It’s Public Safety Telecommunicator Week

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(By Christina Ensor – Life Safety Support Specialist) National Public Safety Telecommunicator appreciation week occurs every year in the second week of April. This week recognizes a crucial part of the public safety sector, dispatchers,  and 911 operators. Unfortunately, most do not realize all the hard work and dedication to this role.

Some might consider dispatchers and call takers simply a clerical position, not realizing  the position’s training and skill. Training can include up to a year and a half of instruction,  depending on the jurisdiction. In that time, dispatchers and call takers learn hundreds of protocols  and how to handle each one differently based on the individual emergency. These include  emergency medical, fire, and law enforcement protocols. Dispatchers and call takers learn how to handle a dwelling fire just as calmly as they would handle a parking complaint. They also learn  to remain calm while talking people through the most challenging situations, often obtaining vital  information while being yelled at by the caller. Call takers quickly learn not to take things  personally, as frequently; callers are harsh and frustrated while answering questions. It does take  a special kind of person to be able to do this job.

Similar to first responders, dispatchers and emergency call-takers work long hours,  holidays away from their families, and through states of emergency. Their job is often thankless  and emotionally tiring. They hear every kind of emergency one could imagine, often not getting  closure on how that situation ends. Yet, emergency operators are always there at the other end,  listening to the caller’s needs while simultaneously orchestrating an emergency response and  giving life-saving pre-arrival instructions.

I recently asked some of my former colleagues who are dispatchers and call takers if they  could tell the public anything; what would they say?

The overwhelming sentiment Public Safety Telecommunicators do what they do because they love  to help; their job is to assist you, the caller, through your worst times, whether you are a member  of the public or one of our county’s dedicated first responders. They asked for patience and  understanding with their questions and reassured the community that those questions do not delay  emergency responses. Our Public Safety Telecommunicators’ questions are essential to ensuring  the appropriate resources are dispatched to mitigate the caller’s emergency. In addition, our Public  Safety Telecommunicators are trained to provide life-saving “pre-arrival” instructions.

Collectively speaking, these pre-arrival instructions contribute to saving countless lives throughout  our nation annually. Finally, our Public Safety Telecommunicators are not only a crucial lifeline  for our community but are also a lifeline for our law enforcement, firefighting, and emergency  medical services personnel. This is a job commitment they all take very seriously and are  committed that every first responder goes home to their family at the end of the tour.

Emergency dispatchers and operators have a challenging but rewarding position. They are  the most skilled and patient people you will ever meet. The Fort Myers Beach Fire District invites  our community to join our team in saying thank you to our Public Safety Telecommunicators with  the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Lee County Division of Public Safety. These dedicated  professionals consistently stand ready, day or night, to be the first voice a resident or visitor hears  when they need help the most.

Christina Ensor-Life Safety Support Specialist has served the Fort Myers Beach Community for almost 1-year. Before joining the Fire District, Christina served as a  Public Safety Telecommunicator in Baltimore County, Maryland for 5 years.

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