By Kristin Finney
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Most anyone would say that a firefighter, a police officer or EMT responders are heroes. But what about the people that answer the 911 calls and contact the responders? Who would include them in their list of heroes? The truth is everyone should count these people as heroes. From April 10-16 the nation honored these men and women during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. The Madison County Sheriffs Office postponed their celebration of the week due to the loss of Deputy Marcus Jones. They celebrated this week and had a luncheon on April 27.
Terry Lenz, Chief Communications Officer for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, stated, “It takes a truly special person to do what they do. We try to keep the responders and the public safe in all situations. You have to be caring, but professional, at the same time. You have to be the strength for these people during emergencies. If someone is not breathing, or is unresponsive, the telecommunicators must maintain a professional attitude during the phone conversation. Then once the call has been handled, that’s when they can show their emotion about the call.”
Madison County Sheriff’s Office is home to 11 dispatchers that rotate 12-hour shifts. The shifts last from either 6 a.m.-6 p.m. or 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. They will work either five days a week or two, rotating weekly, and they will rotate monthly from night shifts to day shifts.
When a call comes in to the Communications Center, whether by 911 or their direct line, it is the telecommunicators’ job to help handle the situation. They listen to the caller’s emergency and determine which rescue units should be contacted. If EMS, the police or a fire department is needed, the telecommunicators are the ones who contact them. Once they have alerted the rescuers, the telecommunicator will give them the details on the call such as the address they are responding to, the type of call and any dangers that the rescuers might face when responding to the call.
The public safety telecommunicators are also the ones that will assist in providing the necessary instructions on protecting themselves. If someone calls saying that the person in need is not breathing, the dispatchers will tell the person how to effectively perform CPR. If there is a robber in their home, they are injured or in any other way hurt, the telecommunicator will tell them what to do to stay safe until the first responders get there.
This will be the third year that the Madison County Sheriff’s Office has celebrated the nationally recognized week. To honor the Communications Officers of Madison County, the Sheriffs Office will be presenting them with certificates honoring their time in service and Communications Officer of the Quarter. Also during the week, the Communications Officers will be dressing up for “Theme Days.” These themes will include western, tropical and sports attire. They will also be served lunch one day during the week.
There are several ways that the community can make the jobs of telecommunicators easier as well as guarantee that the responding unit will be able to serve them effectively. If a person moves to a new residence, but keeps their old phone number, it is important for them to contact their service provider and change the site address for their phone number.
This will ensure that telecommunicator has the correct information and can send the responders to the correct home.
Terry Lenz, as well as 9-1-1 Coordinator Juan Botino, Chief Deputy Epp Richardson, Sheriff Ben Stewart and all of the other members of the Sheriff’s Office, would like to say that they are very proud of the team of Communications Officers that serve Madison County.
Lenz stated, “We are all like one big family and the community is our extended family. We want to protect them and keep them as safe as we can. We are the Lifeline and must be alert at all times. We are the first responders.”
The 11 Madison County Sheriff’s Office Communications Officers being honored this week are: Carol Taylor, Jessie Prince, Sarah McGraw, Allen Shadrick, Eve Langell, Barbara Thrift, Michelle Sparkman, Brian Bish, Daniel Dukes, Heather Sheffield and Chris O’Brian.