This, the 2nd week of April, is dedicated to Public Safety Telecommunicators. Originally conceived by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County (California) Sheriff's Office in 1981. Over the course of a decade it spread across the country and in the early 1990s Congress formally proclaimed the week, “National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week.” [The original proclamation can be read here]
What do public Safety Dispatchers do?
The short answer, save lives.
The truth is much more complex. Their job is to get help to a victim's location in the shortest amount of time possible. To do this dispatchers obtain all applicable information, assess the location of emergency teams, dispatch the appropriate team, and if qualified offer medical information and/or instruction. All while talking to a possibly hysterical caller.
Where do they work?
The actual work environment varies from operation to operation, but needless to say, it is stressful. With lives on the line an incorrect response or dispatching the wrong team could mean life/death. For the most part a dispatcher works in an office with computers, utilizing CAD software, 2-way radios, telephones, and possibly other communication devices. They sit for long periods of time staring at computer screens, possibly causing eye strain and back pain.
What does it take?
To become a 911 dispatcher there is extensive training that can take 3-6 months, with most states requiring certification. Each state is allowed to set their own standards, although a high school diploma is usually the only formal education requirement. Aside from education it takes a cool head, analytical thinking, and higher reasoning.
We give thanks!
This week is a tribute to these life savers. Take some time to learn more about what they do and how they help the community they serve. If you have ever dialed 9-1-1 or been in an emergency, you know the responsibility they carry. Send en email, post a tweet or status update, or give them a certificate of appreciation and thank a dispatcher today!