Under the Headset

A voice. That is what this group of people are. But, they are more. Their words can bring comfort, give direction, or alert others to possible dangers. In the course of one shift, they will have to make decisions of legal, medical, and fire safety matters. They will calm the crying loved one who has suffered a loss, give directives,and be reassuring that help is on the way. Who is this group of people? 9-1-1 Communication Officers. The unseen heroes of the emergency services and public safety spectrum.

They do not drive emergency vehicles that alert the public of their response. There is no uniform to identify them. Their tools of the trade is merely their voice and ability to think and act calmly in the face of chaos.

Why are we dedicating today's blog to this group of people? Because this week is National Telecommunicator's Week. Each year during the month of April the people that have dedicated themselves to serving their communities and others are honored for their service. As former 9-1-1 Communication Officers, Vickie Bley and Mary Treadwell devoted several years of service as one of the many voices that answered 9-1-1 calls, dispatched law enforcement, fire and ems. They were the behind the scenes actors that launched air ambulances and coordinated with support resources needed to an emergency.

The job of being a public safety communications officer is one that often misunderstood and misidentified by the public and government officials. Many see a 9-1-1 Communication Officer as a glorified secretary. Someone that only answers a phone, types information into a computer, and talks on a radio. But, that would be like saying a fireman is someone who drives a big red truck, puts water on fire, and gets cats out of trees. Or, a paramedic is nothing more than an ambulance driver.

When a peace officer prepares for a shift, they know they will respond to calls that are related to their field of service. When a fireman reports to duty, they do not expect to respond to a burglary call to take an incident report. And, the paramedic expects to only have to respond to calls that are medical in nature. However, when a communication officer sits down at their console, logs into the multiple computers and programs they use, and puts on their headset they do not know what will be on the other end of the phone line. The first call could be law enforcement in nature, the second requiring a fire response, and the third a combination of all three.

So, in honor of those that help serve our communities and is an integral part of the public safety community, we at the Southern Pen Bookshop says thank your for being under the headset and that voice.

National Telecommunicator Week - April 14 to 20.

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