April 8-14 is National Public Safety
Fayette County Sheriff's Office Communications
Officers: Mary Seals, Carrie Kirk,
Mahoney, Cathie Sprayberry, Wanda Smith, Carrie Marcum, Holly Walker,
Lenti, Christy Sprayberry, Ashley Vick, Lauren Hampton, Sandra Halloran
Pictured: Jami Parker, Kim Oliver, Nancy Rice)
1992 Congress declared the second week of each April to be National Public
Safety Telecommunicators Week.
This week recognizes
whose job is of the utmost importance, but who are rarely seen.
As one of the Congressional bill’s sponsors noted, “We depend
public safety telecommunicators to notify emergency personnel promptly, clearly,
and calmly. We depend upon them to keep our
our wives, and our children calm and assured in an emergency. We depend upon
them for guidance and support in our most
and panicked moments.”
Our communications officers in Fayette County bear the responsibility of
being the only dispatch
for all public safety entities within the county.
They are responsible for answering all 9-1-1 calls, administrative
7 radio channels.
They dispatch Sheriff’s Deputies, 7 municipal police departments, 15
fire departments, 3 ambulances, and the
All of this is accomplished by two or three individuals on each shift who
sit in a concrete room with no
often forgotten about by those who depend on them to be a lifeline.
A letter written by Chief Thomas Wagoner of the
Colorado Police Department does a good job of summing up the job that these
unseen heroes perform.
A Tribute To Dispatchers
By Chief Thomas Wagoner
Loveland (Colo.) Police Department
once asked me if I thought that answering telephones for a living was a
profession. I said, "I thought it was a calling."
so is dispatching. I have found in my law enforcement career that dispatchers
are the unsung heroes of public safety. They miss the excitement of riding in a
speeding car with lights flashing and sirens wailing. They can only hear of the
bright orange flames leaping from a burning building. They do not get to see the
joy on the face of worried parents as they see their child begin breathing on
its own, after it has been given CPR.
sit in darkened rooms looking at computer screens and talking to voices from
faces they never see. It's like reading a lot of books, but only half of each
connect the anxious conversations of terrified victims, angry informants,
suicidal citizens and grouchy officers. They are the calming influence of all of
them-the quiet, competent voices in the night that provide the pillars for the
bridges of sanity and safety. They are expected to gather information from
highly agitated people who can't remember where they live, what their name is,
or what they just saw. And then, they are to calmly provide all that information
to the officers, firefighters, or paramedics without error the first time and
are expected to be able to do five things at once-and do them well. While
questioning a frantic caller, they must type the information into a computer,
tip off another dispatcher, put another caller on hold, and listen to an officer
run a plate for a parking problem. To miss the plate numbers is to raise the
officer's ire; to miss the caller's information may be to endanger the same
officer's life. But, the officer will never understand that.
have two constant companions, other dispatchers and stress. They depend on one,
and try to ignore the other. They are chastened by upset callers, taken for
granted by the public, and criticized by the officers. The rewards they get are
inexpensive and infrequent, except for the satisfaction they feel at the end of
a shift, having done what they were expected to do.
come in all shapes and sizes, all races, both sexes, and all ages. They are
blondes, and brunettes, and redheads. They are quiet and outgoing, single, or
married, plain, beautiful, or handsome. No two are alike, yet they are all the
are people who were selected in a difficult hiring process to do an impossible
job. They are as different as snowflakes, but they have one thing in common.
They care about people and they enjoy being the lifeline of society-that steady
voice in a storm-the one who knows how to handle every emergency and does it
with style and grace; and, uncompromised competence.
play many roles: therapist, doctor, lawyer, teacher, weatherman, guidance
counselor, psychologist, priest, secretary, supervisor, politician, and
reporter. And few people must jump through the emotional hoops on the trip
through the joy of one caller's birthday party, to the fear of another caller's
burglary in progress, to the anger of a neighbor blocked in their drive, and
back to the birthday caller all in a two-minute time frame. The emotional
rollercoaster rolls to a stop after an 8 or 10 hour shift, and they are expected
to walk down to their car with steady feet and no queasiness in their
stomach-because they are dispatchers. If they hold it in, they are too closed.
If they talk about it, they are a whiner. If it bothers them, it adds more
stress. If it doesn't, they question themselves, wondering why.
are expected to have:
compassion of Mother Theresa
wisdom of Solomon
interviewing skills of Oprah Winfrey
gentleness of Florence Nightingale
patience of Job
voice of Barbara Streisand
knowledge of Einstein
answers of Ann Landers
humor of David Letterman
investigative skills of Sgt. Joe Friday
looks of Melanie Griffith or Don Johnson
faith of Billy Graham
energy of Charo
the endurance of the Energizer Bunny
it any wonder that many drop out during training? It is a unique and talented
person who can do this job and do it well. And, it is fitting and proper that we
take a few minutes or hours this week to honor you for the job that each of you
do. That recognition is overdue and it is insufficient. But, it is sincere.
have tried to do your job, and I have failed. It takes a special person with
unique skills. I admire you and I thank you for the thankless job you do. You
are heroes, and I am proud to work with you.
piece was written by Chief Wagoner in 1994 in connection with National
Telecommunicator Week, obtained courtesy of 9-1-1 Dispatch Magazine (www.911monthly.com).
Chief Wagoner gives others permission to use it for non-commercial
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