Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Communications Administrator Angela Elsey demonstrates a 911 call. In July, the completion of a new dispatch training center was announced in Mount Clemens.

Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Communications Administrator Angela Elsey demonstrates a 911 call. In July, the completion of a new dispatch training center was announced in Mount Clemens.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

Macomb County introduces new dispatch training center

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published August 11, 2021


MACOMB COUNTY — A simulation of a 911 call, with one person acting as a 911 caller and another as a dispatcher, was one capability demonstrated at a July 22 Macomb County announcement of a new dispatch training center for the county.

The center is located at the Macomb County Emergency Management and Communications Technical Services Building on Dunham Road in Mount Clemens, near the Macomb County Jail.

It will provide “innovative training programs to police, fire and EMS dispatch workers through live scenarios and state-of-the-art technology,” a press release states.

The training center will service all dispatch centers in Macomb County, including the Macomb County Sheriff’s Dispatch; the South East Regional Emergency Services Authority, or SERESA; and dispatch centers in Warren, Shelby Township, Chesterfield Township, Richmond, Romeo, Center Line and Utica,” the release notes.  

The project cost nearly $140,000, which was paid for with $70,000 from the Macomb County Sheriff’s 911 Dispatch Fund and $70,000 in grant funding received by Macomb County Emergency Management and Communications.

Two scenarios were demonstrated — a medical emergency and a harassment incident.    

In the harassment scenario, gun fire was added to the call, as well as emergency sirens.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said the job of emergency dispatchers today is far different than in the early 1980s, when he began as a dispatcher.

“It’s very difficult to get that real-life training,” he said.

Hackel said that, with the center, Macomb County is the only one in the state with the capability of doing simulated live training.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said there is a great need for this training center site.

He said COMTEC, the county’s communications and technology center, has grown and is the emergency dispatch center for over half of the Macomb County population.

“But our training aspect has always been classroom training,” he said. “Then it’s on the job, sitting next to a dispatcher in a live terminal, answering 911 calls and making those decisions.”

Wickersham added that the center gives the Sheriff’s Office the ability to bring in new dispatchers for a couple weeks and put them in a less-stressful environment.

The dispatcher training program lasts six months. Trainees will spend about four weeks in the training center.

Macomb County Sheriff’s Office Communications Administrator Angela Elsey said the center includes a simulated phone system.

“It gives us the opportunity to not only simulate 911 calls with new hires, but gives us the ability to train and test on certain skills that we would not be able to otherwise,” Elsey said.

She added that the system assists with active listening. Over 400 sounds can be played during a simulation for train dispatchers to pick up on.

Calls can be recorded and played back and reviewed for quality assurance.  

Elizabeth Bagos is the Macomb County Sheriff’s Dispatch supervisor and manages the training program for dispatch staff.

So far, she said the training center has allowed for more one-on-one time with dispatchers.

“A dispatcher normally would start right on the job, a couple day courses and be thrown into the job,” Bagos said. “We’ve found that’s probably the most beneficial, but now that we have this, it’s a whole different ball game.”

Trainees can listen to and analyze real 911 calls, with no stopping to answer a real call, she said.

The county has partnered with the Public Service Institute at Macomb Community College. As part of the partnership, dispatchers enrolled in the college’s basic emergency telecommunicator course can use the center.