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All About APCO

APCO 2021 is in just a few days! This year's conference is being held in San Antonio, Texas from August 15th - 18th. Curious about what APCO is all about? Look no further! Special thanks to Jason Kern for making this blog happen!


By: Jason Kern, 1st Vice President for APCO International, and Executive Director at Southeast Emergency Communications in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Wellness in the public safety communications industry is finally coming to the forefront as a critical piece to our longevity and success. There are several components, elements, or dimensions to wellness depending on which source you research, but most agree that Occupational Wellness is key.

Occupational Wellness is the concept that you have a career that is meaningful and provides you purpose. Having a career that provides this allows for balance with your personal life. Often when one or both is out of alignment it causes additional stress and anxiety. The million-dollar question is how do we achieve the elusive harmonious balance?

Living in luxury without any difficulty throughout our lives is likely desirable for many. However, the fact remains that more often than not, we must work hard and sacrifice to achieve our goals in life. That doesn’t mean the fruits of the labor can’t be rewarding.

In our industry, training, mentoring, and continuing education are key to our success and our occupational wellness. Although important, influences such as staffing, shift work, budgets, unfamiliarity, and more may negatively impact an agency’s ability to sufficiently provide adequate resources in these areas. This is why it is incumbent on the individual to continually seek opportunities to improve.

Speaking from firsthand experience, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) was a game changer for me throughout my career. What started out in 1997 as “go read this magazine” from a midnight trainer who was tired, led me to join APCO on my own volition. I began attending local chapter meetings and training on time off which led to my introduction to individuals with a wealth of knowledge who have become my mentors over the years. As time went by my agency began to see the value of the information I gained and passed on to my co-workers, and slowly the pendulum began to shift to provide financial and scheduling support. Today, with nearly three decades in this industry, I value the position I’m in and strive to provide information and mentorship to the future of public safety communications. I eagerly accepted the opportunity to contribute to the Humanizing the Headset Blog and reach a large audience who also thirst for knowledge and networking.

What is APCO?

APCO is the oldest and largest public safety communications association representing all levels of personnel. Globally there are 45 chapters serving over 35,000 members. APCO’s primary mission is to provide the public safety communications industry with expertise, professional development, technical assistance and advocacy.

As a member driven association, APCO offers a large portfolio of benefits to the members. While my list isn’t all inclusive, here are a few areas APCO can correlate with your needs and directly benefit your occupational wellness.

Professional Development

Professional development, training and career advancement are vital elements in the occupational wellness continuum. APCO is strong in this area and the following are a few examples which may intrigue you.

· APCO Institute – this division provides numerous job-related courses which prepare you for the “now” and the “future.” Through in-person, online and virtual courses facilitated by some of the top industry subject matter experts, you will enhance your ability to perform day-to-day and prepare yourself for increased responsibilities. Additionally, these courses provide you with certifications recognized across the country as continuing education hours.

· Webinars – numerous webinars are available to members throughout the year pertaining to technology, current issues and events.

· Executive Search, Resume Review & Career Center – using experience and industry connections, these programs assist industry professionals and employers with various components of employment, advancement and recruiting.

· Awards and Recognition Programs – throughout the year, APCO will spotlight our peers in various categories for their hard work, dedication and accomplishments in the industry.

· Scholarships – yearly, APCO provides opportunity and access to funds intended to assist members with training, professional development and career advancement.

Technical Assistance

If you are a bit geeky like me or responsible for technical aspects in your emergency communications center (ECC), APCO can assist with items like frequency coordination and licensing. You’ll also be interested to know that APCO is an ANSI-accredited Standards Developer providing numerous operational, technical and training standards for the public safety communications industry. As a member you can assist in these processes through committees, work group participation, occupational analysis and other facets.


APCO provides a strong voice for public safety communications on Capitol Hill. The men and women in the Government Relations Office advocate for policies and legislation impacting the public safety communications industry through key relationships with Congress, federal agencies, governmental organizations and other organizations.

Currently I serve as the First Vice President of APCO International and am part of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors. Among numerous tasks and duties, we; provide oversight for the association’s annual budget; provide direction and oversight to the Executive Director; maintain a long-range strategic plan and set goals/objectives in accordance with the plan.

Your membership in APCO doesn’t mean you have to take on these responsibilities, but the sky truly is the limit and I would encourage you to get involved. In 1997, I couldn’t fathom having the desire to advance my career as a supervisor and certainly never considered that the kid that started as a public safety telecommunicator in a one-seat community college police department would ever be rewarded with an opportunity to lead this amazing association. Life goals change over time, and in an effort to balance your work and personal life you owe it to yourself to continually find opportunities to grow.

Start small and join the association. “Kick the tires” if you will and see what aspect(s) meet your needs. Attend some local chapter meetings and training. Meet your peers from other agencies. Take a class or join a committee. Most importantly SHARE your experiences and knowledge with others.

Be Well! Be Involved! Thank you for what you do!

Jason E. Kern, CPE has 27 years of public safety communications experience and is currently the Executive Director for Southeast Emergency Communications (SEECOM) in Crystal Lake, IL. He also servers the membership as the APCO International First Vice President.


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