Editorial

Emergency workers behind the scene

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Barry County E-911 Operations Center held a special event on Saturday to honor the local dispatching team. During the event, Pat Blevins, dispatching operations manager, read a letter titled "A Tribute To Dispatchers," which was written by Chief Thomas Wagoner of the Loveland, Colo., Police Department. Listening to Chief Wagoner's words reminded me of what our local dispatchers offer the Barry County community. This week, I would like to share a portion of Wagoner's letter to remind area residents of the important job that these men and women do behind the scenes during emergencies.

"Someone once asked me if I thought that answering telephones for a living was a profession. I said, 'I thought it was a calling,' and so is dispatching. I have found in my law enforcement career that dispatchers are the unsung heroes of public safety. They miss the excitement of riding in a speeding car with lights flashing and sirens wailing. They can only hear of the bright orange flames leaping from a burning building. They do not get to see the joy on the face of worried parents as they see their child begin breathing on its own, after it has been given CPR.

"Dispatchers sit in darkened rooms looking at computer screens and talking to voices from faces they never see. It's like reading a lot of books, but only half of each one. Dispatchers connect the anxious conversations of terrified victims, angry informants, suicidal citizens and grouchy officers. They are the calming influence of all of them -- the quiet, competent voices in the night that provide the pillars for the bridges of sanity and safety. They are expected to gather information from highly agitated people who can't remember where they live, what their name is or what they just saw. And then, they are to calmly provide all that information to the officers, firefighters or paramedics without error the first time and every time.

"They are people who were selected in a difficult hiring process to do an impossible job. They are as different as snowflakes, but they have one thing in common. They care about people and they enjoy being the lifeline of society -- that steady voice in a storm -- the one who knows how to handle every emergency and does it with style and grace; and, uncompromised competence."

Barry County is fortunate to have a county-wide E-911 system and even more fortunate to have quality dispatchers willing to serve 12-hour shifts to help area citizens in their times of greatest need. Thank you to all of our current and past E-911 dispatchers. Your service is appreciated.

Lindsay Reed