Monday, October 28, 2013

Is this your calling?

Emergency Communications Officer, Michelle Frew
Could working as an Emergency Communications Officer (ECO) be your calling?

It’s definitely not the career path Michelle Frew imagined she’d take but now, after 13 years on the job, she would not change a thing. She said her career with Calgary’s Public Safety Communications has been very satisfying. Answering and evaluating 9-1-1 calls, a day’s work may include saving a life, saving a home from fire or helping to apprehend a criminal.

“I appreciate the opportunity to offer support to people who are in challenging and stressful situations," explained Frew, adding she loves that every day as an ECO is different and offers up new and exciting challenges. “I’ve had people who are really upset or scared or they’re just having the worst day of their life. If I can make just a portion of their day better that makes me happy.”

Prior to being hired by The City of Calgary as an ECO, Frew had already carved out a career in helping others having spent nearly 10 years working in emergency services in the ski industry. Her experiences in coordinating emergency services for a ski resort, serving as a volunteer firefighter and doing ski patrol served as a great basis for the work she would take on as an ECO with Public Safety Communications. After demonstrating her skills as a call evaluator, she moved up to become a dispatcher for Fire and EMS first responders. Today, she serves as a training specialist, sharing her skill and expertise with Public Safety Communications’ new recruit classes.

With PSC’s recruitment team currently hiring for the next recruit class in February 2014, Frew cautions that although the job is definitely exciting, it isn’t necessarily for everyone. Shift work in a 24/7 environment can be difficult. And dealing with other people’s emergencies day in and day out can be extremely stressful, particularly in matters of life and death. She said the ability to think on your feet and be confident in the decisions you make is imperative.

“It’s very rewarding but it’s scary at the same time. We have policies and procedures we follow but you are also required to rely on your common sense. Not every call is the same. It’s challenging.”

So too is the training program to become an ECO. New recruits go through the nine-week program before undergoing additional coaching when they start on the 9-1-1 floor. Frew adds that experience in the emergency service industry is not required or expected but rather a wide breadth of life skills and experiences would be beneficial for a successful applicant.

“If you’re one of those people who like to go out of your way to help people, you have a positive attitude and want to make a difference to someone’s day, that’s good. I would say apply.”

If you would like more information on the qualifications or application process, or would like to apply for an Emergency Communications Officer position please visit: www.calgary.ca/careers.

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