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Area dispatchers receive recognition

LISBON — In an emergency, the only thing you can count on is the promise of a calm and collected voice of a dispatcher at the other end of the 911 call.

Dispatchers form the vital link between those in crisis and our police officers, freighters and emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Without that link, help would never come.

April 11-17 has been proclaimed to be National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week as a way to honor the hard work of the forgotten first responders, according to Brian Rutledge, Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency deputy director and 911 coordinator.

“Just like their brother and sister police officers, firefighters and EMS workers in the trenches, they continue to report to work and answer the thousands of calls coming into their respective agencies around our county and state professionally and without interruption,” Rutledge said.

There are 48 part-time and full-time dispatchers at five different 911 centers throughout Columbiana County that serve all 100,000 residents.

The Columbiana County Board of Commissioners honored those 48 individuals in a proclamation they signed in March.

“Public safety telecommunicators of Columbiana County’s public answering points have contributed substantially to the apprehension of criminals, suppression of fires and treatment of patients…each dispatcher has exhibited compassion, understanding and professionalism during the performance of their job in the past year,” the proclamation states.

Rutledge said that dispatchers answer every call and in most cases, the person on the other end of the call is having the worst day of their life.

“Many of them have comforted a person just involved in an accident, lost a loved one or they’ve felt that feeling in the pit of the stomach when an officer or firefighter will not answer up on the radio,” he said.

Dispatchers have to be prepared for anything when they answer the phone and every day they experience the bizarre, the tragic and every so often, they get play a role in some of life’s most beautiful moments.

“Some have even had the opportunity to enjoy the highlight of helping to deliver someone’s baby over the phone while they wait in the driveway for the ambulance,” Rutledge said.

The behind the scenes work of a dispatcher is even more complex than expected. The state of Ohio requires 911 dispatchers to provide emergency medical dispatching. With EMD dispatching, the caller answers a series of questions that the dispatcher has on flip cards. The answers given by the caller helps the dispatcher move onto what is known as the “complaint” card. The complaint cards are made up of different illnesses or injuries that the caller could be experiencing, and with that information, the dispatcher can give specific instructions to the caller depending on their situation. The dispatcher then relays the information to the responders so they can have an idea of what to expect when they arrive on scene.

In Columbiana County, 911 dispatchers go through 72 hours of classroom training in addition to the hands-on training they get before being released on their own to answer calls. The dispatchers are also required to attend anywhere from 24-48 hours of continued education every year depending on the certifications that they have.

The work of a dispatcher is vital to the safety and health of the residents they serve, and its not a job cut out for anyone.

“A dispatcher is a rare breed,” Rutledge said.

According to the proclamation, the diligence and professionalism of 911 dispatchers keeps our county and citizens safe, and we are better for it.

lnickel@mojonews.com

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