Just What Does It Take To Be a 911 Dispatcher? - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR -- Heather Flanigan Reports

Just What Does It Take To Be a 911 Dispatcher?

April 11, 2005 – Posted at 2:45 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Last year more than 16,000 emergency 911 calls were made to the Craighead County Communication Center in Jonesboro. Dispatchers handling those calls are often the ones responsible for saving lives, but rarely get credit for it. Monday starts the beginning of National Public Safety Telecommunications week, but just what does it take be a 911 dispatcher?

An emergency 911 call is made and a voice comes through the phone. Often, it’s the voice of reason and of safety.

“We consider ourselves the cornerstone of police and fire because we take that first call,” said Bob Andrews, Emergency 911 Communications Director.

Dispatchers are trained in stress management, suicide intervention and terrorist threatening.

“Knowing that you get to help people every day is the best part,” said dispatcher Celina Gatlin.

“A lot of times they are forgotten, they are the people behind the scenes, kind of like your photographers at K8. They do a lot of work, but a lot of times they don't get the recognition because they are not in front of the camera,” said Andrews, “Our dispatchers aren't in front of the camera, and they’re behind the work.”

It's a high stress job. Andrews says not many people retire from dispatch.

“You do your best not to get emotional with it. You try to find out what kind of help they need and then you get the police, you get the fire, you get paramedics on the way and as you are doing that, your first thought is getting the job done,” said Andrews.

“It's something different everyday. You never have the same calls, it's constantly changing and you are constantly learning,” said Gatlin, “You could be here forever and learn something new every day.”

Craighead County has 17 full time dispatchers and five reserve dispatchers.

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