By Virtual Academy

What an Experience!

We just wrapped up the 2018 NENA Conference last week and the team at Virtual Academy is incredibly humbled and proud to have been a part of something so amazing! The annual conference of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) brings in over 1400 attendees every year for a week of learning, training and innovation brought by the industry’s leading experts. We know how important it is for our clientele to get the best Virtual Training Experience they can, so we had to be there. We enjoyed getting to know 911 professionals, listening to the talented speakers, and learning more about the needs in the 911 community.

NENA provided almost 100 breakout sessions covering topics such as Dispatcher Essentials, NG9-1-1 Planning and Implementation, Stress and Health Wellness and many more. These sessions are imperative to understanding the changes and implementations currently taking place in the industry, as well as ways to address current challenges.  One of the more popular talks was Shots Fired, Shots Fired with Tony Harrison. The words “shots fired” are becoming more and more prevalent in 911 phone calls. This session was focused on how a telecommunicator can handle these situations both during and after the incident. Virtual Academy’s Stacey Lowrance was able to attend the session, and she offered us the following insights:

“The speaker’s experiences and knowledge kept each audience member on the edge of their seat. Harrison served as a dispatcher for 30 years in Oklahoma and was also a part-time law enforcement officer. His experiences were clear through his session and he shared a lot of his personal experiences to drive the point home. He shared critical details of how telecommunicators should react to these increasingly common words.”

Another session we loved was the NextGen Training: A Fresh Approach to Meeting a Critical Need. This session with Jamison Peevyhouse highlighted the critical need for better training for 911 professionals and shared how Tennessee is implementing a statewide training initiative. During this session, we saw just how drastically the budget improved when looking at online training versus in-person training. Telecommunications professionals were impressed to see that training online reduced not only travel budgets, but also scheduling issues when sending personnel to training, and also allowed them to have quality training available to every single employee. With an average turnover of around 25%, with some PSAPs facing a turnover rate of up to 50% and staffing at an all-time low, allowing personnel to receive quality training while keeping call centers answering and processing calls is vital.

Virtual Academy also hosted our own buzz session, The Buzz About Online Learning. Leah Brown, our product manager, presented her top suggestions on what to look for in an online learning company.

  • There are 3 main parts of quality online training you want to focus on: resources, efficiency, and quality. (No death by PowerPoint here!)
  • To further break those down, look for each of the following qualifications in each category:
    • Quality:
      • Look for qualified instructors.
      • Be sure the content has a maximum absorption rate.
      • Ensure the training is relevant.
    • Efficient:
      • Be sure the structure of each class is familiar. Content, assignments, and exams are all easy to find and are consistent throughout each training.
      • You want the training to be easily disseminated in a way that makes sense for your employees.
      • Ensure that the training is able to be maintained and tracked in real time.
      • Make sure it is easily accessible for you and all members of your team.
    • Resources:
      • Ensure that the training is affordable.
      • Find a vendor that will invest time in you. You want to be able to not only take training, you want to be able to easily build content that is of particular interest to your area and department.
      • Secure a training solution that offers you support so that any technical glitches or issues do not hinder your completion.


  • Virtual Academy was made better by the conversations we had with the 911 professionals who attended this conference. Their desire to increase their education and truly do better in their field inspired each of us.
  • The food in Nashville is amazing. We enjoyed every bit of it, and we didn’t have a meal that didn’t leave us stuffed and happy.
  • 911 Professionals are facing a battle in terms of the requirement of a nationwide regulation of training, as well as legislation that allows them to be classified as true professionals in their field. If this is a cause you would like to know more about, please visit for more information on how to contact your legislators.

NENA puts a ton of work into this conference. They develop truly beneficial sessions and speakers, while infusing humor and ensuring that 911 professionals across the nation got to have a little fun with keynote speakers, parties, and networking opportunities. Every aspect of the conference was beautifully branded and the designs were perfectly on point to the Nashville theme of this year’s conference. NENA is in our book as a “do not miss” and we hope that it will be in yours as well! See you in Orlando for next year’s conference!