JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) --April is National 911 Education Month and this week is National Public Safety Telecommunications Week so we thought it appropriate to take a look at a Region Eight 9-1-1 center.
In nearly every city and every county, 911 dispatchers handle thousands if not millions of calls every day.
Spend just a few moments with these people and you realize that this job is a lot more than just answering a telephone.
"9-1-1 is the first contact for the citizen for help. We gather the information to protect the first responders, the policeman, the firefighters, the EMT's." Says Jeff Presley, Jonesboro's 911 Director.
Even in a small city like Jonesboro the job is extremely demanding and stressful. Mellenee Bennett a !0-year veteran and the 911 centers trainer says to do this job you have to be able to leave your personal problems at home and be able to leave what you have encountered during the day at the office.
"When you leave at night because it is very stressful, you leave it, you go on. It's what we're trained for we're trained to know how to handle it."
The center receives over 20 Thousand calls a year.
For all the real 911 calls they get , they do get more than their fair share of ones that really don't need to be called in.
Many people call 911 for emergencies that they perceive to be life or death and usually turn out not to be. Also many calls are for things like broken water pipes and cats up in a tree. These calls waste phone lines that need to be used for serious emergencies no matter how many the center gets over time.
Presley, "Probably 10 percent or less of 911 calls are true life and death emergencies."
Training for this job can take 3 months or longer and even then, some will walk away.
Bennett, "We may be on the phone, talking to an officer on the radio, putting in a call, calling an ambulance and all this at one time. The normal person can't do it, you've got to multi task You've got to be on your toes at all times."
The 911 center normally has 4 operators on at a time who rotate between chairs about every 2 hours.
Presley admits that many prospective employees don't really grasp the job demands even after completing the training.
"This is not a job for everybody. There's some people that come through, they get through the training, they can do the job, they can't handle the mental stress of the job."
Cat in the tree? Call animal control. House on Fire? Call 911.