Someone You Should Know: 911 Dispatchers

Sioux Falls, S.D. – They’re often the first people we contact when there’s an emergency, but often the last to receive a “Thank you.”

911 call takers and dispatchers work behind the scenes, but deserve just as much as the recognition as the first responders on the scene.

That’s why they’re this weeks “Someone You Should Know:”

“Public safety couldn’t function without 911 dispatchers, everything comes through here,” said Justin Faber, Quality Assurance Coordinator at Metro Communications.

The inside of metro communications is a place not many people have seen.
But anyone who’s called 911, has heard these voices on the other end of the line.

“All the emergency calls that you think of, all the people who are having medical problems, it all goes through our center,” said Faber.

The call center receives on average, 330,000 emergency and non- emergency calls a year. That’s about a thousand calls a day.

But the people answering the phones often don’t get much recognition.

“Just because you’re not the front line, you don’t see the faces. When you call 911 you see the face of the police officer that comes. You see the face of the firefighter that comes to the scene. But as a dispatcher you’re just kind of the voice on the other end of the phone,” said Faber.

But these voices have a big impact.

“We’re the first in line, we’re the first to take that phone call, get that information, get the right officers, the right fire department, the right ambulance to the scene as soon as possible,” said Paul Niedringhaus, Director of 911 Communications.

The staff of about 50 runs the call center 24-hours a day.

Each new dispatcher goes through 25 weeks of training before taking their first call.

When that phone rings, they have to be ready for anything.

“I told Dallas we were going to start the process of delivering the baby and there was a little bit of a long pause on the other end of the line,” said Jason Harris, a Metro Dispatcher who helped coach a new dad deliver a baby over the phone in January of a last year.

“They kind of become the first, first responder what they’re actually doing is turning the caller into the first responder.”

While it can be considered thankless, the job is rewarding.

“When they leave here, they feel like they did something, they helped people, they accomplished something,” said Niedringhaus.

Metro communications is looking to hire additional dispatchers to join the team.

More information can be found here: http://www.911metro.org/careers.html

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