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Studying the Health Impacts of New Technologies on 911 Telecommunicators

NWCPHP researchers received a $1.8 million grant to study the impacts of new communication and technology developments on 911 emergency call takers and centers.

NWCPHP researchers received a $1.8 million grant to study the impacts of new communication and technology developments on 911 emergency call takers and centers.

December 16, 2014

Emergency call centers are the first point of contact for people in distress. Every day, 911 telecommunicators prioritize and triage incoming telephone calls, collect crucial information for first responders, and issue medical instructions to callers—often in high stress situations. A national initiative known as Next Generation 911 will soon allow the public to place 911 “calls” by sending image, video, and data via text messaging, e-mail, Skype, and instant messaging.

Though implementation of Next Generation 911 is still a few years out, adapting to these new communications modes will significantly impact call centers and their telecommunicators. NWCPHP researchers will study the health impacts of these new technologies on telecommunicators through a recently awarded $1.8 million grant funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

“911 telecommunicators play such a critical role in protecting the public’s health and safety, and it is just as important for us to do the same for them,” said Co-Principal Investigator Hendrika Meischke, PhD, MPH. “The upgrade will not only require 911 telecommunicators to integrate these new technologies into their daily line of work, but it will also add a new dimension of seeing these traumatic events. By studying their stress levels during this technology implementation, we can develop tools and trainings to reduce workforce turnover and improve stress management, job performance, and satisfaction.”

During the course of the four-year grant, researchers will measure the stress levels of 911 telecommunicators before, during, and after the implementation of Next Generation 911. Additionally, they will develop and test resiliency training on stress reduction and job performance, and build an agent-based modeling tool that will simulate 911 call center environments to support improved decision making around future workforce needs.

Fellow researchers on the project include Co-PI Janet Baseman, PhD, MPH, Randy Beaton, PhD, Ian Painter, PhD, MSc, Debra Revere, MLIS, MA, Rebecca Calhoun, MPH, and Michelle Lilly, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Northern Illinois University.

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