The APCO Young Professionals Committee is proud to recognize Ben Smith as our young professional spotlight. He was nominated for being a great role model to others, regardless of their age or years of service in public safety.
Starting as a frontline telecommunicator, he is now the director of his center. Ben has helped his agency achieve APCO’s Agency Training Certification, as well as earned his own RPL and ENP certifications. He also currently serves as a mentor to other young professionals across the state, is active in Oklahoma’s APCO and NENA chapters, and on the Conference Committee for the Oklahoma Public Safety Conference.
Ben has been in public safety telecommunications for 13 years, although has had connections to public safety all of his life. “I grew up in the public safety field with my dad being a firefighter,” he said, adding “I enjoyed the family that you become.”
“Once I got involved, I enjoyed it. I would hang around dispatch and when the position opened, the supervisor at the time asked if I wanted the job so I took it.”
Ben came to dispatch right out of high school. “It wasn’t on my radar to stay in as a career because I was finishing college and planned to pursue my master’s,” he said. When asked what made him stay, he said “I love what I call “organized chaos” when it gets super busy—phones ringing constantly, units all out on calls, and more keep coming in. Each day is different, and I never know what it is going to be like.”
Speaking about why people leave, he mentioned, “Shift work, lack of leadership, burn-out, and lack of acknowledgement or help.” He believes that reclassification of the profession from a clerk to a career public safety professional and “more public education about the profession itself” are needed in order to attract and keep employees.
Asked how to keep young professionals, he said, “Young professionals bring assets to the dispatch environment such as asking more questions and bringing different viewpoints to the table. We’re more open to change sometimes. Agencies can engage in the development of young professionals by allowing them to be assigned different tasks, such as updating emergency contacts, validations, etc. Young professionals need responsibility to feel purpose.”
Ben’s advice for a new dispatcher? “Don’t give up. Ask for help. It can be overwhelming at first, but you cannot let yourself give up. Try and try again.”
Given a chance to speak to everyone in the profession, he would say “Don’t take your position for granted. Always try to better yourself and learn more. If you’re done learning, then you’re done with your career.”
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