Updated: Jul 19, 2021
By Jim Marshall, MA
911 Training Institute & Anna Crapps, EMD-Q
Pafford Emergency Medical Services Central Communications Center (CENTCOMM) is a newer consolidated EMS communications center that dispatches ground and air units for several counties in Mississippi and Louisiana. Anna Crapps, EMD-Q, is a Flight Communicator who works with crews manning helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
CENTCOMM has only been open for operations for 18 months. They are still navigating the challenges that come with opening a new communications center. Crapps, along with the Communications Manager, needed an idea to keep morale high among the staff, so together they developed an agency-wide newsletter called The Gold Line Gazette.
“The purpose was really simple: to bring some pep into the center”, said Crapps. “We have a tough job. Whether we’re talking about it or not. This is a way to give each other an extra high-five. Each month I try to put some fun stuff in it.”
The Gold Line Gazette is a low-cost way to communicate information with employees, give team members a shout-out, and a creative way to let them earn continuing education and training credits. The newsletter has spotlighted other 9-1-1 industry influencers like Halcyon Frank, Founder of The Dispatch Lab, and Ricardo Martinez, Founder of Within the Trenches Podcast and the IAM911 Movement.
Crapps contacted 911TI requesting an interview with Jim Marshall to include in the next edition of the newsletter. The interview below will be published in The Gold Line Gazette and released on April 1, 2020.
Anna Crapps (AC): How did you get into dispatch or the care of dispatchers?
Jim Marshall (JM): My sister, Debbie, was a 911 professional way back before there was even 911 while I was in graduate school studying psychology. We grew up together in our professions realizing how similar they were. When I developed a specialty in traumatic stress, she dragged me into the 911 world kicking and screaming to "train my people" in stress management. The rest is history because I fell in love with the whole 911 Family. They adopted me and they never kicked me out.
AC: How long have you been in the industry?
JM: I did my first sit-along with my sister in 1985. In 2005, I began training 911 professionals after 17 years of clinical practice. I have been training full-time in the 911 industry since 2013.
AC: Do you have family in the industry?
JM: Yes, my sister is a retired dispatcher with several years of service in Michigan.
AC: How do you balance work with your hobbies?
JM: I really get recharged by playing drums, running my dirt-bike, cooking, and spending time with my family. Of course, there are a lot of seasons when sometimes it is hard to do those things as much as I'd like, but I work hard to maintain that balance because the better I'm recharged the more I have to offer to others.
AC: What’s your best advice to avoid burnout?
JM: 911 professionals need to actively practice resilience skills, but in the bigger picture also practice a healthy emotional code to get the emotional support they need, rather than just stuffing everything in. Burnout is cumulative build-up of stuff that needs to be let go of along the way. The more that dispatchers realize that they don't have to be perfect and always be the rock for others, the safer and more protected from burnout that they'll be. It's easy for me to give advice, but the reality is that I hit the wall with burnout after nine years into my career and had to actively work to take care of myself in the midst of taking care of everyone else. None of us are beyond that struggle. We just have to all do the same things to overcome.
AC: What are your favorite books on leadership?
JM: My favorite books on leadership are not actually "leadership" books. LOL! I enjoy biographies and autobiographies of men and women who've overcome major challenges in their lives to succeed in loving well and serving well. I enjoy reading stories about past Presidents, musicians, artists, and spiritual leaders, among others.
AC: Do you listen to podcasts or anything regarding dispatch? What are your favorites?
JM: Are you really going to ask me publicly what my favorite podcast is with Ricardo Martinez listening?! Seriously, my first and forever favorite is Within the Trenches Podcast, which our hometown Michigan boy, Ricardo Martinez, created out of nothing but his incredible heart and the desire to take stories that could have destroyed him by bringing them to life to help other dispatchers overcome so much. The rest of his work is well-known, but I feel proud to call him my friend and teammate supporting 911 professionals in the realm of resilience. He is a gem and his podcast has helped save many careers.
AC: What advice do you give to someone looking to move up into leadership?
JM: The core work that leads to the greatest success in leadership begins by practicing compassionate wondering when you face people who you are more apt to judge and by practicing compassion for yourself when you fail. I don't believe in giving "hall passes" or dodging responsibility as adults. We have to learn look more deeply into why people struggle rather than judging and discarding them. The more we understand how humans struggle and fail, the more we can help ourselves and them to get stronger, wiser, and be more successful together. True leaders do not drag their people forward, they lead from behind by practicing transparency to the extent that's wise, and taking risks in being vulnerable and providing their employees with the resources they need.
AC: If you could do anything else what would it be?
JM: In my next life, I'm going to play jazz drums... drummer in a jazz band.
For more information on Pafford EMS CENTCOMM, please visit their website: http://paffordems.com.