The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) has announced that on August 6 its Executive Board approved the Standard on 911 Acute/Traumatic and Chronic Stress Management. This Standard can make a career-changing difference for our nation’s Very First Responders–the frontline 911 telecommunicators because it assures strategic provision of support that is critical to wellbeing in the face of the incredible stress of their work.  NENA’s website explains that this groundbreaking Standard:

“…provides for essential awareness of the serious risks posed by work-related stress on the mental and physical health of 9-1-1 emergency Telecommunicators/Dispatchers in their role as our first first responders. It establishes the “best practice” elements of local 9-1-1 comprehensive employee stress management programs and the expectation that such programs will be implemented by PSAPs.”

The Standard evidences the value placed on the person of the telecommunicator by  NENA and by the many 911 stakeholders who worked together to develop it over these past three years as authors, contributors through public comment, and informally as encouragers. Such a document stating expectations for PSAPs to provide care to their people could just be another bureaucratic imposition falling heavy on our local 911 leaders from “on High”. But this Standard is different: it was developed with remarkable, widespread support from 911 stakeholders in all capacities, beginning with our local frontliners and their leaders, and extending to our National 911 Program Administrator Laurie Flaherty, state 911 administrators, representatives from APCO International, the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, university researchers pioneering 911 stress research, vendors, and members of our own 911WF Board of Directors.

In June, Dee Ann Summersett (Tuscola County 911, MI), 911WF’s Vice-Chair and Co-Chair of the NENA Working Group on Stress, presented Safeguarding the Well-Being of the 9-1-1 Professional: A New Stress Standard & Great Solutions. This was the first official introduction of the Standard to the 911 industry. Dee Ann’s presentation was well received. It detailed to 911 personnel how the Standard will help to boost health, performance, and retention in our centers through resilience training, trauma treatment, peer support, CISM, and more!

The 911 Wellness Foundation was established in part to help advance this Standard and we will be offering support to NENA and our local 911 personnel to assure success in the work of building the Comprehensive Stress Management Programs (CSMP) it calls for. If you would like a PDF of the PowerPoint from this presentation, email

The Standard represents a solid foundation upon which so much more vital work must be done together by all 911 stakeholders. Far more education, research, policy and intervention will need to advance the cause of understanding the risks to health posed by 911 work and creating the solutions that will “safeguard” their well-being as the industry moves forward  in its constant service to the public. 911 is dedicated to coming along all 911 stakeholders to accomplish this mission, and we need your help.

Please consider what role you might take, whether volunteering, informally offering ideas and input, or via funding. Join us on this exciting and very rewarding journey! I welcome your email and invite you to offer your comments in response to this and any article on this blog. To view and download the PDF version of the complete Standard document, click here.

Thanks much for taking time to join us, and be WELL!

Jim Marshall, 911WF Chair/CEO

Co-Chair, NENA Working Group on 911 Stress

With so many 911 leaders rushing about this spring overseeing new CAD installs, planning with city and county government, while tuckered-out frontliners  work overtime, and 911 educators like me travel from one 911 destination to the next–and while all of us juggle such important work caring for our families’ needs, it would be good to stop for a big collective deep breathto pause, and to affirm our best intentions to continue advancing 911 wellness beyond April and the well-deserved celebration of NTW and 911 Education Month.

The 911 Wellness Foundation is grateful that on several fronts, members of APCO, NENA, our federal government leaders, local PSAP members, and university researchers are joining to increase their involvement in projects upholding this cause. 911WF is just one party among so many that have increased prioritization of the issues the Foundation exists to uphold. As I write this, researchers from Washington state and Illinois are pursuing ground-breaking studies on the risks faced by 911Pros now and predictably in the Next Generation 911 Center. PSAPs are stepping forward implementing model Wellness Programs addressing the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of their telecommunicators.

And the NENA Standard on 911 Acute/Traumatic and Chronic Stress will soon take effect, paving the way for widespread implementation of such wellness programs. The number of presentations on dispatcher health related to stress has increased dramatically during these past 2 years at our 911 industry association state and national conferences, and local 911 directors are actively seeking to learn all they can about how to care for their employees in the face of 911 stress risks. We will keep you posted here on all such new developments and begin featuring exemplary efforts to help all 911 stakeholders to inspire innovations in preventive education and resourcing of our PSAPs.

Thanks for taking time to read this note and for your part in helping 911WF fulfill its mission as we travel forward together into the remainder of 2013.

Let us hear from you, and join us on our 911WF FaceBook page.


A Very Big Step for 911 Dispatchers and this cause… Today, the national media covered perhaps the biggest story for dispatchers ever– a research study co-authored by Dr. Michelle Lilly and Heather Pierce, M.S.– a member of the NENA Working Group on 911 Stress. These researchers’ findings produced evidence supporting  the risks our first first responders face for experiencing serious distress and PTSD at the console. Their study confirms and extends the findings of Roberta Troxell’s 2008 study and supports comments offered by Jim Marshall, 911 Wellness Foundation Chairman, to the FCC in the matter of NG911 (see elsewhere on this blog).

This is a very significant advance for the Foundation’s cause of substantiating these 911 risks and educating the public and all 911 stakeholders to support the mental health of our nation’s emergency telecommunicators. We congratulate these  researchers and express our gratitude for their investment of time and effort to help reveal a challenge facing one of our country’s most critically important yet underestimated public service professions. We invite you to read this ABC news article and return here to share you comments. As the Foundation moves forward we are heartened by this news and hope you will also be moved to join us in our work. (See tab “Our Mission” to learn more.) JM

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