Dispatchers honored during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week
Bossier Sheriff’s Office
Dispatchers and telecommunicators who serve with public safety agencies are being honored this week during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, held on the second full week in April each year to recognize those who are first contacted during a crisis.
“Our dispatchers work around the clock, very seldom seen, but always heard as they keep our community safe,” said Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington. “They typically work from a small office, but their reach is for miles as they not only help our deputies, but they calm our residents in times of emergencies.”
“I’ve heard it said and quoted many times that they are the ‘unsung heroes’,” said Lt. Amy Pope, communications supervisor for the Bossier Sheriff’s Office. “The uniformed officers are the ones who save the day, but that dispatcher that the woman was on the phone with 10 minutes while we’re trying to find her house in a rural area is that voice that kept her from being alone.”
Nearly 23,000 calls came into the Bossier Sheriff’s Communications Office last year, ranging from requests for general information, such as “Where do I pay a ticket?” to the frantic concern of a person in trouble. The latter is the call dispatchers remember for a long time.
“I took a call a few years ago from a little boy who was lost in the woods,” Pope, a 7-yeardispatcher, recalled. “He happened to have a cell phone he had just gotten for his birthday. Granted, the woods were only 10 or 15 acres, but to an 8-year-old, he was lost in the 100-acre woods.”
It was around Christmastime, and Pope tried to think of a way to calm the boy down while allowing the patrol deputies to find him amongst the trees. She asked him if he knew any Christmas songs, and he told her he knew ‘Rudolph’.
“I got him to start singing, ‘Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer’ at the top of his lungs, and that’s how they found him.”
While calls can often be as routine as complaints about the neighbor’s barking dog to folks simply wanting to find out general information, other calls such as suicide attempts or an unresponsive family member can get quite emotional.
Pope says it’s those times the job requires you to detach yourself some and keep focused on the line. “When you hang up that phone, you may fall apart and take a few minutes to gather back up, but while you’re on the phone, you’ve got to be the ‘steel magnolia’. You’ve got to stay strong.”