Telecommunicators: unsung heroes

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By Terri Lynn Oldham House

The first thing most of us think of in an emergency is dialing 9-1-1. 

When you dial that number, you will find someone ready to dispatch your call to the proper agency. Someone who can make all the difference in an emergency.

This is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, honoring those who respond to emergency calls, dispatch emergency professionals and equipment, and render life-saving assistance. 

Public safety telecommunicators are the first and most critical contact we have with emergency services. They  are the single vital link for law enforcement, paramedics and firefighters who monitor radio activities and provide them information and ensure their safety.

The SUN reached out this week to emergency professionals who depend on our Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center staff on a daily basis.

Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office Director of Emergency Operations Mike Le Roux wrote: “The ability to contact an emergency communications center 24hrs a day, 7 days a week can never be taken for granted. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 and a full center relocation over this past year, Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center has not only successfully navigated the challenges but has also significantly raised the level of service provided. On behalf of Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Management, I would like to extend our congratulations and appreciation to the unsung frontline first response heroes of the Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center.”

Pagosa Springs Police Chief William Rockensock added: “When an emergency requires a call for help, the line of first responders starts with the public safety telecommunicator. These public safety professionals are there every hour of every day, helping bridge the gap between someone in need and responding resources. Often overlooked, underappreciated and under recognized. They make a real difference in people’s lives every day. Please take the time to show your support and say thank you for all they do. Join us in celebrating National Public Safety Communicators week.”

Archuleta County Sheriff Rich Valdez and Undersheriff Derek Woodman shared: “Dispatchers are Law Enforcement’s ‘lifeline’; we could not do our jobs without them. They have the ability to multi-task and listen to phone calls that have minimal information. They gather as much information as possible, to ensure we are fully informed before we head to a call. In all situations they may not physically be there, but they are always with us; they are our ‘guardian angels’. Let us not forget, Dispatchers are every bit affected by tragic calls as those that respond to the scene. Yet, they are still that calming voice in the midst of major chaos.”

Fire Chief Randy Larson wrote: “The Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center is an integral part of the First Responder Network. Their work through the 911 system is the starting point for those that are having an emergency. Dispatch Manager Kati Harr and her staff of well trained, dedicated dispatchers contribute to the community with their professionalism, diligence, and compassion. They are the link between the citizens and the first responder agencies. I am proud to have such a dedicated group of professionals to properly dispatch resources and watch our backs from their dispatch consoles.”

Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb shared: “On behalf of everyone at Pagosa Springs Medical Center, I would like to thank our local Dispatch/911 operators. They are unsung heroes, and we are grateful for all they do behind the scenes for our community. Job Well Done, First Responders.”

PSMC EMS Assistant Chief Connie Cook added: “The Archuleta County Combined Dispatch team is an integral and critical piece of our public safety and first responder family. Their dedication, professionalism, compassion and concern for the safety of our community and the first responder family is noticed and very much appreciated by the members of the PSMC EMS team. We recognize daily their commitment and teamwork, and their service is the gateway to the health and safety of our community and visitors. We celebrate them every day, but especially this week, as national appreciation and recognition is showered upon them.”  

We salute the unsung heroes who fielded 38,477 calls in 2020 at the Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center.