National Telecommunicator Week is the second week in April. This week is set aside each year to celebrate and recognize all telecommunicator/dispatchers.
There are presently 14 dispatchers at Texas County 9-1-1. These dedicated men and women are members of your communities. There are dispatchers of all ages, with different backgrounds. They are dedicated beyond belief, putting the safety of the citizens above their own. They work shift work 24 hours a day. Even though the classification for dispatch is non-essential 9-1-1 has not shut down. There is no closing time, and there has not been a closure due to the pandemic.
Currently dispatchers/telecommunicators are classified under “Office and Administrative Support Occupations.” By these standards, they should only be conducting business in a secretarial fashion. For a quick comparison, the dispatcher’s shift should be over at the end of a business day, all go home, wait until the next day to resume business. However, that is far from what happens or what is expected.
They are expected to be there to answer that call every second of the day. They are expected to listen and talk citizens through horrific circumstances and provide lifesaving instructions. They are expected to talk a caller through how to save themselves or how to protect themselves. When all the extraordinary effort to save a life does not work, they are expected to listen to that last breath taken. They are expected to listen to a mother’s yell for her child not to die. They are expected to listen to the teenager beg for the man not to kill her. They are expected to listen to the child crying for help when the parents are fighting. They are expected to do…
Not only are these unseen heroes expected to help the citizens on their worst day they are also expected to be there for the responding agencies. They are expected to direct emergency responders, while formulating a scene evaluation within seconds. They are expected to know the location of responders including officers, paramedics, and fire fighters at any given time. They are expected to be able to help or send help to these responders as needed. They are expected to listen to radio silence after a crisis involving one of these agencies and know exactly what to do next.
They are expected to do all of this as if it is just a day of office support, and go home, business as usual. However, in this career nothing is business as usual. Taking messages does not mean having to replay the screams, the sounds and what-ifs in your head repeatedly at unexpected times. Office support does not include worrying if you stated the wrong word, or protocol that ultimately may lead to the person’s life, on the other end of the line, not making it.
With all these expectations this career is still described as one of the most rewarding careers to have. This is one of the few that allows one person to experience being part of every emergency service while never physically leaving dispatch. Know that each time you see an ambulance working their way through traffic, responding to the heart attack victim, a dispatcher has already been on scene taking information and giving instructions. Know that each time you see a police vehicle turn on their lights to respond for the active domestic, a dispatcher has already been on scene hearing all the screams and obtaining information for that officer. Know that each time you see that fire department respond to the house fire, that a dispatcher has been on scene obtaining information and directing the family to safety. Know that behind every emergency call there is a dispatcher already on scene. They have answered the call, taken the information and dispatched the appropriate responders. All while making sure not only the callers are safe but the responding agencies also.
Reclassification is not for prestige or to say that dispatch is more honorable than any other profession. It is for respect due for the many unseen heroes with the calm voice in the dark. It will also aid in any assistance during and after their career by providing different avenues for medical assistance that is currently only available to those classified as “Protective Service Occupations.”
I have been asked before what would dispatch like for National Telecommunicator Week? Yes, they do enjoy all the goodies that have been delivered throughout the year and during telecommunicator week. Overall, your support is appreciated. One of the best acts to show care for dispatch agencies is contacting your State Representative to help make the classification change from “Office and Administrative Support Occupations” to “Protective Service Occupations.” This has been started under the 911 SAVES ACT.
I would like to take this opportunity to include a Thank You to all dispatchers near and far for all their sacrifices and dedication. A special “thank you” to the crew at the Cabool Police Department. For the dedicated group at Texas County 9-1-1 there are never enough words to convey how grateful and proud I am of you.
Thank you for all you do!
The Texas County Emergency Services office in Houston is funded by a 3/8-cent countywide sales tax approved by voters in 2013. Assistant director Terra Culley can be reached by phone at 417-967-5309 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.