E-911 dispatchers honored for their service to the community

By | April 15, 2019 8:40 am

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By Rachel Auberger

This week, initially set up in 1981 by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, in California, and sponsored by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International, is celebrated annually across the United States.

White County E-911 observes this week to honor the men and women who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance.

“This week is when we show our appreciation to our awesome team of 911 dispatchers who serve our community,” explained Suzi Haston, director of White County E-911.

White County has 12 full-time dispatchers and 6 part-time dispatchers that dedicate themselves to serving the community from behind the scenes. While dispatchers are not often seen, they are truly the first response to an emergency.

When an emergency occurs and a member of the community calls 911, a dispatcher is there to take the call. But being a dispatcher entails much more than answering the phone. Dispatchers are the ones who put a plan into action to get help on the way.

According to Haston, dispatchers must go through over 40 hours of course work as well as over 40 hours of on-the-job training. Additionally, they have to complete eight hours of continuing education every two years.

This is important because technology is always changing. According to Haston, the White County E-911 services could be seeing some major changes soon, although it is up to the state as to when these will be deployed to communities.

Rapid SOS is a web browser-based system that will help dispatchers identify a caller’s location even if the call is dropped. This will be especially helpful in remote areas of the county as well as if a caller hangs up because they feel they are in danger.

Another upcoming change is Text to 911, a program that will allow a person to text in an emergency rather than call.

“This can be very helpful for those in our community who are deaf or even hard-of-hearing,” explained Haston.

Haston talked about dispatchers’ needs for being able to keep up with changes in technology and policies and, at the same time, being able to be both good communicators and record keepers.

“This job isn’t easy,” she said. “Dispatchers aren’t just glorified secretaries.”

It is the dispatcher’s job to know the zones within the county and know which services to send to the scene. According to Haston, each type of emergency and non-emergency call has its own protocol as to how it is to be assessed and who is to be notified and in which order the personnel are to be notified.

“Our dispatchers are great,” said Haston. “They view this as a career, not a job, and they really pour themselves into serving the community.”

She went on to explain that not only do they have to answer the over 6,000 calls that come in every month and coordinate all of the emergency response agencies, law officials, and sometimes even utility companies in the event of an emergency involving damage or risk of damage to power, gas or water lines, but they also devote themselves to being the voice of comfort in a time full of anxiety.

“Our dispatchers all have a heart to serve,” Haston said about her team. “Every one of them is here because they want to serve the people in this community.”

Haston said she has great appreciation for every public safety telecommunicator (dispatcher) across the country but a special place in her heart for those in White County.

“We have an awesome group of dispatchers that I consider family,” she said.

To show appreciation for the great dispatchers of the White County, Haston has worked with businesses and members of the community to get donations for meals and gift bags and other items of appreciation that she will give to her team members during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

“We are thankful that we get to work alongside all of our great agencies,” Haston concluded, speaking for all dispatchers in White County. “And we strive to serve them and our community with the most excellence.”

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