators in pursuit of non-work related interests. By doing all of these things, management can promote longevity within the ECC and sustain it effectively long-term.

APCO Young Professionals Committee members Whitney Miller, Amanda Collins, Jeremy Schwartzman, Kayla Bacon, Jessica Milliken and Lisa Rapitis contributed to this story.