SERESA to offer Citizens Academy

Residents can learn about 911 emergency dispatch operations

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Sara Kandel | C&G Newspapers | Published January 16, 2013

ROSEVILLE — They are the first to respond when you’re hurt, sick or in the middle of an emergency.

With the request to “please state the nature of your emergency,” they’re the first to send help to your home, neighborhood or workplace.

But what happens between the time a call is placed and when help arrives is often a mystery to those in the midst of a crisis.

Now the South East Regional Emergency Services Authority (SERESA) is hoping to change that with its first Citizens Academy, which will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, Feb. 21 to April 4.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Cherie Bartram, executive director of SERESA. “There’s a lot of unknowns about 911 and just basic 911; there’s a lot of things that people don’t really understand about it.”

SERESA is a combined emergency dispatch center for the cities of St. Clair Shores, Roseville and Eastpointe that began operations in December 2010.

The academy will be free, but there will be an application process that will include a background check.

“They’ll be in our dispatch center, so we’ll have to be careful,” said Bartram.

The classes will cover such things as why dispatchers ask the questions they do, new technology and how much the profession has changed throughout the years.

“We are the first responders,” Bartram said. “Nobody calls 911 when they’re having a good day. The good calls are, ‘I’m having a baby,’ (but) … they don’t normally want to be having a baby in the backseat of the car.”

The supervisors of SERESA and Bartram will lead the classes, with guest speakers brought in, as well, to cover topics such as the different areas of dispatching. Those participating may also get to shadow a dispatcher and watch calls coming in and going out.

“We’re anxious to show the community who we are,” Bartram said.

“I think it is imperative that we help educate the public on what it is we do so they may have a better understanding of what takes place during their time of crisis,” said SERESA Dispatch Supervisor Kevin Poole in an email.

He explained that sometimes callers become frustrated answering the dispatchers’ questions because they don’t know what is going on and why the questions are so important.

“We hope to be able to teach them step-by-step what happens, what the reasons are for the questions we ask, and to show them that many, many things occur simultaneously during their call,” he said.

“Most people get their education on law enforcement from television, but it’s much more complicated than that,” said Roseville Police Chief James Berlin. “On television, a 911 call takes seconds and the mystery is solved in 28 minutes, but in real life, we have to collect as much information as possible from the caller, get search warrants and investigate, and it takes a lot longer than 28 minutes.”

“That’s why citizens academies are great,” Berlin continued. “They give people the chance to learn how it really works, and it’s always better to have a more educated public. The more the public understands about what we do, the less chances there are for misunderstandings.”

Poole said anyone who wants to become more informed or more involved would be a good fit for the academy so they can share the information with friends and family.

“The more people we can reach, the better,” he said.

Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane agreed, saying that anyone willing to learn should participate in the academy.

“Citizen academies provide a focused insight to those residents who want to truly understand how their governments work and are willing to spend time to hear directly from the professionals that operate local services and programs daily,” he said.

“I support any such educational efforts, as it is more than show and tell; it may, in fact, result in the active participation of a resident helping not only themselves, but their neighbors or our public personnel to help everyone in the community.”

For more information and an application, visit