MOUNT VERNON — You have an emergency and call 9-1-1. The police, fire department or emergency squad is there in minutes and receive accolades for their efficiency and quick response. But here is another person involved.
The dispatcher makes sure the right agency was notified immediately, went to the right address and knew what they were getting into. And then is promptly forgotten by the public — unless he or she makes a mistake.
But that doesn’t happen often. And considering how stressful and hectic the job can be, that may be a surprise.
This is Emergency Telecommunicators Week, designated to draw attention to the job dispatchers do in conjunction with our safety forces.
“People don’t see us so they forget we’re here, said Lead Dispatcher Laura Webster. “But we’re the public’s first line of help.”
“Dispatchers are crucial to our response system. They are extremely important and provide a good support system,” said Knox County Board of Commissioners President Teresa Bemiller. “It’s important for anyone responding whom they talk to that they know what questions to ask and what information to get. They need to be well trained and know their job thoroughly. They are crucial to our system.”
Knox County is served by two call centers, one at the sheriff’s office and one at the Mount Vernon Police Department, but they are actually part of the same agency: The Knox County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, headed by Brian Hess, who answers to the county commissioners and the 9-1-1 Board. The Mount Vernon Police chief and the Knox County sheriff are the dispatchers’ “on-site supervisors.”
This isn’t a job you just walk into. Hess said the first year of the job is training, both on the job and off-site. An important step is emergency medical dispatch training which allows a dispatcher to give pre-arrival instructions to people on the scene waiting for an emergency squad to arrive.