We “connect people in need to people with solutions”

Stephen Walker, St. Mary’s County Department of Emergency Services

In support of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, I posted the following on our Facebook page.

Today, April 8, 2018 begins National Public Safety Tele Communicators Week and it continues until April 14.

Every year during the second week of April, telecommunications personnel in the public safety community are honored. This week-long event is a week that should be set aside so everyone can be made aware of their hard work and dedication.

I make mention of this because in St. Marty’s County we sadly had a tragic school shooting and a tragic house fire, in the space of two weeks. An important link in these responses is the telecommunicators and we must not forget their importance!

When we think of first responders, we think of Fireman, Police Officers, Deputy Sheriff’s and Emergency Medical personnel; by definition they “respond first” to the scene of something that can be horrific terrifying, traumatic… but also… many times very boring.

One person that is an integral part of this chain of events is not described as a “first responder”. That person is the public safety telecommunications specialist, also known as dispatcher, communications specialist, communication clerk and a few other various descriptors. In our center we have a motto for what these people do. We “Connect people in need to people with solutions”. This really sums it up. You can have all the police cars, all the fire engines and all the ambulances that would handle every emergency you ever had, but… if they don’t get the right information that brings them to where you need assistance, then all of those resources are wasted and they cannot help you. Our Communications Specialists do it 24 hours a day/365 days a year! And they do this on Christmas, Easter, and every holiday throughout the year!

Telecommunications Specialists are vital to the process of Emergency Response!

So let’s talk about the stresses of the job… traditionally they work 12 hour shifts and they work very unusual tours of duty. They must talk with people that are victims of crimes, violent crashes, and witnesses to tragic events like the Great Mills High School shooting and … many more events like this. Many people they talk to are rude and nasty, and angry at the world. Psychologically, this can at times be challenging for our Communications Specialists. Very much like officers of the law, our staff also talks with people in the mental health field after critical events to make sure they are able to handle the stress.

After the tragic event at Great Mills High School our County took the National Media stage. Our local Sheriff’s Department and Fire & EMS providers performed exemplary and made us proud in their responses during a very tragic and sad event. Behind the scenes our Communications Specialists went quietly and efficiently about their work, but boy did they do a great job!

I am so very proud to have these talented people working in our center.

Shortly after the tragedy was over our 9-1-1 center received a few emails and cards from 9-1-1 centers around the country that have worked through the tragedy of a school shooting. They commiserated with us, shared in our difficult time and congratulated us on a job well done and offered assistance. I would like to send a thank you out to all those agencies that reached out to us.

The supervisor on duty during that terrible event wrote a letter commending her employees on doing a good job. What a fine example of leadership, and I now commend her. I have taken these correspondences and have posted them here for all to see.

In closing, please remember the victims of Great Mills High School and pray for them. Please keep our Communications Specialists … and all First Responders also in your prayers, and … if you know any, thank them for the great work they do.

Steve Walker
St. Mary’s County Emergency Services