Dispatchers answer the call for service

4/16/2014

By KELTON BROOKS

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram

In emergency situations such as a deadly car crash or a house gone up in flames, the police department, firefighters or EMS are the first responders to the scene.

But before these agencies can reach the area of distress, the individuals receiving 911 phones calls and sitting in front of computer screens are sending out details of the emergencies to law enforcement and other officials.

"We're kind of like the first responder," said Crystal Bachman, a dispatcher with the Garden City Police Department. "Sometimes it gets hectic, but we have to make quick decisions and prioritize all the calls we get." Bachman handles 911 phones calls for all of Finney County, including the Fire Department and EMS.

This week is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, a week designated to honor those who perform dispatching duties for law enforcement. The week is sponsored by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International and is celebrated annually. The week honors the thousands of men and women who answer emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance to the world's citizens.

"It feels good to get that acknowledgement for the people that aren't seen, just heard," Bachman said.

Vickey Hill, Public Service Administrator with Kansas Highway Patrol in Salina, said when a dispatcher takes the initial call from people, they personally have to remain calm and be able to multitask.

"That's a big requirement," Hill said. "Once dispatching runs through your veins, you know that you are there to help. When they're receiving a call from a major accident, they have to remain calm and get help to the people who need it, and need it fast."

In 2013, KHP dispatchers answered 342,578 calls for service and issued 17,833 case numbers for incidents such as accidents and arrests. During a snow storm in 2013, KHP dispatchers answered 2,700 calls for instances such as vehicles off the roadway, checking on motorists, and crashes. Dispatchers during 2013 also answered 250 Safe School Hotline calls and 26 Underage Drinking Hotline calls.

Most of the highway patrol's telecommunications professionals are centrally housed in Salina, with a few assigned to Topeka. They collectively serve the Patrol's 498 uniformed personnel members throughout the Patrol's seven field troops, and the Capitol Complex. Currently, there are nearly 69 men and women assigned dispatch duties within the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Sheriff Kevin Bascue of the Finney County Sheriff's Office said dispatchers play a key role in law enforcement and the sheriff's office by receiving calls for assistance from the public, dispatching the deputies to the call, and keeping track of the deputies welfare while they are on patrol.

"It is comforting to the deputies knowing that dispatchers are watching out for them when they are on a call," Bascue said. He added that dispatchers provide deputies with vehicle information during traffic stops; keep track of time for them for documentation purposes; make phone calls for deputies to obtain additional information for calls they are on; and play a role in jail operations.

"There are so many other things they assist with that are just too numerous to list," Bascue said. "These are just a few of the many things they do. This job would be very difficult without them."

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