Tuesday, April 3, 2012

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

April 4th-8th, 2012 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, dedicated to the dispatchers who handle the telephones and radios in the many Communications across the country. This concept of honoring those who handle emergency (and non-emergency) calls for assistance, as well as the responses to the calls for law enforcement, fire service, and emergency medical services was first conceived by  Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department (California) in 1981.

After a few years, her idea became popular locally. The Associated Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) took up the cause in the mid-80's. Congressman Edward J Markely (D-Mass.) introduced legislation (H.J.Res 284) to declare the second week of April as "National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week". The resolution took two additional introductions to Congress before it was signed and made permanent by President Clinton.

Telecommunicators, (also referred as Dispatchers, Public Safety Dispatchers, Control, or Base) are unique individuals. Those who take up the job work behind the scenes, answering phones and handling radio traffic. Depending on which agency, the man or woman may be one of a many in the room or the only one on duty. Their field units may consist of traditional law enforcement officers, sheriffs, state police, federal officers, game wardens, firefighters, emergency medical units, or a combination of everything imaginable. A shift may find one starting out answering phones then rotating to a warrant channel, or switching to a fire channel.

Dispatchers are the ultimate jack-of-all-trades. One never knows what the next call will be: a loud party, then a near riot followed by a report of drug dealing across town. How about two fires within minutes of each other three blocks apart? Handle that demonstration on one channel while you have the barricaded subject on another. Take the call for a baby not breathing then on to the next call without a break. Dispatch the robbery in progress, with subsequent block cover and shooting. No time to rest, there's other calls pending to dispatch.

It's all part of the job - and that's why we love doing it. No one shift is ever the same. The field personnel are MY people when I'm on the radio. I bet the other dispatchers out there feel the same. I care about the callers, but I have to maintain some distance. It's not that I don't care, I just can't care too much. If I cried every time I talked to a person who died over the phone or didn't make it over the years, I'd be a true basket case.

I love the idea of Telecommunicators Week. The East Bay (CA) has a banquet sponsored by T-shirt sales and with donations from the agencies. In the past, when I was there, the hosting department was rotated every year. We all dressed up and had a blast. There were door prizes, and each department had either a dispatcher of the year (or just recognized all of their personnel). In some cases, field personnel covered so all dispatchers could attend (how cool is that?).

Next week, say thanks to your dispatchers. They get little recognition for a job that is critical. Remember, when you need help, who do your call (not Ghostbusters!!)?

Stay safe out there!!

Some general guidelines for 9-1-1 are:
·         9-1-1 is for police, fire and medical emergencies.
·         Know the location of the incident. Providing an accurate address is critically important  especially when making a wireless 9-1-1 call.
·         If you call 9-1-1, don’t hang up.
·         Don’t call 9-1-1 for jokes or prank calls.
·         When you call 9-1-1, pay attention to the questions that you are being asked.
·         Stay on the line with the 9-1-1 call taker and answer all questions. The more information they have, the better they are able to help you.
·         Stay calm and speak clearly.
·         For further questions or for additional information, contact your local 9-1-1 Center.
·         Additional information regarding the 9-1-1 is available at the links below

links to the proclamations by Bush and Clinton




other 9-1-1 education sources




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