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Honoring the dispatchers

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By The Staff

April 13-19, 2008 is National Public Safety Telecommunication Week. In 1991, Congress proclaimed this particular week to nationally recognize dispatchers across our country. I want to take a special moment to personally honor the men and women who serve as public safety dispatchers for Levy County.

As Sheriff, I recognize the dispatchers' play a pivotal role. They perform many different responsibilities that are absolutely crucial for the functioning of this department; just a few examples of the many roles they play include technical support, computer skills, answering complaints, dispatching calls and professionalism and efficiency with dealing with the public. Not only do they have to answer 9-1-1 calls, but they also dispatch to the Sheriff's Office, Chiefland Police Department, Cedar Key Police Department, Inglis Police Department, Fire Service, and Emergency Medical Services. If taking care of all emergency personnel in the County is not enough, the dispatchers also have to enter all missing persons, wanted persons, stolen tags and vehicles into the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center computer systems.

My law enforcement career has proven the fact that dispatchers are truly the unsung heroes of public safety. Dispatchers sit in a dark room looking at computer screens and talking to voices from faces that they will never see. It's like reading a great suspense novel but never getting to finish the chapters because the next impending call requires undivided attention.

When help is needed, the first person the citizens will speak to is a dispatcher. They are the calming influence of all and the quiet, competent voices in the night that provide the pillars for the bridges of sanity and safety. Dispatchers are required to make sense out of the frantic calls, no matter how angry or frightened or hurt the callers may be. Dispatchers meet the anxiousness and adrenalin of the terrified victims, angry citizens, suicidal people, and grouchy officers with reassurance and competency. They are expected to gather information from highly agitated people who can't remember where they live, what their names are, or what they just observed, and then they are expected to relay this information to the officers, firefighters, and paramedics without error.

Dispatchers represent what it means to "multi-task". At any one time, dispatchers are required to perform a myriad of tasks including questioning a caller reporting a burglary in progress, typing information into a computer, dispatching a call while at the same time putting another caller on hold, and listening to a deputy run a license plate.

It's not like any of these things can be improperly executed without consequence either. To miss the plate numbers equates to raising the officer's margin of error, and to miss the caller's information may result in endangering someone's life.

Only a unique and talented person can perform this job well. The emotional roller coaster rolls to a stop after a 12 hour shift just to begin all over again the next day they work.

I regard the Levy County public safety dispatchers as the backbone to this department. In 2007, the Levy County Sheriff's Office dispatchers handled 118,504 computer aid dispatch events, over 18,000 9-1-1 calls, 5,375 EMS calls, and 618 Fire Department calls. This is incredible, especially considering there are only 14 employees.

I commend and honor the men and women for the fine job they do and the professional attitudes they exhibit while on duty. Your work does not go unnoticed and I thank you for a job well done.