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Communication key for graduates
Wednesday 24 January 2018 – 3:00 PM

The newest intake of Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) triple zero operators are well equipped to handle life or death phone calls thanks to a brand new intensive training course.

The gruelling six week program is designed to find the right people suited to the fast paced and often highly emotional job of an emergency call operator.

Communications Systems Officer Michelle Hoskin, who works in the Communications Centre (ComCen), was part of the recruitment team and says they look for a special type of person.

“When you’re speaking on the phone to someone who is distressed, angry or scared you need to have the ability to gain their trust, keep them calm and issue instructions, and we’ve only got our voices to rely on so that’s a huge skill,” she said.

“We were looking for applicants who could multi-task, be empathic, work autonomously, be good at recalling details and handle stress well.”

The triple zero operators are known as Communications System Officers and they field triple zero calls and obtain vital information from callers so they can despatch fire and emergency services crews and appliances to assist.

The recruitment process is evidence based and includes behavioural testing, aptitude tests and team based exercises, as well as one-on-one interviews.

Previously the successful applicants proceeded to a three week classroom based course but as of 2017 a new six week course was introduced focussing on real life incidents in a simulated environment.

The first group graduated on November 24 then spent two weeks shadowing other operators before taking calls while supervised.

One of those graduates, Edward Kros, said he was always interested in working in emergency services and decided to apply after finishing a commerce degree and postgraduate teaching degree.

“I like being able to help people and make a difference in the community,” he said.

“You can have anything from a small mulch fire right up to someone whose house is fully engulfed in flames and they’re very distraught, screaming and crying, and it’s your job to reassure them there’s help on the way.”

The second group of graduates completed their training on December 29 and will begin working in the ComCen in coming weeks.