RIDGWAY — Communities around the country are recognizing 911 dispatchers for their efforts as a part of National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week.
Elk County Office of Emergency Services Supervisor Sherri Lovett said their quality assurance (QA) supervisor has been posting two or three photos with of Elk County’s dispatchers throughout the week. Each photo also has a description of the employee’s years of service and quotes about the job.
Rose Ehrensberger, recognized for 35 years of service, was the office’s first “employee spotlight” on social media April 15.
“Being a 911 telecommunicator is exhausting, stressful, fulfilling, heartwarming and heartbreaking, but I love it,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
NPSTW, held April 14-20, honors personnel who work in the public safety community, according to www.npstw.org.
Elk County EMS has 13 full-time and five part-time dispatchers, Lovett said. She used to be a dispatcher herself, describing as a “very hard job.”
“They have instances where they have to stay on the line with people who are going through the most traumatic things they have ever gone through in their life,” she said. “It’s important for our dispatchers to stay calm, even if they don’t feel calm inside.”
Dispatchers are responsible for talking the caller through whatever situation they’re facing, whether it’s instructing them in CPR or being trapped in a fire.
“They miss a lot of holidays with their families, because we never close,” she said.
Dispatchers go through police dispatch an emergency fire and medical training for about eight months before they are on their own, Lovett said, learning things like protocols and internal polices and mapping. Since everything in the center is computerized, there is a lot of training involved.
Being someone who answers the phone when someone dials 911 is a challenging role, and no two days are the same.
“They try not to take it home with them, but I’m sure sometimes, somebody takes that stuff home,” she said.
The dispatchers stick together, though, and help each other through the “really tough calls,” Lovett said.
“They are their own little family in the 911 center,” she said. “I would like them to know how much we all appreciate them.”