Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County Commissioners honor 9-1-1 dispatchers

Stephens County Commissioners honor 9-1-1 dispatchers
April 09
09:27 2019

Although most people will never meet them in person, theirs is the first voice you’ll hear when you dial 9-1-1 during an emergency. They are the 9-1-1 telecommunications officers who work in the emergency call centers around the country, including here in Stephens County.

On Monday, the dispatchers at the Breckenridge Police Department’s dispatch center were honored with a proclamation by the Stephens County Commissioners Court recognizing April 14-20 as Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in Stephens County. Texas Gov. Gregg Abbot also proclaimed the week as Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in Texas.

“They do not get the recognition they need; we appreciate this,” Breckenridge Police Chief Larry Mahan told commissioners during the meeting. “The fact is that these ladies down there take calls from ‘the wind blew my trash can over’ to murders.”

He said there are approximately nine lines going into the dispatch office and eight computers the dispatchers have to keep up with. He said it’s not a job anyone can just come in and do; it requires at least six weeks of training before someone can even be considered for the job of a 9-1-1 call taker.

“I think they deserve more than what they get, but I appreciate this and I’m glad somebody is bringing attention to them,” Mahan said. “Because for years they’ve needed attention because they are hard working people and it’s a tough job.”

Dispatch Supervisor Karen Roberson, who was presented with the proclamation at the meeting, told commissioners that in the near future they are going to add three additional lines into the dispatch office, which will allow them to receive 9-1-1 texts. She said it will be useful if, for example, somebody is in their house with an intruder and they don’t want to talk or make noise that would attract the intruder’s attention. She said they will be able to text their 9-1-1 call to dispatch. Text will also be useful in areas where cell phone service may not be that good; sometimes a text will get through when a phone call will not, she said.

Also, Roberson said, eventually they will have it set up where someone can take pictures of the scene at a major fire or accident and send it to 9-1-1. Dispatchers can then forward the photo to the emergency responders so they’ll know what to expect when they arrive at the scene.

Breckenridge Police Department dispatch center

Roberson, who has worked in the dispatch center since 2007, said Breckenridge has four full-time and three part-time 9-1-1 dispatchers who work shifts at the center. Although the dispatchers are employed by Breckenridge Police Department, they dispatch calls for all emergency services in the city and for the Stephens County Sheriff Department that pays for the costs for one of the dispatch positions.

She said each of the dispatchers goes through extensive training before they are allowed to handle 9-1-1 calls by themselves. They also have to learn how to triage calls to decide which one is the most important in case they get several calls at one time.

“We have so much information that they have to deal with because we dispatch police, fire, EMS, animal control, water department,” Roberson said. “We have to know where to get information for oil companies, gas lines, gas companies. We also keep a book of cow owners in the county so that we can locate owners when cows or out and stuff like that.”

Each dispatcher has to go through 40 hours of telecommunications licensing training through the state of Texas. Then they have a four-hour class of TTY/TTD training so they can answer phones from hearing disabled callers.

They also have a 28 -hour class on basic Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications systems where they learn to send information in to get driver license and license plate information back and forth between the state and national databases. That’s Texas Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center training. They also take a 16-hour class of “full access” and “less than full access” so they can get information back and forth through NCIC and they can enter information into the system.

“All the information is kind of scattered, and they have to know how to access all that information before we can turn them loose,” she said. “Usually it takes more than six weeks, but it’s six weeks minimum before they can find everything they need on the computer for driver’s license and wanted persons and reading criminal histories and understanding them. And then they have to be basic certified before they can technically be turned lose by themselves.”

Local dispatcher recognized

Last week, at the Texas Public Safety Conference in Galveston, Breckenridge Dispatcher Melissa Davis, was honored with the National Emergency Number Association’s Silent Hero Certificate of Recognition, It is presented for exemplary conduct in the field of 9-1-1 emergency telecommunications. NENA is the organization which represents 9-1-1 telecommunications professionals all over the United States.

 

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan 

Cutline, top photo: Breckenridge Police Department Dispatch Supervisor Karen Roberson and Police Chief Larry Mahan display a proclamation from the Stephens County Commissioners Court declaring April 14 – 20 as Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Items celebrating Public Safety Telecommunicators Week are on display in the foyer of the Stephens County Law Enforcement Center. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

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