Dispatchers are more the a voice on the other end of the line


TAYLOR COUNTY—Serving as a vital link between a community and the fire, medical and law enforcement agencies that aid them, Public Safety Telecommunicators act as critical lifeline to other first responders, and these unsung heroes are always there to answer the call.

To help celebrate the stressful undertaking that it is to be a 911 dispatcher, a week is set aside every April to honor the dedicated and hardworking men and women on the other end of the line during a person’s worst moments in life.

This special week was instituted in 1981 by Patricia Anderson, of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California to celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public.

This year, National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is observed from April 11-17.

“As a 911 dispatcher, you are legitimately the first point of contact for people,” said Jason McDaniel, a telecommunicator for the Harrison-Taylor 911 Dispatch Center. “You hear the callers at their worst point. Whether it is a parent calling because their child isn’t breathing or a spouse calling because they are being abused by their husband or wife, the stress level is similar to that of any other first responder.”

Because dispatchers often receive calls from individuals who are hurt, fearful or in great distress, they must rely on their experience and training to recognize critical pieces of information in a short amount of time, so that they may properly relay information to those responding to the call.

By the time that law enforcement officials, fire crews or emergency medical squad (EMS) workers arrive on scene, the telecommunicator has already been on the phone with a caller anywhere from three to 30 minutes, depending on the location of the call. It is during that time that dispatchers must utilize their training to begin lifesaving measures over the phone.

“We have to quickly assess a situation with limited information and begin to offer assistance that could help save lives,” McDaniel said. “By the time police, fire and EMS get there, we have hopefully calmed the situation down some.”

Because the nature of their position, telecommunicators must undergo extensive training in areas such as identifying the role and responsibilities of the dispatcher, phone and radio procedures, handling emergency and non-emergency calls for service, emergency medical dispatch protocols and use of the state and national criminal databases.

To become a dispatcher locally, an individual must first fill out an application through the Harrison-Taylor 911 Dispatch Center. Once an application is accepted, candidates are issued a written test.

Following their testing, they must spend time in the communication room and must then undergo an interview. Those candidates have done well throughout the process will have their names submitted to the local county commission for approval.

With a highly skilled approach, coupled with patience and unwavering dedication, telecommunicators are truly the front line of defense in an emergency situation.

The Mountain Statesman staff would like to take a moment to recognize all of the highly devoted men and women who serve Taylor County as 911 dispatchers. Thank you for your hard work, dedication and service to our communities.

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