GREAT FALLS — April 11-17 is National Telecommunicators Week, a week dedicated to highlighting the work of 911 dispatchers. You may not often think about them, but they're always there, performing a vital role in keeping the community safe.
"We answer all 911 calls coming in and then the non-emergency calls coming in. Calls for service for law enforcement, fire, medical. Then, we do double duty and we dispatch the resources to the calls,” said dispatcher Peter Ingold.
Ingold said the job can be stressful, but is also rewarding and, at times, humorous. "There's been several occasions that have definitely affected you and you go home, the sad ones. People dying. But then there's also the funny ones that come up. One in particular was the person that called in that there were gunshots and screaming going on. Turns out, those people were watching 'The Walking Dead,'” Ingold recalled.
Karen Young is the 911 director for the dispatch center in Great Falls; she said having a week dedicated to recognizing dispatchers is important: "Years ago, we used to be part of the police department's recognition week. Then it was suggested, since there's a week set aside (for dispatchers), maybe take advantage of that. It's made a lot of difference. We get to showcase the people who have actually make contributions and excelled.”
While they take their job seriously, they do take time to celebrate the week. "We set aside a theme for each day. Then, we different agencies that bring us food each day. Dispatchers like food. At the end of the week, we have an awards ceremony and then we end the week with a barbecue,” said Young.
The National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week website states:
Every year during the second week of April, the telecommunications personnel in the public safety community, are honored. This week-long event, initially set up in 1981 by Patricia Anderson of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California, is a time to celebrate and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public. It is a week that should be set aside so everyone can be made aware of their hard work and dedication.
We encourage all of you to celebrate and honor yourselves, your co-workers, your bosses and your employees. Host a party, reach out to your local media and public officials, or launch an awards program. Use the tools and suggestions on this blog to help you make National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week 2019 a memorable one for you and your colleagues.
Thank you, again, for all the sacrifices you make to create a better and safer world for the public. Your commitment to your profession is appreciated by all of APCO International, the public safety communications community, and the citizens you serve.
From the Great Falls 911 Dispatch Center: