Editor, Times-Union:

My name is Heather Zentz. I was a 911 dispatcher for 26 years. My first seven years were with the Indiana State Police. I served two of those years with ISP at General Headquarters, where I was in charge of the training for 118 State Police dispatchers. The remaining 19 years, l was with Kosciusko Central Dispatch. While there, I both dispatched and trained dispatchers.

It has come to my attention that there are dispatchers at Kosciusko County that are not certified as EMDs (Emergency Medical Dispatchers), which to me is both disheartening and alarming. Therefore, I have decided to speak out. An EMD certification allows the dispatcher to give medical assistance over the phone (i.e. CPR Instructions, childbirth, strokes, etc.).

According to APCO - the Association of Public Communications Officers (which is the organization that certifies/recertifies dispatchers) - it is required that they have 24 hours of Continuing Dispatch Education (CDE) every two years. To help dispatch centers that don’t have a large training budget, APCO provides training articles in their monthly periodicals which are worth one  hour of CDE. All a dispatcher has to do is read the article and take a quiz to earn an hour of CDE every month. This will also allow them to renew their certification every two years. There are other ways to earn these points, including attending seminars or helping out with training at police and/or EMS events.

The reason I am explaining the above, is because the County, the Sheriff’s Dept., as well as the dispatcher involved, can be sued should an individual die or receive serious bodily harm, in an emergency situation, where the family looks into this and decides to sue.

Since leaving Indiana State Police in 2001, I was subpoenaed to testify in court in just this type of situation. The case was lost and both the State of Indiana and the former dispatcher were sued. If a dispatcher is certified and follows the program, APCO will defend them in court. However, again, if they aren’t certified it can be damaging to the county, as well as the dispatcher involved, as APCO will not assist them in court proceedings.

In my honest opinion, the possibility of dispatchers not being recertified in EMD, as well as not being certified as trainers for new dispatchers, is frightening, disturbing and dangerous. If true, it needs addressed before something irreversible happens.

Heather Zentz

Bremen, via email