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Sheriff's Corner: Honoring law enforcement 911 dispatchers

The month of April, specifically the week of April 10-16, is recognized as "National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week," also known as recognition for 911 dispatchers. Nationally, this week-long event, held annually during the second week of A...

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The month of April, specifically the week of April 10-16, is recognized as "National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week," also known as recognition for 911 dispatchers. Nationally, this week-long event, held annually during the second week of April, honors telecommunications personnel in the public safety community. This week is very important to recognize professionals in the law enforcement area that don't often get recognition or appreciation, as much of their work is done quietly behind the scenes where the public does not see them working. Often, we do not know that they exist until a time of need in an emergency situation.

I would like to thank the members of the Cass County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center for their professionalism, dedication and commitment to protecting and serving the citizens and visitors to Cass County. Utilizing telephones, cellphones, radio systems and computer systems, dispatchers provide a crucial and important link between law enforcement, EMS, fire professionals and citizens on a daily basis. The Cass County Sheriff's Office Dispatch Center utilizes 10 dispatchers and dispatch supervisors that are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week answering all calls for service and 911 calls within Cass County.

The Cass County Communications Center handles all public safety dispatching for law enforcement (except for the Leech Lake Department of Public Safety Tribal Police) including police departments, fire departments, medical ambulances and first responders. This is the hub of communications within Cass County. The communications center works closely with other departments, including Minnesota State Patrol, the Leech Lake Tribal Police, as well as five other police departments within the county. The center also dispatches for all 10 fire departments within the county

The job of a 911 dispatcher is very busy and can be stressful at times. These professionals, who gather essential information from callers and dispatch the appropriate first responders to the scene, must be able to take control of situations that may chaotic, heart-wrenching, stressful, confusing and frenzied. Dispatchers must be organized, adept at multi-tasking, level-headed and trustworthy. Their work within emergency response services often places them in the middle of life or death situations, so requirements and continuous training is a major function of the job.

In 2015, our 911 Dispatchers answered more than 47,028 wireless 911 calls and 3,365 landline 911 calls. These calls, in addition to tens of thousands of no emergency calls, must be sorted, prioritized and dispatched to the appropriate agency or division. In 2015, the month of July brought the most 911 calls and the least in February. Saturday is generally the busiest 24 hour period for 911 calls and Wednesday the least. Our 911 calls peak from 3 p.m. in the afternoon to 7 p.m. in the evening and are least busy from 3-5 a.m.

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Our 911 dispatchers are just a call away when you need them and we would like to share some what seems basic tips, but good ideas to remember if you need to call 911 in an emergency situation. By following these guidelines, it makes the dispatcher's job much easier and allows them to get you the needed help faster and more efficiently.

• Stay calm. It's important to take a deep breath and not get excited. Any situation that requires 911 is, by definition, an emergency and we will try to address it quickly and understand that you could be in a stressful situation.

• Know the location of the emergency and the number you are calling from. This may be asked a couple of times, but don't get frustrated. We may have this information, but we are still required to confirm the information. If for some reason you are disconnected, at least emergency crews will know where to go and how to call you back.

• Wait for the Dispatcher to ask questions and guide the conversation, then answer clearly and calmly. If you are in danger of assault, the dispatcher will still need you to answer quietly, mostly "yes" and "no" questions. They are typing the information into a computer and may seem to be taking forever. In most cases, emergency services are already being sent while you are still on the line.

• Follow all directions. In some cases, the Dispatcher will give you directions. Listen carefully, follow each step exactly and ask for clarification if you don't understand.

• Keep your eyes open. You may be asked to describe victims, suspects, vehicles or other parts of the scene.

• Do not hang up the call until directed to do so by the call-taker.

In several areas of Cass County that are served by North Memorial Ambulance, if you are calling for a medical emergency you will also be connected with a North Memorial dispatcher who will provide pre-arrival aid and instructions to you to assist yourself or the patient you are calling about. It is important to stay on the line and let these professionals assist you while you are waiting for first responders or EMS to arrive.

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The Cass County Sheriff's Office is proud of the work that our dispatchers do and would like to recognize and honor our 911 Dispatchers during this important week.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: by email to tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us ; by phone to 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff's Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box No. 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.

Related Topics: CASS COUNTY
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