April 10, 2021
By Brianne Scanlan
Pickerington Police Department
In honor of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (April 10th-16th), we’d like to recognize the exemplary work of the Pickerington Police Department Dispatchers and share with the community a bit of what their job entails.
Naturally, a lot of people remember the faces of the police officers who respond to their calls for help. But the dispatcher behind the scenes plays an integral role in protecting and serving the public. As Chief of Police Tod Cheney puts it, ““Dispatchers are the unsung, behind the scenes heroes of public safety. They are the first contact and lifeline between those that need help and the first responders. When someone calls 9-1-1 for assistance, they know that help will be on the way because of those dispatchers that answer the call and receive the critical information to pass on to police officers, firefighters, and EMS personnel. They are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are the calming voice to those in distress, and a reassuring voice to officers that may be in need themselves. Telecommunicator week is so important to help us recognize the vital and important role that dispatchers play in everyone’s public safety and I personally thank them for their service to our department and the community.”
Even though dispatchers aren’t physically on the scene like law enforcement officers and fire/ems personnel, they too, are subject to trauma related to the incidents they handle. “Before I worked with law enforcement I had no idea what a pivotal role a dispatcher plays. They are first in line to communicate with a 9-1-1 caller and that call can be very emotional. Dispatchers have to deal with a magnitude of situations and maintain their professionalism, even in a life or death situation. They don’t get to leave work after a traumatic call, they have to control their own emotions and continue to do their job. It is not an easy thing to do! We have an amazing staff. The City of Pickerington is lucky to have these men and women. Dispatchers definitely don’t get the credit that they very much deserve” says Tracy Zullo, Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Police.
Telecommunicators are tasked with making split-second decisions about call prioritization and appropriate responses based on the safety of the public and the first responders. “I don’t think the general public truly understands how important dispatchers are when it comes to public safety and emergency response,” says Commander Greg Annis, “A lot of credit may go to the fire, EMS and law enforcement units, but dispatchers are the vital link to people calling in who are in need of help. They have to be able to calm down often frantic and overwhelmed callers in order to get important information about what kind of help is needed. They have to dispatch the appropriate public safety units, monitor radio traffic, take additional phone calls and provide responders with any developing information about the incident. Their task is truly enormous, fraught with stress, and incredibly important.”
The Pickerington Police dispatchers, while attending to their emergency duties, are responsible for many other tasks. Chief Dispatcher Edwards, likewise referring to them as the “unsung heroes” of the department, points out that “Their hard work and dedication tends to go unnoticed because they are not often seen. Our dispatchers work the same hours as our officers, missing out on holidays and family time. There are days where they are forced to skip a meal because the emergency calls don’t allow them time to eat. There is a misconception that these men and women are just operators, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. While they do answer 9-1-1 calls, they are also answering all incoming administrative calls, processing paperwork, making phones calls, tracking down information for officers, dispatching an officer to a call, assisting someone in the lobby, processing a records request, preparing things for court, entering warrants for the court, and so much more – all while making sure the officers and callers are safe.”
As technology increases exponentially, so too, does the requirement that dispatchers not only know, but master, the use of ever-changing phone and radio systems, computer-aided dispatch software, and more. And it’s not just technology that changes. Laws, administrative rules, and best practices are constantly evolving, as are societal issues that affect the types of calls they receive and the way in which they dispatch. Their profession requires them to work efficiently and maintain an even temper while under tremendous pressure. It demands remarkable customer service, communication, and multi-tasking skills. It asks them to be simultaneously compassionate, assertive, adaptable, intuitive, and meticulous.
The dispatchers of the Pickerington Police Department have very high expectations placed on them, and they consistently meet and exceed those expectations. Echoing that sentiment, Chief Dispatcher Kristin Edwards says “The City of Pickerington is blessed to have a group of dispatchers that work together like a well-oiled machine to get the job done and make sure everyone goes home! They should be celebrated every day. I want to extend a personal ‘thank you’ to my wonderful team of dispatchers! You are true heroes and the heart of our department. You make my job so much easier and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with. Thank you for all that you do every day for myself, the department, the city, and its residents. We are blessed to have each and every one of you on our team!”
To Melanie Large, Melissa Dawes, Candi Watson, Austin Hungler, Morgan Bushman, Molly Holtmann, and Jenny Libby – the commitment, professionalism, and overall excellence you have shown in your combined 52 years of service to the Pickerington Police Department and the citizens of Pickerington have not gone unnoticed. You have literally saved lives and had a meaningful impact on so many people. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.