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PowerPhone Reimagines Training 911 Operators

Phil Salafia, a former police officer, was once dispatched to a “sick person” call. That sick person turned out to be an escaped patient from a mental facility who had barricaded himself in his home with a shotgun. Salafia survived the incident, but the experience reinforced for him the important role the 911 dispatcher plays in gathering and relaying information to responders.

When he retired in 1984, Salafia formed PowerPhone, a Madison-based company specializing in call-handling protocols, training and quality assurance for 911 and police, fire and emergency medical dispatch. His purpose is shining a light on the vital role of the dispatcher has in emergency response.

In 2012, the company — with 23 full-time employees and another dozen consultants — eclipsed $4 million in earnings and now boasts more than 500 customers across the globe, including the City of New Haven, the City of Hartford, United States Marine Corps, the City of Alexandria, Va., the Singapore Civil Defense Force, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, and a number of municipal and county 911 centers across the U.S.

Echoing the principles his father founded the company on, Salafia says PowerPhone’s premise is simple — to make 911 better. He explained that 911 dispatchers are typically civilian employees not trained to the same level as sworn officers. These responders have an incredible responsibility but all too often are not given the appropriate training or tools to perform their jobs effectively, he says.

To address [flaws in the system], PowerPhone, which was named a company to watch by the Connecticut Technology Council in 2011, developed a system called Total Response that is designed to provide structure to any 911 call by having operators follow a concise information gathering formula to elicit the most important information in the most efficient manner possible.

Total Response is sold as a complete solution. PowerPhone offers a protocol package (the knowledge base) delivered either in paper or software form, a variety of training and certifications in the use of the system and a comprehensive quality assurance measurement tool to provide feedback on the use of the system. The company, whose website is, also offers a series of ongoing continuing education classes delivered in person or online to help maintain the operators’ proficiency.

The full text of the Hartford Business Journal article by John A. Lahtinen can be accessed on their website.

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