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Tragedy inspires dispatcher training protocols

Posted: 5:26 PM, May 11, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-11 19:38:34-04

Tragedies all too often are what inspire change. And, even though 9-1-1 dispatchers play such an important role in emergency responses, many states do not have mandatory training requirements, including Idaho.

At Gowen Field, local dispatchers were joined by firefighters and investigators to learn more about how to work more effectively together to be the best they can be in everyday operations.

The founder of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation, Nathan Lee, was invited to the Gem state this week to provide training for public safety professionals.

The tour stopped in Boise Wednesday where the story of Lee's wife was retold.

Denise Lee, the daughter of a police officer, was kidnapped, raped and murdered.

A failure within the 9-1-1 system is blamed for her death, a conclusion that's been litigated in court.

But, Nathan is here to thank them for remaining dedicated to a tough job and to bring light on the fact that standardized training for dispatchers is nonexistent in 26 states.

"We're a very reactive society. That's what one of the most frustrating things that I've had to deal with because in Florida this bill was going through for 12 years," said Nathan Lee, president of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation. "And, it took my wife dying for them to open their eyes and get it done."

Traveling the country in the name of his wife's tragic death helps Nathan and their children cope with the loss.

"I do have to relive it over and over and over again but as hard as that is, it's not anything compared to what she went through," Lee said. "And so, I'll keep doing this as long as I can."

Idaho State Police Lt. Kevin Haight is leading an effort to create a certification system for all Gem state dispatchers.

Currently, all training efforts, while enforced for some agencies, is voluntary.

"Our dispatchers in the state of Idaho are very professional folks and they have a tremendous passion for what they do," Haight said. "This isn't about something that's wrong with what they're doing, it's about what we need to do to make it better."

The training consists of education, learning from mistakes, and then the instructor reminds them that what they do is so important and appreciated.

The emphasis is that teamwork is the key.

"People's lives depend on it," Haight concluded. "My life depends on it."

While still in its early stages, Idaho legislators are already getting behind the idea of helping to craft a bill that would create a certification system for dispatchers throughout the entire state.