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Honoring Public Safety Telecommunicators for Dedication, Service in the 9-1-1 Community

April 12, 2019

It’s that time of year again: National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW) when we honor telecommunications personnel in the public safety community. It’s a week during which we can all thank and celebrate the compassionate, hard-working, dedicated people working in public safety access points (PSAPs) – or 9-1-1 dispatch centers. The event was started nearly 40 years ago and is now sponsored by Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

So, what exactly does a public safety telecommunicator do? They receive 9-1-1 calls from individuals in need of firefighters, law enforcement, or emergency medical services. These telecommunicators are the people who answer the phone when you call for help. They are mission critical and life critical.

Understanding this, it becomes clear that this role within the public safety community is important to successfully deploying the right first responders to the right locations to assist in emergency situations. Accordingly, public safety telecommunicators must be well-trained – as well as calm, cool and collected. A telecommunicator is frequently the person who stays on the line while the caller waits for first responders to arrive, providing critical support to the caller.

“Telecommunicators are not seen as first responders, but typically they are the first first responders,” commented Beth Christenson, GIS Manager at DATAMARK. “The conditions of the job can change in an instant: from helping injured officers to the aftermath of suicide attempts, to welcoming a new baby. These selfless dispatchers do it all because they care.”

At DATAMARK, we asked some of our own former public safety telecommunicators to share what it’s like to work in a 9-1-1 dispatch center. Here’s how they describe the experience:
Robert Murphy – Stressful, dynamic, rewarding, challenging, multi-faceted

  • Robert Murphy – Stressful, dynamic, rewarding, challenging, multi-faceted
  • Chris Reynolds – Controlled chaos, heartbreaking, silent suffering
  • Lisa Caldwell – Technical, critical, overwhelming

It’s clearly a role that brings a mixed bag of emotions with frequent, high-stress situations.

We also asked some of the telecommunicators we work with in the field to share their thoughts and here’s what they have to say:
• “It’s a thankless job.”
• “Lots of things going on at once.”
• “It’s very stressful with high turnover.”
• “911 is the heartbeat of the City.”
• “Periods of boredom interrupted by moments of sheer terror.”

Chris Reynolds, Public Safety Subject-Matter Expert at DATAMARK and currently serving as a Lieutenant on the Dive Rescue Team for Baltimore City, MD Fire Department, noted, “With changes in the way we train our dispatchers in areas like CPR, we are seeing improved survival rates. We cannot discount the difference the person on the other side of the phone can make. Even if it is just a calm, reassuring voice.”

They play an integral role in public safety, despite not being classified as first responders. These dispatcher roles are considered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to be “Office and Administrative Support Occupations.” To change this view, Rep. Torres (CA-35) has introduced the Supporting Accurate Views of Emergency Services Act (911 SAVES). The act will order the Office of Management and Budget to revise its Standard Occupation Classification System to categorize Public Safety Telecommunicators as a Protective Services Occupation. To support 9-1-1 Telecommunicators and dispatchers now, go to https://p2a.co/PzAhdr2 and send an email or Tweet to legislators.

Public safety telecommunicators are truly people who deserve our thanks and appreciation. We at DATAMARK salute them not only this week, but every week of the year. THANK YOU!

By: Stephanie McCowat

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