You may be in the midst of a chaotic moment, a health crisis, or even worse – and the three numbers that come to mind in an emergency are 9-1-1.
Answering the phones at our local dispatch center are highly trained professionals who calmly give direction on what to do, or perhaps give life-saving instructions.
“Dispatchers are the first voice people hear when they call with an emergency,” said Sergeant Joe Garofalo, of the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office, “It takes a very special person to process the information and decide what, when, where and how quickly our resources respond.”
On April 13-19, the nation observed the lesser known, Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, and the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) sought the opportunity to honor these brave men and women, who act behind the scenes.
“Dispatching is one of the most difficult jobs in our office, and I have a great deal respect for all public safety dispatchers.” said Garofalo, “they are our lifeline.”
The CCSO has 10 dispatch positions; however, only five of those positions are currently filled.
CCSO dispatchers handle incoming 9-1-1 calls and monitor calls for the Williams Fire Department, and the Colusa City Fire Department. Dispatchers also maintain contact with the county, and city law enforcement officers and emergency response units in the field.
“Without our dispatchers, the Sheriff’s Department and the Community would feel the effects,” added Garofalo.
To fill the void in the dispatching center, the CCSO is currently seeking applicants for qualified dispatchers. To become a dispatcher with the CCSO, applicants must have a High School diploma and be a U.S. Citizen.
“We want an ap1plicant who is goal oriented, focused, and will offer long term stability,” added Garofalo, “The individual must be able to multi task, and knowledge of the area is a perk.”
The CCSO is currently training two individuals who will complete an in-house training program over a nine week period.
One of those trainees is Megan Ellis, who has been with the department for seven weeks.
“I wanted to work in law enforcement and to help the community,” said Ellis, “this seemed to be the best fit for me.”
Long time Colusa County dispatcher, Cheri Erdelt, has served for over 20 years.
“I have always worked in emergency services as a paramedic,” said Erdelt, “we moved to Colusa County and I took the position as a dispatcher.”
Erdelt believes that a good candidate for a dispatcher is someone who can be flexible and is willing to accommodate the different personalities.
“This is the hardest job in the County,” said Erdelt.
Some of Erdelt’s favorite calls include pursuits that are fast, and action packed.
“I like the challenge of dispatching calls correctly,” said Erdelt.
Calling 9-1-1 can be intimidating; however, the CCSO offers the following tips to help callers during an emergency.
- No matter what happens – stay calm.
- Be prepared to provide your name, phone number, address or location (with a cross street or reference), and a detailed description of the incident or vehicle being reported.
- Let the dispatcher guide the conversation.
- Wait for the dispatcher to ask questions, and then answer clearly and calmly.
- Listen carefully and follow all directions provided by the dispatcher.
- Be prepared to provide a physical description if the emergency involves a criminal suspect.
- Cellular telephones may not tell the call-taker where you are. Use a landline to report an emergency whenever possible.
9-1-1 is for life-threatening emergencies; however the department does receive quite a bit of ‘incomplete 9-1-1’ calls.
“So many people have cell phones these days, and it’s easy to pocket dial,” said Erdelt, “we would like to remind people to keep their screens locked to help avoid this type of occurrence.”
If you happen to misdial 9-1-1 or find that your phone has inadvertently pocket dialed 9-1-1, re-member to stay on the line.
“We send a deputy to every call,” said Erdelt, “stay on the line and assist us with the situation.”
However, misuse of the emergency 9-1-1 system will result in a delay for callers with real emergencies and could punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000.
“We honor all public safety communications professionals by recognizing their contributions and the positive impact they have on thousands of lives every day,” added Joe Garofalo.