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Voices of Unsung Heroes: National Telecommunications Week

unsungheroesIn every pursuit, wildfire or traffic accident there is always one common denominator in the response of emergency personnel. There is always one voice working to make sense of the chaos, a voice that patiently works through almost any situation to bring about the best available outcome. These men and women serve as lynchpin in a complicated telecommunications system that 24 hours a day responds when the call is given.

These radio dispatchers maintain a vital link between every resource needed in an emergency; methodically organizing, remaining calm and helping officers, EMTs and frightened victims on the phone.

National Telecommunicators Week, April 14th – 21st, celebrates these unsung heroes; dispatchers and 911 operators who take care of Lassen County residents when we need them the most, acting as the link between the community and first responders 24-hours a day, seven-days a week.

“Many people think of 911 dispatchers as just the voice on the other end of the line when they call for help,” says Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon. “The truth is that these voices belong to people who have dedicated themselves to helping people in their time of need.  They provide guidance in non-emergency situations, talk people through critical events, coordinate the deployment of first responders, and serve as a lifeline for our community.”

“National Telecommunications Week gives us an opportunity to recognize the emergency dispatchers at the Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol and the Susanville Interagency Fire Center for their dedicated service and the vital role that the play in our public safety system.”

Locally there are seven full-time dispatchers and one part-time dispatcher working 12 hour shifts three days a week and an 8 hour day every other week.

What happens during the rare slow times when there are no emergencies to occupy the dispatcher’s time?

“We have a lot of paperwork responsibility in the down time,” says Dispatcher Michelle Wolf. “Warrants, restraining orders, criminal history backgrounds, parole/probation and compliance checks.”

As for training, the telecommunicators are required to have a three week course during their first year of employment, and then continuously update training and skills to stay at the top of their game while on the job. On Thursday dispatchers spent the day in Chico for critical incident training.

“Dispatchers are many times the crucial link between the public and first responders,” says Susanville Chief of Police Tom Downing. “The men and women who work in public safety dispatch centers are vital in answering the calls for help, gathering the appropriate information needed, and dispatching the proper assistance needed. Oftentimes their professional work can make the difference between life and death for persons in need.”

The dispatchers patiently take the calls, offering guidance and assistance to various agencies arriving at an incident.

“They are a great asset to the personnel responding to the scene.” said Downing. “They are the information source for the responding officers, attempting to gather as much information as possible for the safe and successful resolution of very dynamic situations.”

April also serves as 911 education month, which focuses on teaching the proper use of 911 for aid in emergency situations. Many times during actual emergencies dispatchers, who need to focus on the situation at hand, find themselves distracted by nuisance calls; complaints about traffic, barking dogs and other non-emergency situations that can tie up valuable resources where they are needed most.

Thank you to all of you dispatchers who work long shifts and continually serve to provide a lifeline to those in need, we very much appreciate you here in Lassen County!

Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso
SusanvilleStuff.com Publisher/Editor
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