By Julie Heimkes, Winbourne Consulting Senior Consultant
In honor of the 2023 National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, Winbourne Consulting, Inc. would like to thank telecommunications personnel nationwide who serve our communities, citizens, and public safety personnel 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I sat in the telecommunicator chair with that magic headset back in the days of basic 911 when we dispatched using paper cards and paper maps. We then moved to a CAD system and Enhanced 911, which were exciting improvements. Today’s technology is even more impressive and constantly evolving to make the job of a telecommunicator better, faster, more efficient, and easier to protect the first responders and the citizens they serve.
The emotional and mentally draining side of dispatching has not changed as quickly as technology. During the last ten years, there has been a push to reclassify dispatchers from a clerical/secretarial status to a first responder classification like law enforcement officers, firefighters, rescue squads, and emergency medical service providers. In 2019, states began to modify their laws to include telecommunicators as first responders. Twenty states have changed their laws today, and the remaining push for that change, and recently, some states have added the recognition of PTSD to this classification.
The reclassification makes sense to those telecommunicators who arrive the day before a hurricane and remain at their center during the storm and days after the storm, knowing they have family and friends in harm’s way. These dedicated individuals also continued to work throughout the COVID pandemic, working tirelessly in very trying conditions. Telecommunicators are the first voices a 911 caller hears on perhaps the worst day of their life as they report their baby not breathing, a drive-by shooter just shot their son, or their mother seems to be having a heart attack and is not responding. Telecommunicators assess the situation and provide a calming voice to the caller until the first responders arrive.
Telecommunicators are the safety net for the first responders, dedicated to keeping them safe and ensuring they return home safely at the end of their shift.
I am constantly amazed and impressed by all of the telecommunicators I have met during my career in public safety. We at Winbourne Consulting would like to thank each of you for your hard work, dedication, resiliency, and commitment to this stressful and usually chaotic job.