Times Record News; Alyssa Johnston
During an emergency, the voice heard over the phone when calling 911 often is overlooked in the public service field, but for one week they are honored and thanked for their days and nights spent in a small room staring at computer monitors and answering phones.
The unsung heroes of the emergency services world are recognized the second week of April for National Telecommunicators Week with a special awards banquet and dinner recognizing the exemplary members of the local dispatchers.
Public safety call takers serve as the lifeline between emergency service personnel like the fire department, police department, sheriff’s office and ambulance services.
Dispatchers in Wichita Falls dispatch for the Wichita Falls Police Department, ambulance services, Wichita County Sheriff’s Office and several fire departments including the Wichita Falls Fire Department and volunteer fire departments.
Lt. Karl Lille is supervisor of community services and oversees the operations in the dispatch room. He said they all work together as a team to get pertinent information out to various places as quickly as possible and the dinner serves as a way to not only recognize their hard work but allows their family to have some insight into what they do.
Their work environment is not one conducive to allowing visitors or take-your-child-to-work days because of the intensity of their work.
“The dispatchers … are the unsung heroes of the Police Department because not only do they deal with citizens directly, they provide the officers the information they need to answer the calls correctly and support. If an officer gets in trouble, a fireman gets in trouble, they’re our lifeline to get us more assistance when we need it. They are taken for granted. They are not as appreciated as they should be, but without them, every emergency service would be up a creek without a paddle. We just can’t do our jobs without them,” Lille said.
The awards banquet recognizes one person and one team who exhibited exemplary skills over the past year. Lille said one instance that sticks out is the recent gas leak in a neighborhood off Jacksboro Highway in which the neighborhood had to be evacuated and several utilities companies had to be called. Other instances include the January murder on Woods Street and Fourth of July, when several officers were endangered by a large crowd throwing firecrackers.
“There are so many different things going on simultaneously that one dispatcher can’t do it all, so they work as a team. So we’re going to honor a team in a particular instance this year. Every single one of them deserves praise, but we’re looking for one special incident that epitomizes the professionalism that they have,” Lille said. “When a crisis comes through, they have to work together and function as a team.”
Public safety dispatchers do their job for the love they have for helping others, not for the paycheck. The job requires several weeks of training in several different areas.
“It is a highly stressful job. There are certain kinds of people that go to it and they’re really good … and others that just can’t handle the stress. Stress is one of the major problems (dispatchers) face,” Lille said.
The training takes about 18 weeks to earn federal certification.